My new job — is it still a “new” one if I’ve made it to the second month? — comes with a whole new vocabulary: CAD/CAM. Cone-beam. Gutta-percha. And edentulous, which I saw first in a headline and thought it was a play on the name of the woman pictured. (It wasn’t; it means “having no teeth.”) I keep going in to my boss’s office and asking, “Is this a stupid question?” before I hit “send” on emails to dental professionals.
But then again, one of my “stupid?” questions stumped the reps of a company that supplies dental instruments: While demonstrating a scaler made of a new, supersharp material, they mentioned that when these tools are being cleaned and sterilized, they shouldn’t be in the same batch as traditional stainless-steel tools, “because of the risk of a galvanic reaction between the materials.”
I looked down at the tool and pointed at the handle, which is book-ended by the sharp, curved points: “What’s this made of?” I asked, thinking it then must be some amazing white gold, or titanium. “Stainless steel,” they said.
“So the handle … doesn’t … touch … the ends … somehow?” I asked, perplexed.
It does. Nobody brought that up before. They said they’d get back to me about what that means for the recommendations.
So, emboldened by that, I bring you: 3 more things I’ve already learned thanks to editing dental magazines.
1. Not everyone loses their primary teeth.
Parents shouldn’t be all, “Well, no problem with this one getting a cavity — it’ll fall out soon and be replaced by a permanent tooth.” A baby tooth only falls out if there’s a permanent tooth underneath ready to replace it, which is why it’s important to take care of baby teeth, too … just in case.
2. Fluoride toothpaste isn’t as essential as you might think.
Fluoride helps prevent tooth decay by strengthening teeth and remineralizing areas where bacteria have created acid. (Fluoride is a mineral, after all.) But systemic fluoride, consumed through food and fluoridated water, does most of the work, and topical fluoride really just bolsters the effect of the fluoride in your system. The physical process of tooth brushing is what removes the plaque from teeth, not the fluoride in your toothpaste. Plus, when you think about it, how long is that paste in really in contact with your teeth? Two minutes is the recommended length of time to brush, but few people reach that, and then they rinse … with water or, like me, a mouthwash. (They call them “mouth rinses” now — look at the label! — because the “cleaning” implication of the word wash was writing checks that the products couldn’t cash.)
The ADA still recommends using a fluoride toothpaste — and fluoridated mouth rinse — because it can’t hurt to have that booster in place. But now I don’t feel as bad about wanting to occasionally swap in some Marvis toothpastes — cinnamon mint! jasmine mint! even licorice!
3. Don’t try to eat at work.
Two main reasons for that:
(1) Because all you can think about is brushing and flossing right after.