Dental care can be amazing in the West, just amazing. And although it can seem very expensive and even very painful, I for one certainly wouldn’t want to be without it. Last month, I went to the closing weeks of an exhibition at the British Museum, and one unforgettable image, which will stay with me forever, is of the huge hole in the jawbone of one of them, caused by a dental abscess.
It was particularly relevant for me, because a molar of mine had been living on borrowed time for years – there was a filling, then there was a root canal, then there was a crown, and then, in June of this year, there was an infection. A massive infection, that needed ten days of antibiotics to bring it under control, enough so that the whole thing could be extracted. The infection site could be seen quite clearly on the X rays, it was underneath the crown – so it was bound to keep flaring up every so often, nothing else to be done but have it extracted. Between the long term, low level infection that had an acute flare up, the misery of the extraction itself (painless, though, they have good drugs these days!), and the slow healing resulting from it being such a big tooth that had to go, I have a new-found sympathy for anyone suffering from dental problems of any sort, and a renewed determination to do all I can to keep myself out of the dentist’s chair. In the light of the continuing pressures on the dental work done in the NHS, that’s the only sensible way to go, prepper or not.
Dental health isn’t just about your mouth and your teeth, however – there’s a lot of evidence that it’s “linked with general health conditions such as diabetes, strokes, cardiovascular disease, poor pregnancy outcomes and even dementia. More research is needed to understand how these links work but there is more and more evidence that having a healthy mouth and gums can help improve your general health and reduce the costs of medical treatment.” So says the British Dental Health Foundation.
What should be in the storecupboard?
1. toothpaste. A couple of types – fluoride and non-fluoride, at minimum.
2. toothbrushes – at least a couple stored up for each family member. They don’t have to be the expensive sort – just a smallish head with soft or medium bristles.
3. dental floss
4. interdental brushes
5. denture brushes and cleaners: if relevant, obviously! I don’t have any of this myself. I wonder what denture owners would need if their ordinary cleaner wasn’t available?
6. dental mirror and kit – a couple of sets.
7. clove oil, for pain control. More on this in another post.
8. tea tree oil, for infection control. More on this in another post.
9. emergency fillings kit – a few, at least a few.
10. good painkillers – at least a week’s supply simply for this, let alone any other emergency, because that’s how long you might have to wait to see a dentist.
11. salt – a salt gargle is still recommended as an anti-bacterial measure, after an extraction, for instance.
So what’s the basic advice?
Technology has come a long, long way since Ancient Egyptian times, of course – and the basics, currently, are as follows:
– brush your teeth twice a day (the nooks and crannies, and the gumline, are both important).
– your toothbrush should be soft or medium bristles – hard is too hard. It should be changed maybe twice a year, at the very minimum.
– use fluoride toothpaste.
– use dental floss, or interdens brushes.
– see a dentist twice a year for a checkup and hygiene work.
Eat healthily! It’s common sense, but for years it was hotly disputed, that what we eat is what our bodies use to grow, to fuel and to repair. So the better your diet, all other things being equal (such as your ability to digest, for instance) then the better your teeth will be. In particular make sure you get the five portions of fruit and veg a day – this is definitely the “eat healthy” part.
The recommendation about fluoride is disputed in terms of the long term safety, though I don’t think anybody disputes it’s positive effect on our teeth. And that fluoride issue. In the UK, about six million people have artificially fluoridated water, and another 300-400,000 have naturally fluoridated water. So the issue of civil liberties isn’t as strong here as it is over there, but it is still an issue, and the safety of fluoride itself is a huge issue for us, the same as for the Americans.
Having read as much as I can, I don’t have a way to judge the differing versions of the truth that are being offered, so I’m going to offer links to those alternative version here. What I can say, absolutely definitively, is that even the pro-fluoride people are saying “use a pea-sized amount of toothpaste” – whereas in the toothpaste adverts, we always see a long snake of toothpaste laid out over the whole length of the brush. That’s wrong – they want to sell more, of course, but it’s completely wrong, pea-sized is the way to go. Here are the links:
– a government report from 2014 about the current state of fluoridation in the UK.
– the NHS website has a lot of information about fluoridation. It has links to studies carried out in the UK, in the USA and in Australia. It does mention that there are health concerns, but says benefits exist when the correct amount of toothpaste is used, and the fluoridation of water is carried out correctly. “Correct” is a really important word, and I don’t automatically trust big firms to get these things right.
– this is the home page of the British Fluoride Society – they have a free report you can download from here, if you click on the “One In A Million” link in amongst the tabs at the top. I strongly advise you to get that report, because it gives details about which areas in which regions have fluoridated water.
– this is the American Cancer Society, laying out the pros and cons of the research about whether fluoride causes cancer – but the last thorough review, as they say, was conducted in 2006, quite a while ago especially for America, where over two thirds of the water supply is fluoridated.
– another American website, published by the American Society of Pediatrics – as reputable an organisation as the ACS above. It looks like a fair debate for and against, but some of the wording on this landing page is open to question. Still, there’s a lot of information here, so it can be read with caution.
– yet another American site (sorry! it’s a big issue over there because of the numbers involved, so a lot of the activists are US-based). Abstracts of dozens of scientific articles are freely available. They name both their Advisory Board and their half dozen or so staff members on the website.
– The final entry is The UK Councils Against Fluoridation. It makes some interesting points – especially about the false “National Fluoride Information Centre”, but it really seems to be the personal website of a couple of people, not a grassroots movement of councils in the UK.
Personally, having reviewed this evidence, I’m not going to be using fluoridated toothpaste twice a day – once is enough. But I am going to be using it, and I’m going to carry on using interdens and getting my teeth checked as often as the NHS will allow. And if the number of NHS check-ups we’re allowed is lowered again, I may experiment with that dental mirror and kit, and anything else I can think of, up to and including oil pulling.
I see I need to write another post about dental care. That’ll be coming soon. If anyone has any feedback, please post in the comments below – spreading the knowledge can only be a good thing.