Dental visits are not at the top of my self-care list, but I do go every 6 months for a check-up and cleaning. How big of a risk can it be since I waited to have my first cavity until 2 years ago at age 53? (Growing up in Texas does have its benefits – natural water fluoridation – although benefits are growing fewer by the second.) I actually look forward to visiting with my dentist as his staff is wonderful, and he and I have a quasi-professional relationship and usually banter about medical issues.
This visit had a component of a NSV because when he came in to check for cavities using a laser fluorescence device (higher diagnostic accuracy than x-rays), my favorite dentist had no clue who I was. He is a professional colleague (of sorts) who has known me for almost 5 years – no clue, nada, zilch. He started asking about my “business” and the economy. At first I was confused, then realized that after 80 pounds gone, I might not recognize me either.
The second part of the visit was not so funny – he found a teeny cavity on one of my wisdom teeth (yep, I still have every one of my teeth) and asked me to return the next day to have it filled. When I did he was his usual chatty self asking about my sweetie and talking about the woes of medicine and public health as it relates to dentistry. I asked if my recent outbreak of cavities (2 in 2 years over my life time 😉 ) meant that I was on a downhill course in regard to my teeth, or if being postmenopausal was a portent for my dental health. Suddenly it occurred to me that my change in eating, er, diet, could be contributing. He reminded me that caries are a disease from bacteria and that if I had been under stress (umm, yep) eating a lot of sugary substances that bacteria love (why aren’t bacteria fat?), drinking sports & diet sodas, not brushing, etc. those could be contributing factors. Sugar, sports and diet drinks, dental hygiene – not problems. When I asked him more detail about diet he did say that an acidic diet (the typical American diet is horrid) can wear down enamel. Well, I do drink coffee and tea regularly now, eat a lot of greek yogurt, and we have a salad with homemade balsamic vinegar/olive oil dressing every night. So here is my take home message to share from my wise dentist. After eating – especially after eating or drinking acidic foods – drink a lot of water to cleanse your mouth before brushing, otherwise you just spread the acid all over your teeth! Another reason to drink a reasonable amount of water. Also, consider using a straw to drink beverages – even coffee. Who knew? (Medical doctors do not know crap about teeth other than treat mouth infections with certain antibiotics, give pain meds, and get patients to a DDS as soon as possible.)
Hopefully when I next see my favorite dentist, I will be much closer to goal and cavity free as usual. And, it’s OK if he doesn’t recognize me.
Addendum: I am not implying that coffee is bad for your teeth. In fact, coffee without additives might prevent adherence to teeth of one of the major bacteria that causes cavities.