We Don’t Know What We Don’t Know

We Don’t Know What We Don’t Know... 

            Before I started dental school, I had a kernel of dental knowledge.  Personally, I had experienced broken teeth, cavities, retainers, expanders, crowns, wisdom teeth removal, and orthodontic braces.  I was fortunate to spend some of my summer free time in a dental office as an intern.  I then went to dental school and realized that I knew nothing about teeth. 

            Four years went by and I worked very hard at the clinical side of dentistry.  I enjoyed treating dental patients and their teeth.  I graduated, passed a variety of board exams, and went to work as an associate dentist.  I thought I had it all figured out.  I quickly realized that I knew just the basics of fixing teeth. 

            Fast forward a decade and I am still learning about teeth.  Science and technology are progressing at such a rate that one must constantly learn to keep up with the best dentistry has to offer.  As my old football coach used to say, “Nothing ever stays the same.  You get better or you get worse each day.  You will not stay the same.” 

            Much of what dentists know and how we do what we do would cure insomnia.  The average person does not care how many millimeters one should place a dental implant below the crest of the adjacent bone.   

            On the flip side, there are some important aspects of dentistry that we wish our patients did know.  To that end, here are five things  that would be good for everyone to understand about teeth (in no particular order). 

            Number One:  The mouth is a window to one’s overall health.  People with healthy teeth and gums are generally healthier overall than people with cavities and gum disease.  There are established links between oral health and a variety of other health problems.   

            Number Two:  Early stages of cavities and gum disease are rarely painful.  Once something starts to hurt, it will generally be more extensive and more expensive to fix.  If caught early, through routine exams and x-rays, this added pain and expense can often be avoided. 

            Number Three:  Nothing lasts forever.  If you live long enough, most any dental restoration will degrade.  Silver fillings corrode, dentures and partials break, crowns and bridges can get cavities underneath.  The mouth and the incredible biting forces we create are very harsh. 

            Number Four:  With proper diet, proper home care (brushing AND flossing), and routine preventive care, most dental disease can be avoided. 

            Number Five:  You won’t really miss your teeth until you really miss your teeth.  Losing a tooth at a time here and there can add up in the end.  We hear a lot of patients lament, “If I’d only known back then how much I’d miss my own teeth...” 

            The list could go on and on.  We just don’t know what we don’t know. 

            Until next week, keep smiling. 

- Please send comments to Drs. Parrish at www.ParrishDental.com.