Dental Care, Part Two

I didn’t expect to need to write a second post about dental care in relation to prepping, but there’s a lot more information available than I managed to fit into the first post.

Right now we have the NHS picking up the basics of dental care, as well as millions of people who pay for private dental care. But what if something really bad happened?  It could be your own unemployment when you can no longer afford even NHS payments, financial crisis worse than 2008, the La Palma earthquake? Even if the current financial situation gets worse for the NHS, many of us could be in trouble. I’ve edited this for flippancy, because it’s very real – in these situations, we might be well and truly stuck if we couldn’t take care of ourselves.

1. Acids in our food

One of the most important things to take on board is about acids in our food. Acids in food and drink can attack teeth in the same way as dental plaque attacks them. Teeth can repair themselves if given time (45 minutes or so after eating), so the advice is not to have sugary substances too often during your day, and not to snack. If you snack, you’ll be spending longer each day in that “recovery” time, when the acids and sugars are in plentiful supply in your mouth, and potentially damaging your teeth.

In addition, we shouldn’t brush our teeth immediately after eating, as that can cause extra damage in itself: the normal acids and sugars from eating are all strongly present in our mouths, and if you brush your teeth at this time, you’re actually helping them to attack your tooth enamel.

If you don’t have a toothbrush, or are in a situation where you can’t brush your teeth, chewing sugar free gum is recommended – this is because it increases the flow of that healthy saliva to fight the plaque-forming acids.

2. Clove Oil

Clove oil is often applied directly to gums, and to aching teeth, for pain relief. and I have some myself, for exactly this reason. However, there are three things to bear in mind, according to the USA site of WebMD, even though medical research bears out the pain relief properties:

– it contains a substance called eugenol, which seems to slow blood clotting.

– it may not be as effective as originally thought at relieving pain (although I’d have thought that something is better than nothing).

– it is almost certainly unsafe for children, with problems including seizures and liver damage.

– heavy adult use may give rise to damage to the gums, tooth pulp, skin and mucous membranes.

In other words, it’s not a miracle application – use sensibly.

3. Losing a tooth

A programme on BBC1 recently about teeth (The Truth About Teeth, broadcast in July of this year) mentioned something very interesting about what to do if you accidentally knock out a tooth (an adult tooth, that is).


– hold it while you take it to your dentist

– scrub it

– put it in ice or water, the cells will explode and die.

– leave it in your pocket


– pick it up by the tip that you normally see, so you don’t damage the sensitive root cells.

– lick it, to get off any dirt.

– stick it back in the gum, in exactly the place it came from. Minutes count.

– get to a dentist, as quickly as possible.

if you can’t bear to put it back in your mouth, put it in milk – that will keep it alive for up to six hours, apparently.

4. Salty Gargle

Gargling salty warm water won’t prevent a toothache, and it won’t prevent a cavity from growing, but it most certainly will work to counter any infection you have, until you can get to a dentist (or a doctor, if the problem isn’t only with your teeth). WebMD US and UK, and my very own dentist, all recommend it, and there’s research to prove it, published here by The US National Library of Medicine.

5. Some links

Here’s one of the biggest and best resources, which I didn’t mention in Part One:   Where there is no dentist

This is an astonishing resource – available to all for free. I’ve linked to the page requested on Hesperian’s website, as this is where they also publish updates. I can’t say enough good things about Hesperian, and I urge everyone who reads this to use that link and download for free, or buy print copies of any of the books that seem remotely relevant to you. It’s mostly meant for people in developing countries – but there are plenty of people in the developed world who need more information about helping themselves too.

There are UK resources specifically for conditions in this country too, of course, and the main one is the patients’ website of the British Dental Association.  There’s a lot of information here, but it’s trying so hard to be “friendly”, it’s fussy and not terribly logical. Root around, though, and you’ll find a lot of information and self-help advice.

The British Dental Health Foundation are an independent charity working to improve dental health internationally. They have a pretty comprehensive list of topics underneath the heading “Tell Me About”, as well as in other areas.

6. Tea Tree Oil

Over at WebMD/US, there’s a specific advisory against using tea tree oil in the mouth (or ears, or eyes). Apparently it can cause results as severe as coma, so the warning is important.

To Conclude

Occasional use of clove oil seems to be the only use for essential oil in dentistry terms.  Salty gargles to help keep the mouth clean are fine. And Over The Counter pain relief is relevant – ibuprofen, aspirin or paracetemol, in the recommended doses. Anecdotally, I’ve heard that packing the affected area with dampened teabags is a relief.  But all in all, all of the above bears out that prevention is better than cure.  Which could be a prepper’s motto in any case.

Stay healthy!

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