By: Dr. Omar Mubarak
We’ve all heard the saying, “You don’t truly appreciate something until it’s gone,” many times before. This can apply to many different things, from your eyesight to a loved one. However, there is one truly overlooked and underappreciated body part, and that is your teeth. We are constantly enjoying many different types of food, but the real star of the show is not your mom's cooking, but your teeth. Without them you wouldn’t be able to chew your food, which can lead to a myriad of different problems. People who have multiple missing or fractured teeth are commonly diagnosed with reflux disease, malnutrition, and other diseases.
So you can imagine my frustration when somebody comes into my office and doesn’t value their teeth. Instead of spending a little bit of time and effort into preserving and maintaining their teeth, they would rather “yank them out.” However, this is a problem that started many years ago, when they were still young. Instead of being taught the importance of preserving their teeth and maintaining a healthy diet, they were drinking soda and eating caramel candy.
So the most important aspect of maintaining your teeth is not brushing, but education. I commonly see people in my office who are in tears because they regret not maintaining their teeth. They regret getting their teeth extracted many years ago, when they could have saved them. They now see that dentures don’t truly replace teeth; they only have about 20-30% of the chewing force of teeth. A professor of mine once told me that dentures are not a replacement for teeth, they are a replacement for no teeth. Nothing we can do for you will ever replace what Allah (swt) gave you.
So what can we do as parents to help instill this importance value in our children? First off, we need to instill in them the importance of taking care of their entire body. A healthy person will usually be healthy in all aspects of their life. Make them realize that what they put in their mouth affects their entire body. Eating junk food and candy will turn their body (teeth and otherwise) into junk. It is also important to make sure that you, as the parent, are brushing and flossing their teeth for them. I’ve seen parents tell their 4-year-old child to go and brush their teeth. A 4-year-old cannot effectively floss and brush; that is something we need to do for them until we are confident that they can and will do it on their own. We also need to begin getting our children used to going to the dentist from an early age. So many people make the mistake of waiting until their children’s teeth are heavily decayed before bringing them to the dentist. As Benjamin Franklin said, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Regular cleanings and checkups will not only usually prevent issues from cropping up, but allow us to find and address the issue before it becomes a major issue. A filling is a lot easier and cheaper than a root canal and crown.
I always try to minimize intervention, especially in children. I truly believe that the less that we have to do on you is better for you. However, one exception is sealants. I recommend that all children have sealants placed on their molars as soon as they can. Sealants are a very conservative treatment done in children that is inexpensive (usually covered 100% by insurance) that requires no anesthetic or drilling. The vast majority of cavities begin in the pits and fissures of the tooth, so a sealant simply “seals” those areas off and gives the cavity-causing bacteria less room to hide. See the attached picture to have a better idea of how sealants work.
Most people don’t like to see the dentist, and we understand that! We can be scary with our needles, drills, and expensive bills. So the best way to avoid seeing us is to maintain a healthy lifestyle free of sodas, junk food, and other processed foods. Not only will your teeth be healthy, but your entire body will thank you. And always remember that your friendly local dentist will always be there to put your mouth back together so you can go back to enjoying your mothers’ biryani.