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Some years back I missed a few dental appointments in a row. When I finally went back, I had plenty of tarter and plaque built up on my bottom teeth.
I used to have terrible problems with plaque and had to have dental cleanings every four months but started using 'Plax anti-plaque' mouthwash a couple of years ago (I buy it at Walgreens).
I also paid the cost for an 'electric' Braun toothbrush and it definitely does a more thorough job than I was able to do with a manual toothbrush. It also lets you know when you've brushed for two minutes.
I now only really need to go to the dentist once a year for cleaning and exam instead of three times a year and have saved a good chunk of change, not to mention my teeth.
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I have used one - sitting alone in front of late night TV actually - and scraped by the feel of the tartar around the edges of the teeth.
I do think it made my last cleaning visit easier, as all they really do is scrape & I had already done a lot of that! Rinse afterwords with salt and water or 1/2 hydrogen peroxide and water - and you could sterilize the tip by putting it into a flame, too. I also have gotten a lot of benefit out of using tea tree oil wooden toothpicks from the health food store (they are not that expensive) to clean between my teeth after meals. (Tee Tree oil is antibacterial.) Last time I went to the dentist, she was surprised that for once I had no gingivitis! and I think it was the 1/2 water, 1/2 hydrogen peroxide rinses before bed, and the treated toothpicks. (06/18/2008)
An alternative might be to have your teeth cleaned by a hygienist student. I have a friend who uses our local junior college to have her teeth cleaned. The work is done by the hygienist student and checked by the teacher so you know that nothing is missed. She is on a fixed income and has been very pleased with this arrangement. You might see if one of your local colleges or trade schools have this same arrangement. (06/18/2008)
In response to pamphyila's comment. The problem with going to a dentist (student or otherwise) is the first thing they want to do is xray. I know of none who will just clean.
I know I have some cavities and I will not let them drill till there is not much tooth left causing more problems down the road.
I think they all want to overdrill knowing they will get more money out of you in the long run since sooner or later that tooth will have to be capped. (06/19/2008)
My neighbor was a dentist and when I took the kids in for a checkup, he was surprised to find they had no tartar. We deduced it was because they chewed vitamin C tabs made of acerola cherrys. (06/20/2008)
I used to work as a dental assistant. The reason for taking x-rays before cleaning is because it helps to locate interproximal cavities (cavities between the teeth) that cannot be seen otherwise. This gives the hygienist a heads up before she starts scraping and hitting one of those soft spots caused by the cavity, which would cause you pain during your cleaning.
It is quite foolish to avoid x-rays because you think that they are simply trying to make money off of you. What they are trying to do is preserve your teeth and help you to avoid pain. Cavities cause significant pain, not to mention the foul breath that is often associated with the tooth decay.
It is far less costly to have a cavity properly treated so that the tooth can be saved, thereby preventing its loss. When a tooth is lost, other teeth shift out of alignment, and the bone in which the tooth is set begins to deteriorate.
Dentures are far more expensive than preventative care. Dentures do not last forever and must be replaced periodically.
If you are truly interested in the cheapest way to avoid having unnecessary work done on your teeth, brush and floss correctly twice each and every day with an ADA approved fluoride toothepaste. Replace your toothbrush every 3 months, or sooner if it becomes worn. Everybody has 3-5 minutes to care for their teeth twice a day, no matter HOW busy their lives are! (06/20/2008)
To the dental assistant; when the cavity is not much bigger than a pinhead, why do they have to drill to where there is nothing left but a shell to fill? Maybe it makes sense to drill but why so much? (06/21/2008)
I guess I'm just stubborn but I don't buy all the things that are said about fillings saving teeth. Sooner or later that filled tooth will HAVE to be pulled or capped; fillings just prolongs it. I'm not saying all dentist are in it for the money but I'm 68 years old and after many years of going to the dentist, firmly believe there are those out there who are (as in any profession). The dentist I took my kids to years ago filled multiple teeth EVERY time both of them went in for a checkup. That same dentist was later charged with drug abuse and lost his license. I'm not going to get 2 cracked teeth capped when I'm not in pain. At 68 I'd expect to have a crack or two. My last and honest dentist told me my teeth would last a lifetime if I continued to take care of them; meaning brushing and flossing regularly. (06/21/2008)
They drill beyond the soft area to get to good solid tooth area so that
1) the cavity doesn't continue to enlarge, which it will if there is ANY soft material remaining, and
2) so that the filling can firmly entirely fill the excavated area so that there will be no leakage, which will result in further decay, even if all the soft material from the cavity has been removed.
After many years, a filling can become loose, necessitating removing the filling, drilling out the soft decaying area around the loose filing, and refilling the cavity. Not all fillings will become loose. Some will. It has nothing to do with the skill of the dentist. If another cavity begins to develop on the tooth close to an existing filling, there's a good chance that the existing filling will become loose if the new cavity isn't caught early and a separate filling done to repair it. (06/21/2008)
By dental assistant
Betty, you are right about there being some dishonest dentists out there. Fortunately, most of them have a very high level of integrity and are not out to cheat you to support a drug habit, put their kid through an Ivy League school, or pay for their boat or vacation home.
Some people have teeth with softer enamel than other people. My husband has very soft teeth and has a mouthful of fillings and root canal work. On the other hand, my teeth have very hard enamel, and at the age of 53, I have yet to have a single filling in my mouth, despite having less-than-ideal dental habits prior to becoming a dental assistant. Our children were blessed to have inherited my strong teeth instead of their dad's soft teeth. Neither of them has ever had a cavity, and they are both in their 30's.
My training was provided by the Red Cross at our military installation, where there was a need for additional assistants. I learned from dentists who made a set salary, and did not have any gain whatsoever, monetary or otherwise, from doing any type of procedure. The information they taught about why certain procedures are done, and how they are best handled for the patient's future oral health would have no future financial return for them in the form of an assistant suggesting to a patient that specific procedures be considered as an option (such as whitening, insignificant orthodontia, bonding, caps, bridges, dentures, implants). I trust the material I was taught. These instructors had absolutely nothing whatsoever to gain except a volunteer who wasn't questioning them while they were working on a patient.
Those who have soft teeth are probably going to have more dental work needed than someone who has strong teeth. Everyone benefits from regular dental check-ups, but especially those who have a tendency to have soft teeth. Problems that can be caught early can be treated much more simply (and cheaply!) than if allowed to get worse by ignoring them. The problem will not go away, it will increase in severity until you become one of those folks who needs to be worked into the schedule for the day because you can't take the pain anymore.
Your dentist gave you excellent advice when he told you that daily brushing and flossing was the best thing you could do for your teeth. He is absolutely correct when he says that your teeth are meant to last a lifetime.
Cracked teeth do happen over time, and is very normal. They should still be checked every 6 months just to make sure that the cracks have not gone down to the center of the tooth, where the soft living tissue of your tooth is. If it has, you will experience pain, and may need a root canal or possibly a root canal followed by a cap. Teeth get capped when the tooth is so brittle that it is in danger of breaking off and causing a worse problem. Teeth often get brittle when they have had large fillings for many years, or a root canal was done several years ago. Once the nerve in the tooth is dead, the tooth can become brittle.
Did you know that the dental profession has the highest rate of suicide? It's because so many people hate the dentist, usually because it is a painful experience for them. Patients say such ugly things to them, and accuse them of being dishonest, and do not follow instructions that can prevent them hating the dentist in the first place. If you follow the dentist's instructions, you are far less likely to ever need to have any painful procedures done. (06/21/2008)
By dental assistant
To the dental assistant, thanks so much for the explanation. I have 2 cracked teeth that 3 years ago a dentist said needed to be capped or pulled (one on each side of my mouth). They now have filling in them which I guess is the crack. I still don't have pain and without insurance and little money I'm not getting the work done. May be a mistake and I'm taking a chance but time will tell. Are you saying that at the point I feel pain I will need a root canal? I hate that thought. Thanks (06/21/2008)
It's likely that you might need a root canal at that point, but only the dentist can make that assessment. (06/21/2008)
By dental assistant
Go to the dental college! (06/26/2008)
I paid $20 for an Oral B rechargeable toothbrush. It was one of the best things I ever did. Replacement brushes cost about $20 for three. It keeps my teeth clean just like I came from the dentist.
I might add that I brush twice a day and try to be especially careful to brush right before bed. After brushing rinse with a mixture of Listerine tarter removing mouthwash. Its blue. Mix half a capful with half a capful of water. It gets in all the places your brush cant reach.
I almost forgot to remindy you to floss before you brush.
Clean teeth are essential to good health. Its been found to be directly related to heart health. (07/02/2008)
By Carol in PA