PC 66 Molars and Wisdom (continued)

For those of you old enough to go to the cinema in 1976, you may remember a film called “Marathon Man” with Dustin Hoffman and Laurence Olivier? If not, rent it! Following the murder of Babe Levy (Hoffman)’s brother, ex-Nazi Szell (Olivier) believes that Babe was given information about a diamond-smuggling operation that Szell is running. His henchmen grab Babe when he is out running, and handcuff him to a …… dentist chair. Szell had a reputation as a torturer in the war and applies his skills to one of Babe’s teeth cavities, using a dental probe. At this point most people in the cinema couldn’t watch and cover their ears to the screams of Hoffman. Did I suggest you rent it? Maybe not!

We are always urged to clean our teeth more regularly, more efficiently and if there is one area of dental hygiene that has improved it’s here; or maybe as I get older I recognise more and more how critical this is. The ordinary tooth brush now comes in all sorts of shapes and sizes or you can use an electric one. Both need the brush replacing regularly or they begin to look at though you clean the dog’s food bowl with it. Clearing food from between our teeth has become much easier, but if you leave it for too long, you get that slight whiff of rotting food when you do – disgusting! I should follow Celina’s example and clean my teeth after every meal but, except after eating spinach or pineapple, rarely do. Tooth picks, floss, interdental brushes, mouthwash and now the electric ‘AirFloss’ assist. Diligently use this latest gadget and you feel you’ve been to the hygienist, but haven’t paid £55 for the privilege! And if you floss, please do NOT do it in public at the dinner table (See PC 38 March 2015).

As the King’s Fund, a London-based Health pressure group, says of the changes taking place: “Sadly the lower socio-economic group and those less educated have not been giving up unhealthy behaviours as fast as the rest of the population and this does not bode well for our future.” Smoking tobacco, for instance, is bad for your teeth and for your gums. It doesn’t cost a great deal to look after your teeth, but if you need treatment, you need money. If you can afford it, you can look after your teeth.

There has been much discussion here in the UK about a tax on sugary soft drinks as one way to combat growing levels of obesity and diabetes; the government has just announced it will impose such a tax in 2018. But we don’t help ourselves, do we? The modern coffee houses like Starbucks and Costa, visited by 20% of the population every day, sell some concoctions that contain 24 teaspoons of sugar – three times the recommended daily intake in one drink. The ubiquitous Jamie Oliver went to Mexico where the poor quality of drinking water has caused villagers to only drink Coca Cola; the result has been a huge rise in Diabetes and tooth decay. Oliver’s TV documentary was a sad reflection on modern life. Children as young as 5 are having rotten teeth pulled out. In the UK projected costs to cover diabetes and dental decay could overwhelm the National Health Service (NHS) budget.

And here’s the funny thing. When the UK’s NHS was set up in 1948 it was trumpeted as ‘free for all, free at the point of delivery.’ Not everything is free; people are expected to pay towards the cost of their dental and optical treatment, and towards the cost of their prescriptions, except if you’re pregnant or under 18. So it is possible to get limited dental cover on the NHS, but it’s very restricted and any treatment needed is not free; only some £3.8bn per year is set aside to cover dentistry, from an overall budget of £116bn. When I mentioned this to the Practice Nurse at my local Doctor’s surgery, she said she didn’t go to the dentist as she knew she would need treatment, and couldn’t afford it. Maybe the old man on the bus was in a similar situation. But couldn’t he have had dentures, those revolting things that people kept in some Sterident beside their bed overnight? Maybe they are no longer available such is the advances in implants etc.

The advances in techniques may explain the huge increase in cosmetic dental work. Braces are now ‘normal’, often for adults as well as teenagers. Implants have become routine if you have the money, and the variety of claims for toothpaste seem never ending. It was ever thus. At school in the last century I regularly sent an empty toothpaste tube to Colgate as the box said: “if you don’t notice the difference, money back guaranteed.” Who could really tell?  Today the same company claim ‘maximum cavity protection whitening plus sugar acid neutralisation’ – wow! We do need to accept that teeth are a natural part of us and as such will rarely be too uniform and level. It’s so obvious when someone has had too much cosmetic work; their teeth no longer look natural, the smile is so synthetic; pity, I think.


A natural look?

When you meet someone for the very first time, you instinctively look at their eyes. If these are friendly, you look down the face to the mouth, to a welcoming smile. So teeth are important in making that good first impression huh? I had a client who mumbled when he spoke, didn’t open his mouth to enunciate the words well – and you know what? They were ashamed of their teeth, all crooked and not too clean. Three months and a few hundreds of pounds later, they were a different person, projecting their personality and ability with confidence!

So it does matter, it matters enormously; smile with confidence, laugh with love ……. and if you can, keep paying your dentist for those check-ups.

Richard 10th April 2016                                        richardyates24@gmail.com

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