‘Losing my teeth has changed me like a disease’

Last month, the SBS OnDemand program “Insight” looked at why so many Australians struggle with poor dental health and what effect it had on their lives. Whilst I did not watch the program, there was a write up about it put out by the Australian Dental Association. Here is a link to the preview, where you can also sign in for access to the full program.

Almost every professional day of work, I see people in distress about their teeth and/or smile. The reasons for why people find themselves in this position are wide and varied. It could be a result of trauma of some sort, from an accident to a fight to just fainting and hitting their chin as they hit the ground. It could be a result of pregnancy, it could be malnutrition, it could be eating too much of the wrong foods or drinking too much soft drink. It could be general bad health – though often this starts in the mouth and things just keep getting worse. It could be a fear of going to the dentist (even for reasons of perceived cost) and it can even be just plain bad luck going back to your gene pool, or an acquired serious disease.

On our Blog pages and our Smile Makeover webpage, you will literally see dozens of smiles that will fit into any one of these categories. The saddest thing of all, is that other than trauma, genes or serious disease, most of these cases never need to go that far. We seem to take good health for granted. We decide we can cut down on visits to the dentist to save some time or some money or dodge that fear of the dentist. Before we know it we have a tooth ache. The dentist gives you the cost to take away the pain and you note that the cheapest option is to take the tooth out. Problem solved! But it doesn’t stop there.
Losing a tooth has a domino effect. Just look at a brick-edged garden bed. One brick loosens, then the next. If it falls out completely, the two either side will fall out too. Until a repair is done. The same happens with teeth, but if a tooth is lost, not only will the teeth next to it work themselves loose, the teeth above or below will get loose too, as there is nothing to stabilise the bite. So that jaw starts having the same issues too.

I believe the best insurance policy of all for our dental health is to make regular visits to a good dentist an absolute priority. (Sadly, I have seen people within days of having a check-up and clean elsewhere and am horrified as the patient insists they have only just had a thorough check-up and clean done. They see on the TV screen in front of them that the camera doesn’t lie.)
Smiling has an important effect on our endorphins. When we smile and laugh, we create beneficial hormones that help us feel good. But a beautiful smile not only makes us feel good, it generally makes us look more attractive too – its just the way it is. And when we look good we feel even better about ourselves and so it goes around and around.

People are often shocked at how much dentistry costs. It can cost approximately $5000 for a dental implant and a crown on top – just to replace one tooth! This is the equivalent of approximately 25 cleans in our office at our current fee structure. But placing an implant requires years more expensive study and usually travel, time out of the office, expensive tools and extra infection control measures (because we are doing surgery), an extra nurse, titanium implants and attachments, laboratory technicians to create a custom made beautiful piece of work (that is created by the same techniques as individually custom-made fine jewellery) etc etc and then still a very, very small probability of failure, often for no known reason – again, just the way it is.

By the way, spending $5000 on that one tooth, potentially saves tens of thousands of dollars more down the line as other teeth don’t need to be replaced – remember the brick-edged garden I spoke about earlier? By putting in the implant and crown on top, you have stabilised the bite.

I love doing smile makeovers and implant dentistry and I would love to do smiles and implants all day long. They are mentally challenging and very professionally rewarding for me as a dentist. The only thing I love about check-ups and cleans is being able to touch base with patients who are my regulars and with whom I have come to know as friends, and the thing I don’t mind too much about them, is that they give my mind and hands a bit of a rest.

I see the effect that poor dental health and poor smiles have on Australians every day. I also see on a very regular basis the effect of having a smile makeover done on people just like those in the preview at the beginning of this blog. Dentistry is not cheap, but can anyone afford to take their teeth for granted?

Wishing you good dental health

John

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