Prevention is key to good dental health
By Mac Lee
Sept. 12, 2017 at 4:27 p.m.
Dentists are business people who just happen to work in the mouth. Unlike the iPhone or a new Nike tennis shoe, there is never a rush to go to the dentist unless there is pain or the insurance is just about to run out. "If it ain't broke, why fix it?" is a worldwide thought process when it comes to teeth. Ain't broke, in the patient's eyes, means there is no pain. My answer to that is there is no pain in high blood pressure, high cholesterol, beginning stages of cancer, etc.
Dental pain is usually created three different ways: Two are infections - decay and gum disease - and the third way is the way the teeth come together. All three ways can be prevented if caught in time.
Pain from dental decay
Decay starts as decalcification of the hard enamel and moves into a full blown infection of the dentin. The dentin is destroyed as the bacteria make their way to the nerve of the tooth (pulp). Blood circulation is very poor in the pulp so the immune system is helpless in fighting the infection. Once pulp infection starts, it can only be stopped with a root canal or extraction of the tooth.
Infected pulps hurt in different ways. Pain can be sharp, dull, throbbing, etc. A severe tooth ache can be one of the most painful events a human can have.
Pain from gum disease
Amazingly and unfortunately, gum disease is called the silent killer of teeth because extreme bone loss and infection can occur with zero pain. Because there is rarely any pain, people do not seek help that allows the infection to run unchecked. Because of this, most people who wear dentures lost their teeth to gum and bone disease. The disease eats the bone away from the teeth to such an extent, they are impossible to save. The more bone loss, the less stable the dentures will be.
Pain from the way teeth fit
Infections are easy to understand: Remove what is causing the infection and the body will heal itself. The bite is a mechanical issue and is the most difficult to treat effectively.
One of the best ways to explain the bite is to use simple analogies.
If your tires are not balanced, they will wear unevenly, ending up with bald spots. Look in the mirror at your lower front teeth. See any wear? If yes, there is a bite problem.
If the gears in your car are not in harmony, teeth are going to break off. If you are breaking teeth for unknown reasons, you have a bite problem.
If the pressure in your tires is not right, the pressure indicator light comes on. Teeth have tiny ligaments in the root system. When the pressure is not right, just like your car, they send pain signals to the brain. In this case, the pain is extreme sensitivity to hot and cold. This is not a toothpaste problem, it's a bite problem.
If you have any head, ear or eye pain that is a mystery to the MDs, more than likely you have TMD/TMJ that is due to your bite. How is this possible? When the bite is not right, the muscles responsible for moving the jaw can go into spasm, creating trigger points and pain. The pain is coming from unhappy muscles, not your ear, sinus, or head.
Bottom line of the article is prevention is always the way to go. If you have brown spots on teeth, bleeding gums, loose teeth, sensitive teeth, worn teeth or head pain of unknown origin, it is time to form a relationship with a dentist who will take care of your needs.
Dr. Mac Lee practices in Edna. He is an international speaker and trainer to dentists. He is dedicated to educate the public about dental disease. To learn more about dentistry, visit drmaclee.com or call 361-782-7191.