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Untreated cavities, dental care prices up up up. Mexican dental tourism. Less than half of U.S. children with sealants on their molars. That's what seven years of cavity creeps buy us.

The consequences? Disease, the occasional dead child, decreased productivity. Increases health care costs. A nation of sickos. The teeth are often the first domino to be tipped. Prevention here is perhaps the best investment of time, money, and effort a nation can make.

But you are left on your own.  So time to bone up...

The future could be very bright for your teeth. We're on the cusp of pretty much eliminating cavities through vaccines, to use the term loosely. For damage to existing teeth and the jaw, ultrasound may soon be working wonders. Finally, there is work afoot to regrow teeth in place entirely from stem cells. It looks like after decades of lingering in the middle ages, dentistry is beginning to modernize. You may want to look into getting your child's baby teeth banked so they don't have to dig around for those stem cells.

What matters is the present, though. Economies wane, companies go under, and the even most promising medical developments can sometimes be thrown out with the bathwater (onto the investors.) So if you are about to lose your dental insurance, or never had any to begin with, what are some of the things you can do or get done to keep those pearly whites intact? Other than flossing, which is a given...

We'll start with the "what to do if you still have insurance" part:

Even adults can get their molars sealed. Dental sealants are one of the most effective cavity prevention tools your dentist has. They fill in the pits in your molars, where most cavities form these days. If you still have a few good molars, you can get them sealed even later in life.

Kids, of course, should have their molars sealed. They have been available for over three decades, yet we still have a long way to go -- it does not look like we'll be making that meager 2010 50% goal. I wonder why.

And it wouldn't hurt if you helped spread the word to legislators, officials, and company human resource departments about just how much can be saved in health care by tackling one of the roots of the problem (pun intended).

Now onto the simple and easy things:

Yes, chewing gum works. That may not be news to you. What may be more interesting is that it works in more ways than one -- it doesn't just help get the food off your teeth. It also produces saliva, and saliva contains natural defenses against tooth decay -- so much so that there is a flouride compliment/alternative based on this effect. It doesn't end there.

Just a few years ago many of the "sugar free" gums reformulated to include a rather interesting chemical. It's called "xylitol," but relax all you naturalists -- it has a couple earthy-crunchy names as well: "birch sugar" and "wood sugar." There are 100% natural cinnamon gums containing xylitol if you prefer.

Why was this chemical so important that the big chewing gum companies had to have it? Well, as it turns out, this sugar alcohol is one slippery little trickster. Once it has coated a surface, microbes have a hard time grabbing onto it. Not only that, but it may look nice and tasty to some of these microbes, but doesn't contain much energy for them -- there is evidence building that it causes all sorts of nasty buggers to starve.

As an added bonus, it will actually get up into the back of your mouth and help keep infections from spreading between your nose and ear. The physical motion of chewing also helps clear earwax and the sinuses.

So keep a pack of gum handy, everywhere, and check the ingredients (but of course also be careful to check for contraindications.)  Remember order matters -- if xylitol is after nutrasweet, there's hardly any in there.

Chewing gum is no substitute for brushing of course. Get on your kids, and your own, case about this. I'd write about tooth brushing innovations, but it's already been done. So learn a bit more than you know -- a mundane subject, yes, but a useful one. One of the things I picked up was to chase my alcohol-based (acidic/drying) mouthwash with a non-alcohol basic mouthwash after a several minutes. And, no, brushing is no substitute for flossing.

Originally posted to skids on Fri Oct 12, 2007 at 05:38 PM PDT.

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Comment Preferences

  •  sharp pointy tips... (12+ / 0-)

    If you only brush when your mouth feels crappy, that probably isn't frequently enough.  Try every single night for a week, with the whole ensemble -- brush, floss, mouthwash, gum between meals.  See what a difference it can make in the way you feel.

    And if it doesn't, well, what have you lost in trying... and your teeth will be really clean.

    OpenSource volunteers needed to bring election accountability: http://uscvprogs.sourceforge.net

    by skids on Fri Oct 12, 2007 at 05:41:30 PM PDT

  •  Mouth guard (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    tmo, skids, Joy Busey, Ellicatt

    I started grinding my teeth in 2001 and pretty much ruined my bite because of these asshats.

    "I believe that ignorance is the root of all evil. And that no one knows the truth." - Molly Ivins

    by littlesky on Fri Oct 12, 2007 at 05:52:17 PM PDT

    •  lol. For me the chewing gum is a new addition... (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      littlesky, yoduuuh do or do not

      ...and I've found if I chew it right I can really relieve some stress without any gritting.

      But damn the first day I started on it my jaw muscles were sore.

      OpenSource volunteers needed to bring election accountability: http://uscvprogs.sourceforge.net

      by skids on Fri Oct 12, 2007 at 06:05:19 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  I seriously thought about sending the WH the bill (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        tmo, yoduuuh do or do not

        for the damn thing.  My dentist asked me if I knew why I started to grind my teeth and I, of course, told him flat out why.  Thankfully, I've stopped for the most part - I still find myself gritting them now and then, but nothing like I used to.

        "I believe that ignorance is the root of all evil. And that no one knows the truth." - Molly Ivins

        by littlesky on Fri Oct 12, 2007 at 06:16:45 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  Medi-cal saved my teeth and my life (8+ / 0-)

    In California of 2000 there was a wonderful program for dental care for the poor that changed my life. Alas, it looks like our Governor is going to have to sue the NeoCon Feds to continue it.

    After years of neglect at the hands of military dentists my teeth were so bad that I could only chew on two molars. The rest hurt too much. I applied to get my teeth looked at and a great and committed dentist helped me with the paperwork. It was work that I never could have afforded because I was always sick because of my teeth. What a blessing the program turned out to be.

    My health returned immediately. I went from 135lbs to 170lbs in less than six months. I am a 5'10" man. My energy returned and I went back to work. I estimate that the total amount of taxes I have paid since then have paid back the dental work by ten times over. And that is just in Cal state taxes not adding federal taxes or social security contribution.

    I now treat my teeth like the gift they are. Thank you to the lawmakers of California before 2000 that truly made my life a better one. A bless my dentist who cared less about money and more about helping the sick and needy.  

  •  One should have one's teeth pulled . . . (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    yoduuuh do or do not

    . . . before being allowed to join the Republican Party.

    That's what I think.  These guys hate infrastructure so much, we wouldn't have flourinated water if it were up to them.

  •  I had a crown (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    skids, kurt, yoduuuh do or do not

    done in Tijuana for $150 in April.

    No appointments are necessary in the Tijuana area.

    I was told in Sacramento by a state employee that Californians go on dental trips to Mexico City.

  •  xylitol for peridontics disease (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    tmo, skids, kurt, yoduuuh do or do not

    I recently went to the dentist for cleaning and was told that I had deep deposits which required an almost $900 peridontal treatment in 4 phases because it was so involved. And after than, I could not have a regular cleaning because they had to go so deep.

    A friend recommended Xylitol mints from vitiam research products. She used them after meals for 3 months and avoided the peridontal treatment - the gums had healed. I have not yet been back to see if it has worked for me, but my teeth feel free of deposits.

    •  Is this the brand name? Where do you get them? (0+ / 0-)

      Please, I have really bad pain I treat with ambusol.

      •  xylitol mints... (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        kurt

        Are easy to find by google...

        http://www.google.com/...

        As far as retail, for gum so far Hershey's icebreakers seems to be a pretty good bet.  Xylitol is the first ingredient listed, which would imply it is present in high quantity, plus the packaging is a lot less wasteful than the stick gums.  Though I guess you'd have to tongue it if your gums are that bad.

        OpenSource volunteers needed to bring election accountability: http://uscvprogs.sourceforge.net

        by skids on Fri Oct 12, 2007 at 08:27:47 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  my source of xylitol (0+ / 0-)

        I get mine on line from Vitiam Research Products. They have a wide range of suppliments at reasonable prices.

        I found out about this from a physican who practices alternative medicine along with a regular practice. He uses VRP.com himself. They also have a lot of good information on line

        After this post I put xylitol into google and got over 1 million hits. I have not followed up purchases with these other sites.

  •  The $5 motorized toothbrush (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    yoduuuh do or do not

    I bought at the place many here hate has worked well.

    I use cotton thread instead of standard floss.

    I just bought an Interplak water jet type device.

  •  I spoke to a man in (0+ / 0-)

    Chattanooga who was missing so many teeth that I first thought he was crazy.

  •  Important issue (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    tmo, kurt, yoduuuh do or do not, junta0201

    I had a tooth crack and start to die inside. God, the pain. The best hour of my life, in retrospect, was spent getting a root canal.

    The mere dentist couldn't finish the job, and I reprised the experience with an oral surgeon. By the time the crown was installed, I had more than $1400 fewer dollars in the bank, without insurance. Those were 1995 prices. Of course, I was lucky. I could get and pay for a dentist.

    It is not unusual for dental infections to migrate to the heart and cause death. No child, especially, should be deprived of dental care. The condition of the teeth and eyes are frequently the first indications of an insidious medical problem.

  •  Thank you so much for posting this. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    skids

    I read every word and every link.  I am hoping some of this helps and I will implement some immediately and some tomorrow.

    I hope many people that need this kind of read it.

    Never ceases to amaze me what I learn on Kos.

    Again my deep gratitude.

  •  You linked to toothbrush history, but.... (0+ / 0-)

    do you have any advice?  I get a new (old fashioned) one each time I get my teeth cleaned at the dentist's, but there are all these powered ones on the TV ads.  Are they better?  If so, which are the best?  The sonic ones (over $100)or the battery ones around $20 that can cover a tooth, or the $5 ones that play a pop tune?  Does it matter?

    And toothpastes.  I have to use "sensitivity" toothpaste and I'm old enough to wonder about all the bleaching -- is it safe?  I guess it can't be too harmful since people are doing it, but why?  Can't teeth just be teeth?

    •  The most important thing about brushes... (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      ladybug53

      ...as far as I know, is that you use a new one and don't try to use the same one for many months on end.  The tips of the bristles wear out.

      I'm not a dentist myself, so all I can say about brushes is what the linked articles say -- the vibrating ones that vibrate in a circle are the only ones that do better than a normal brush and not by much.  Maybe they will do another study to catch up with the gizmo market, but for now personally I just have a cheap one of those, battery operated, in which I use rechargable batteries which I charge from a window solar battery charger.  I bought a few replacement brush heads at the same time in case they decide to discontinue that model.

      OpenSource volunteers needed to bring election accountability: http://uscvprogs.sourceforge.net

      by skids on Sun Oct 14, 2007 at 08:01:49 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  I blame the dentists. (5+ / 0-)

    Seriously. Dentists individually provide very nice care. For a price. In our area they accept most dental insurance as (very) partial payment, generally charging at least 50% more than any insurance reimburses, and demanding cash up front before any procedure. For many of my patients (I'm a family doctor) this is irrelevant, because they have no dental insurance, or have Medicaid. Which matters, because in my rural region not one single dentist accepts Medicaid. There are two county clinics that do, but each is open only a few days a month, and both have huge waiting lists.

    So what do my patients do? Well, some of them wait until their rotting teeth are loose enough, then pull them out with pliers. No joke; this really happens. Here in America. If patients have Medicaid, or no dental insurance, or crappy dental insurance, and lack the ready cash to drop $1,000 on an urgent root canal (situations that encompass the majority of my patients) they effectively have no dental care.

    And do you know what the civic-minded, altruistic dentists in my area tell a patient who calls them with pain from an abscessed tooth but can't pay their fees? They tell them to "go see your primary care doctor- because they have to see you". They're right, of course. I'll see anyone because I can't stand seeing pointless suffering, but I can only do so much with pain meds and antibiotics. They really need a dentist who...you know...isn't just in it for the money.  The dental profession has been extremely successful at keeping dentistry a fee-for-service, cash on the barrel business while evading any restrictions on their fees. Not coincidentally, the dentist in my town has the biggest house around (my kids called it the "tooth Mahal") and drives a BMW, which is highly ostentatious in this economically depressed area.

    I'm sure they vote Republican.

  •  One of the most effective products I've ever used (4+ / 0-)

    on my gums is a product called IPSAB.  It's an acronym for Iodine Peppermint Soda Ash Bark.  It was created from a recipe given by the famous psychic healer Edgar Cayce, who also prescribed such novel treatments as abdominal castor oil packs, a mode of treatment that more and more mainstream medicine practitioners are now recommending for strengthening the immune system.

    Apparently, native Americans used ash bark to treat toothache, and the other ingredients in the product are germicidal.  I had severe problems with bleeding gums, but since I began using the IBSAB they're in great shape, and I no longer need any of the oral surgery my dentist said I was going to need.  He's totally blown away by the change he sees. Whole Foods stores carries the product and it can also be ordered online from Heritage Products in Virginia Beach where the Cayce Foundation is located.

    The other thing Cayce recommended was brushing teeth with a 50/50 mixture of salt and soda on a wet tooth brush at least three times a week. He said there's absolutely nothing better for oral health.  I've been doing this as well and the last time my teeth were cleaned the hygienist told me I had no plaque at all.  

    Word to all sell-out, corporate-owned Democrats: No donation without representation!

    by big spoiled baby on Sun Oct 14, 2007 at 03:14:06 AM PDT

  •  This sounds crazy, I suppose, but my family (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    samddobermann

    always donates toothpaste and toothbrushes to the local food pantry. It doesn't take the place of a meal, but from a 50,000 foot view, it is part of a bandaid in solving the health problems of the working poor.

    At least until more reasonable people are voted into office.

    Thanks for the diary.

  •  1st rolling stone article (0+ / 0-)

    I remember reading was about 'dental faith healing'
    Olde fashioned tent revivalist, using the power of JESUS to turn fillings / crowns into GOLD, spontanious root canals.... I figuired either the author or the preacher had to be a big fan of LSD

    Frivolity is a harsh taskmaster- B.Griffith

    by OMwordTHRUdaFOG on Sun Oct 14, 2007 at 09:40:17 PM PDT

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