Wednesday, March 9, 2016

An Ounce of Dental Preparedness

                    There are few things that are as disruptive to your day as a significant toothache. Most of us dislike dental interventions anyway.  Most of us don't like paying for it any better.  Most of us especially don't like to have to see a dentist when we are already in significant pain, and we know that quite possibly there will be more pain in the quest to seek a resolution to the problem.   Imagine for a second that there has been a local disaster where you are. Most businesses are closed. Certain sections of town are closed off, and a clean up of some type is in progress. All at once your tooth, an upper molar, that had simply been sensitive to cold now hurts. It doesn't just ache. It's an intense nerve pain which travels from the tooth you had filled about three months ago, to the tooth below it and beside it.  You feel cold, and your ear on that side hurts too.  You may have an abscessed tooth !  When you eat anything hot or cold, even on the opposite side, it hurts. You can barely tolerate the cold on your face as you walk to the car.   At the very least you have either a reversible or an irreversible pulpitis.  You took two ibuprofen which normally upset your stomach, but that's how much pain you are in.  In a local or widespread emergency it could be very difficult to find a dentist.  In a local or widespread disaster, it could also be hard to find a physician who is willing to treat your potentially abscessed tooth with an antibiotic until a dentist has been located and has the time and location ready to treat it.  This is particularly dangerous because an abscessed tooth can allow bacteria to enter the bloodstream and infect the brain or the heart.  Even young people have died from untreated or even undetected tooth abscesses.  I recall a patient some years ago in her forties who had new and rapid onset dementia that was eventually traced to an infected tooth which infected her sinuses and traveled to her brain. She did endure a significant hospitalization and intravenous antibiotics but ultimately survived and experienced a reversal of her acute dementia.

                 Of course, we can't control everything that will happen to our teeth and when they will occur.  Heredity and luck do make an appearance here. However, having ordinary six month check ups and following up for problems which occur will go a long way to avoiding being caught within a dental nightmare during some type of a regional emergency.  Having a dental emergency kit as outlined in the link I wrote some time ago, is also very helpful.   Really good dental hygiene which includes brushing at least twice a day, and perhaps rinsing with a small amount of peroxide daily and then rinsing with water will also help to keep your gums in as healthy condition as is possible. Having a dentist with whom you have a business relationship is particularly helpful. During a dental emergency is not the most desirable time to be seeking a new dentist.  Having some type of dental insurance is helpful, although this has never been covered by my husband's employer and so we have generally had to pay ourselves.

             The best steps to the avoidance of the dental emergency nightmare is to simply keep up with the personal dental maintenance we all need to do.

Other posts of mine on the subject of preparedness and dental health: