Just the other day I was taking care of someone who had deep grooves on his back molars. These deep grooves are vulnerable to cavities and sure enough, when I opened things up the decay had spread aggressively.
He had no idea he even had a problem.
The thing was, his dental hygiene care was terrific. He shouldn’t have that much decay. Somehow he had been feeding all the “sugar-bugs” inside those deep grooves.
He's a teacher and it turns out he had been drinking Coke and Pepsi for years to get his daily fix of caffeine.
You have to AVOID the bad stuff and SUSTAIN the good stuff to ensure good health. If you indulge in bad dietary habits or fail to uphold good hygiene habits, you can expect to suffer some dental consequences sooner or later.
It’s not rocket science... Children eating candy by the bagful will get cavities. Teenagers consuming massive amounts of sugary/acidic beverages (cola, iced tea, sports drinks) will suffer aggressive tooth destruction. Adults who neglect brushing and flossing can expect cavities AND gum disease.
Your habits will make or break you. My job as a dentist is to help you align with healthy habits.
The good news is that dental disease is preventable, and it’s never too late to get on track with good hygiene habits. If you take preventive measures for your teeth, you’ll tend to have far better dental health than those who don’t.
The bad news that if you haven’t been taking good care of your teeth, there’s the possibility you’ve weakened them considerably.
Once your teeth have become more soft and porous, there’s no recovery of what you’ve lost. You’ll be more vulnerable to cavities for the rest of your life.
That’s the key point here. Hidden consequences gradually build up momentum.
People continue for years on a destructive path because they don’t know anything bad is going on.
You see, cavities aren’t the beginning of a problem. Tooth decay doesn’t suddenly appear like catching the flu bug. There’s likely been a gradual, sub-clinical destruction for years prior to that point. The impenetrable enamel shield of your teeth becomes gradually softer and more porous.
Cavities indicate the destruction process has reached a point of structural collapse and rapid acceleration. Cavities are also the clinical point that dentists can finally detect the problem.
Just fixing problems as they come along is not sufficient. That’s just reacting to disease.
The whole point of preventive dentistry is to minimize potential threats and boost your protection. That includes recognizing and eliminating any destructive processes.
As healthcare leaders, dentists ar there to help steer you back onto a healthy path so you can avoid future problems. Or as I like to say, "Stick with the gardening and avoid all the carpentry."
Here’s the dilemma: the very people most in need that leadership are often the ones most resistant to it. They're stuck on the Path of Pain and yet keep clinging to the old ways…
If you’re OK with having your teeth in a glass on the nightstand, then those philosophies will encourage that outcome.
The challenge for a dentist isn’t just correcting dental problems; it’s redirecting those who have wandered off the Path of Health. Much like shepherds guiding wayward sheep back top the safety of the flock.
Some people expect to their dentist to shelter and protect them from all dental consequences. That’s a one-sided, overly-dependent dynamic. If you want to stay healthy, you need to rise to the level of partnership in your health.
Think about it. What you do everyday at home, good or bad, is far more influential than what a dentist can do a few times a year.
What a dental leader can do is foster leadership in vulnerable patients to help them rise to a level of self-preservation. It comes down to guiding people from darkness to light in terms of understanding the threats, consequences and possibilities for a healthy beautiful smile.
One of my tasks as a trusted advisor is to waken you up to the consequences of pain and loss before you have to suffer them. Lessons can be learned ahead of time to avoid any punishing consequences.
About the Author: Dr. Joe Bulger is a cosmetic dentist from Toronto, Canada and the owner-founder of Royal York Dental. A prestigious office serving West Toronto for over 50 years.
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