First I’ll explain my history with dental care, and then I’ll explain how I learned to stay healthy on my own, without the need for any drilling or other hassles.
Growing up, I never had anything against dentists. My mom took me to a few, and the one I saw for the majority of my later childhood was a nice guy.
I remember the usual routine. His dental hygienist would scrub my teeth with a motorized brush, floss them, scrape the tartar off with a metal pick, offer me X-rays which I usually refused for fear of radiation, and finally soak my teeth in a concentrated fluoride gel. Although I found the procedure to be a disruption to my normal schedule, especially the requirement to not eat or drink for 30 minutes after the fluoride treatment in order to maintain its effectiveness, I never dreaded or feared it. I thought of it as one of those occasional inconvenient but (supposedly) necessary chores, like getting a haircut.
During these younger years, I also didn’t brush my teeth very well (out of laziness), and this led to a few cavities over time. This meant a Novocaine needle to numb the area and a drill to repair the damage, but I didn’t fear this either. To me the only downside was the minor annoyance of a numb lip for a few hours after the procedure was finished (caused by the Novocaine).
When I moved away after graduating from college, one of my change-of-address chores was to find a new dentist, but the experience I had with the first (and only) dentist I tried did not go very well. He didn’t have a good bedside manner. More importantly, after he did an X-ray on my mouth he said he found a “shadow” and wanted to drill (even though I had no pain).
All those years I’d reluctantly given in to the occasional X-rays that supposedly were designed to detect problems early, but apparently no problem had ever been found. Any drilling I had done was always in response to pain, which was how I knew I had a cavity, but here was this unfriendly person wanting me and my insurance company to pay him to do damage to my body. This was when I started questioning whether the whole yearly checkup routine was a scam. It occurred to me that most of the time all the dentist did was brush my teeth really well, which seemed like something I could do myself if I really put in the effort. So, instead of looking for a nicer dentist, I decided to go off on my own and follow a rigorous regimen of self dental care.
This is what I do.
I brush my teeth once a day (with toothpaste of course), before breakfast when there’s no food to interfere with the ability of the bristles to reach the plaque. On the side and front teeth, I scrub the top gums, bottom gums, and teeth in small circular motions, with several passes (I’ve settled on three) over the entire length of each area. I make sure to be thorough and cover the corners that are hard to reach. I then scrub the tops of my teeth in small back-and-forth motions, with several passes (I’ve settled on seven in this case) over the entire length (making sure to be thorough and cover the very back). Lastly, I scrub the back of each row of teeth with several passes over their entire length.
– Of course, I then use my tongue scraper (with toothpaste), which is mainly to keep my breath fresh. See http://agalltyr.wordpress.com/2010/11/28/tongue-scraper/ for why I think tongue scrapers are awesome. –
Before flossing, there is something I avoid. I do not rinse my teeth with water. I do spit out the toothpaste, but I allow any leftover residue to stay on my teeth so that the fluoride can soak in. I believe this is similar to getting a fluoride treatment from a dentist except on a daily basis. I don’t actually rinse until about 30 minutes later, which works out fine because I have other chores to do in the morning before I actually eat breakfast.
Finally, I floss.
– I also wash my toothbrush each day, to avoid reintroducing into my mouth germs that may have collected on it. To do this, I fill a cup with water, mix some dish detergent (which is basically liquid soap) into the cup, immerse the head of the toothbrush into the mixture and shake it back and forth, wash the outside of the entire toothbrush with normal soap, and then finally rinse the entire toothbrush with water. (Soaking the toothbrush in rubbing alcohol and leaving it out to dry might also do this job of killing any germs that may have collected on it.) –
In addition to this daily scrubbing routine, after each meal I rinse my teeth several times with water (I’ve settled on three or four times). I don’t swallow the water, because I’ve found too much water interferes with my food digestion, so I just swish it around and then spit it out.
I haven’t been to a dentist in 9 years, and I have no problems with my teeth or gums. There is no pain, no redness, nor any other abnormal condition.
In assessing the reason for my dental health, I admittedly did have some sort of dental bonding done at one point when I was a child, but I can’t remember whether I still had any cavities after that or not. Besides, if dental bonding could make dental visits obsolete, then I’m sure there would be no such thing as dental checkups for adults.
What I think really makes the difference is self-discipline. If you take care of yourself, then you don’t need to rely on someone else to take care of you.