November 17th, 2008
01:39 PM ET
By Linda Saether
I am not a great dental patient. For that, I blame an encounter I had as a teen with a Scandinavian dentist. Don't get me wrong - I have nothing against the idea of socialized medicine and dental care, but to this day I wonder whether this guy really had a license to practice dentistry. I won't go into details, but imagine it somewhere in the realm of that scene in the movie "Marathon Man" where Dustin Hoffman is tied to a dental chair.
Ok it wasn't torture but to a 13-year-old it came close.
So it probably explains why I don't have my dental appointments neatly filed in my Outlook calendar months a head of time (much to the dismay of my extremely kind dentists). And more crucial than not wanting to disappoint my dentist, who understands my fears and still treats me very well, I really need to see a dentist regularly because I’m among the many people with a family history of periodontal disease.
My teeth might be strong, but my gums are weak.
That, plus the fact that I am growing older means I have two strikes against me, says Susan Estep, a cosmetic dentist. She cautions that women, especially those with a family history of oral issues and who are going through hormonal changes, from pregnancy to menstruation to middle age, probably need to see the dental hygienist more often. Those women need to go from an annual visit to possibly semiannual or maybe even more if other symptoms arise.
Otherwise, mouth care as we age is a unisex issue. Estep says another reason to make sure you are getting to the dentist often enough is for an overall health checkup. “Our gum health might be an oral snapshot to our overall health,” she says, “indicating bigger issues like heart disease and other internal problems."
And finally a new name has cropped up on the oral fear factor list: toxic mouth. Sounds creepy, right?
Well, it is and it isn't; basically some dentists think that if you are getting older and walking around with a lot of old silver filings in your mouth, you might want to chat with your dentist about replacing them.
They might be just fine and your dentist can tell you that, or they could just might be leaking toxics or breaking down your teeth. Neither of these options is good, but they are usually easily fixed, so don't be afraid to broach this topic with at your next dental appointment. (Because you have already one scheduled, right?)
Well if not, do so! And in the mean time don't forget those standard oral health guardians: the toothbrush and dental floss.
Estep has one final word of advice in protecting your teeth and gums: Don't forget that sugar-free gum!
It can protect teeth from cavities, and many have other dental benefits such as whitening teeth or building stronger teeth, and better yet they make your breath smell great!!! Now that's one weapon I am happy to employ.
What about you? Got any healthy dental care secrets to share?
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