More to dental health than just brushing

  • Published
  • By Dr. (Capt.) Jesse Harris
  • 354th Medical Operations Squadron
Everyone knows how to brush their teeth; the question is do we actually remember being taught?

Most people assume that tooth brushing is an inborn trait that doesn't require instruction. Simply moving the brush around on the teeth won't cut it.

Truth is most people are doing it wrong and, as dentists, we can only assume that our patients are doing it correctly. Unfortunately, this simple "how to" presentation is traditionally overlooked during the routine checkup. Most simply say "make sure to brush and floss" but we never hear "this is how you brush and floss".

With that being said, we can now assume that the children, if they're brushing at all, are lacking in the same simple skills that can literally save your life.

Recently, there was an article in the Washington Post about a child whose dental health had been overlooked by his family and his dentist. Unfortunately, this boy is no longer with us as the infection from a tooth spread to his brain and killed him.

Recently, in this very clinic, a young lady came into family practice to be seen by a physician for a swelling under her eye. She had been seen by different providers in the private sector for the same swelling. Fortunately, this physician knew her particular case required dental attention.

We brought her over to the dental clinic, drained the abscess, got her on the proper antibiotics and sent her to a private dentist to seek definitive treatment. When she came in for her two-day follow-up, the swelling had subsided and the sad, hurting girl I met two days prior had been replaced by a happy-go-lucky, smile-from-ear-to-ear girl who was ready to get the drain out and go home.

Had this infection gone untreated she may have ended up in the same unfortunate situation as the young boy in Virginia. It's hard to imagine that a tooth ache can ultimately take your life but it's the truth. This particular situation is known as a cavernous sinus thrombosis and although rare, can be extremely fatal even with the latest advancements in surgery.

I'm certainly not saying that if we don't brush and floss we risk death, or if our kids get a cavity that we are bad parents. I am simply encouraging parents to pay more attention to their children's dental heath without overlooking their own.

Watch the kids when they're brushing and look in their mouths to make sure they're doing a good job. Check their teeth from time to time to look for suspicious areas, or to track the progress of new, erupting adult teeth.

Take the kids for a cleaning and checkup every six months and be the over-protective parent who asks too many questions and insists on fluoride treatments with every cleaning.

If you don't feel comfortable with the dentist you have now ... switch. Contrary to popular belief, dentures are not the easy way out. If you like eating corn on the cob and steak, keep those pearly whites shiny bright!

For more information, please don't hesitate to stop by the dental clinic.