What’s the Point of Brushing Your Teeth?

Honestly, I’m beginning to question some long held tenets. For as long as I can remember, I knew one thing when it came to dental healthcare: brush your teeth, or else. The “or else” part was always a bit nebulous, but it involved things like cavities, fillings, gum disease, and the dreaded root canal. Not really wanting any of those in my life, I’ve always been quite good about brushing. Yes, flossing has come and gone (though I’ve been flossing regularly for the past long while now), but brushing twice a day has always been there.

The last few weeks, however, my teeth haven’t really been team players. One of them has been protesting loudly whenever I ate something even mildly cold. (Mind you, this didn’t stop me from eating ice cream anyway, so clearly it wasn’t protesting enough.) Another has been complaining about the need to chew day in and day out, occasionally shooting a spike of pain when I’d take a bite right on it, but that’s been a much less frequent occurrence. Not being a fan of pain, I went to the dentist yesterday to get things checked out.

From what I’ve now learned, some teeth just don’t like being cold. There’s no cavities involved. Nothing to fix. They just protest when they get chilly, though you can quiet them down somewhat by using toothpaste for sensitive teeth. So the thing that was causing the most pain . . . doesn’t seem inclined to stop anytime soon.

The thing that causes only intermittent pain? My dentist was much more concerned about that. Before, he’d thought perhaps my tooth was cracking. (Uh oh.) This time, he took a more complete x-ray and was concerned by some slight dark shading at the root of the tooth. He explained this to me, pointing at the x-ray as if I had a clue what I was looking at. I nodded and agreed it seemed like something that might be problematic (because what else am I going to say? I’m not a dentist, though I do appreciate being treated as if I know what subtle gradations in x-rays mean).

So he investigated further. He had me bite down on different parts of the tooth. All was more or less okay. Then he moved on top tapping my teeth with a little mallet, one at a time. My tooth immediately filed a complaint, in triplicate.

Which is how I learned that it’s likely I need a root canal on that tooth.

I’m still going to get another opinion (right before I get said root canal next week), but things don’t look good. I asked him why it happened. What did I do wrong that led to this? The answer? Nothing. The tooth looks healthy. No cavities. I’ve taken good care of it. But somehow the root has gotten inflamed, and I guess that just keeps on going once it starts.

He assured me that root canals aren’t nearly as bad as they’re made out to be, but still: it’s not something I’m looking forward to. And like I said in the title: what’s the point of brushing your teeth when you need to get root canals anyway? I suppose the answer is, “You’ll need to get fewer of them,” but I still feel like I’ve been sold a false bill of goods. Not that I’m going to stop brushing, but I think have a case to protest.

Not that it’ll do any good.

Anyway, wish me luck next week when I have my inaugural root canal, and then luck later on, when I have my inaugural crown. (Not the good kind of crown, either. But still expensive.) I suppose this comes with the territory of getting older, but that doesn’t make me any happier about it . . .

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