Behind the Drill

You have your horror stories of drilling and Novocaine. And your dentist has his or hers — as told to Annie Monjar

"I had a patient come in who had let a tooth infection take over his entire jaw. He was draining puss through his cheek, and you could see it on his face. I think he may have been a meth addict. Meth addicts typically have sugar cravings from their often irregular eating habits, which makes them eat a lot of sugary things, like lollipops and candy. If they have poor dental hygiene, the bacteria in their mouths will turn that sugar into acid, which attacks their teeth. Plus, they have a decreased saliva flow, so the extra acid can't be washed away normally. The whole side of this patient's mouth was entirely rotted out. Where teeth should have been, there was just black rot. I numbed him up, took out all the teeth on that side, and then sent him to the E.R., where they had to monitor him and put him on IV antibiotics.

Unfortunately, a lot of dental hygiene comes down to economics. Upkeep can be expensive, and if you can't afford regular dentistry, the little things that are usually quick fixes can turn into emergencies like that one." —Dr. Mike Reimels, Reimels Family and Cosmetic Dentistry as told to Annie Monjar

"I work with a local aid organization called Care Ring, which connects low-income individuals with health professionals. About four and a half years ago, they referred a five-year-old Hispanic girl to me. She had never seen a dentist before, and twelve of her twenty primary teeth were decayed. You could see just by looking at her that her front teeth were partially black, which led her to consciously avoid smiling. She and her mother spoke no English at the time, but I had a Spanish-speaking dental assistant. The little girl was apprehensive about treatment, but was calmed by my assistant, who would talk to her during her treatment. Over the course of four appointments, we managed to place a series of fillings to restore her teeth.

I even learned a little Spanish. At our last appointment, she told my assistant, who later told me, how happy she was that the other children no longer called her diente negro, or ‘black tooth.' Now she comes back for appointments every six months, and has been cavity free for the past two years." —Dr. J. Michael Bellamy, DDS

"I've had a couple of patients have their teeth saved by their braces. In one case, a young lady, about thirteen, fell off her bike and knocked her teeth against her garage door. It was about two months before she was scheduled to get her braces off. Her teeth were dislodged from their proper places, but the wires and brackets sort of acted like shock absorbers and ended up holding her teeth in place. We stabilized her teeth, but had to keep her braces on for three more months to gently move them back into place. Similarly, a boy I saw this past year: he got a baseball to his mouth, and it was the same thing—the braces held his teeth in place. We sent him to an endontist to have a root canal done, and he had to keep his braces on another six months. But at least once a year, I see a child who won't wear a mouth guard while playing sports and suffers trauma to their teeth. All children involved in contact sports should be wearing mouth guards." —Dr. Dave Paquette, Paquette Orthodontics as told to A. M.

Categories: Article Children