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How to undo youthful idiocy in the form of an ugly smile?
April 29, 2007 9:41 PM   Subscribe

Gross-ness-filter: My teeth are in pretty bad shape in terms of stains and fillings, what are my options?

A childhood of despising and evading oral hygiene whenever possible coupled with braces and liberal consumption of caffeine, whether coffee or caffeinated soda, have led to a rather abysmal set of teeth. I've had numerous fillings, and a few teeth are starting to feel sensitive in a rather ominous way. Right now there are decalcification stains, on the parts of my teeth that weren't obscured by braces, as well as coffee stains. They're a rather ugly shade of yellow, as well.

Being slightly less obstinate and stupid now, I've been trying with moderate success for the past two years or so to brush more. I've never really developed the habit, so sometimes I genuinely forget at the end of a long day, or when I'm rushed in the morning, rather than just skip it and chew some sugarless gum like I once would have done. I'm trying, and it's improving, slowly but surely.

What I would like and need is to do something about the stains. Get them professionally laminated/whitened, maybe? And take care of cavities in the meantime. A sort of fresh-start, if you will, and an incentive to keep them fresh.

I'm on a very limited budget, being a student, and the monthly dental visits added to dentists (in the best of intentions, to be fair) scolding me about my dental hygiene have made me despise and avoid them at all costs.

I'm fully aware that it's disgusting. Shame is half my hindrance. But please, keep your judging to a minimum. I would like AskMe's input in terms of whitening options, a ballpark figure of how much it costs and how to approach talking to dentists about it before I actually brave a dental office.

Random: Parentals are thinking of pulling me to China (where I'm from) next time I visit, as it will supposedly be cheaper there. I will also need to get an artificial implant there, as I was born without one of my adult teeth. Thoughts?
posted by anonymous to Health & Fitness (10 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
 
Your top priority should be to take care of any fillings that need to be done with your limited funds. Neglecting getting cavities taken care of can lead to needing a root canal, which is much more expensive, and will give you a whole new attitude about what to despise at the dentist.

If you can get good quality work done somewhere else cheaper, I'd do it there. If you do have it done locally, know that you can call around and check prices before you have the work done. Some areas have membership type plans availible that will give you discounts at certain dentists.

As far as whitening goes, I hear that the at home brush on stuff works just as well as the treatments in the dental office and can actually be more gentle to teeth, it just takes longer to work. The home stuff (availible at drugstores) costs about $10 or $ 20 for a bottle, getting it done at the dentist will be hundereds. I've only used the at home stuff myself, I have some sort of "natural" type that I find gives noticable results pretty quickly. It comes in a little bottle with a brush to put it on. Also, the sonicare toothbrushes help a little bit with staining.

Find a way to remember to brush, especially before you go to sleep. Leave the toothbrush on your pillow or something, or just brush after you eat. Slip a toothbrush in your backpack and you can brush later in the day.

Not to nag, but you also need to floss. It helps keep your gums healthy, which helps keep your teeth from falling out. Add in a flouride mouthwash once a day too.

Lots of people have trouble with their teeth, myself included. It's great you are taking positive action to take care of yourself.
posted by yohko at 10:21 PM on April 29, 2007


One other tip -
No one else notices your teeth as much as you do, but to make the staining less obvious, avoid wearing white anywhere near your face.
posted by yohko at 10:27 PM on April 29, 2007


If I were you, I'd stop by Bangkok on the way to China, and have the dental work done there. They've got some of the best dentists anywhere there, with modern equipment, and it's cheap. I had some dental work done last week at Asavanant Dental. It's one of the more expensive dental clinics, but a full set of x-rays, one serious filling (basically hollowing out a molar) and a cleaning cost about $130. A discussion of dental resources can be found on Lonely Planet Thorn Tree.

Personally, I would be reluctant to have any major dental work done in China. Safety standards in medicine are definitely lagging behind other countries in the region. I'm reminded of this story of a couple of weeks ago, in which a kid from Hong Kong ended up brain dead after being admitted into a local hospital for nausea.
posted by Etaoin Shrdlu at 10:52 PM on April 29, 2007 [4 favorites]


On the China thing: I haven't had major dental work done myself, but I did get my teeth cleaned for the first time ever very cheaply (less than CNY150 iirc) in a clean and modern clinic up the road. Friends here who have had dental work done all say good things about its quality.
From everything I've heard I would say the technical proficiency of dentistry in clinics in major Chinese cities will stand comparison with anywhere.
posted by Abiezer at 11:02 PM on April 29, 2007


Take this advice from someone whose teeth are bad enough that he's looking at a $20,000 bill to fix them properly.

Find a better dentist. Get a personal reccomendation from someone you know for a dentist with excellent "bedside" manner.

Tell this dentist your concerns, and be honest with them about what you can afford, and what your priorities are in seeking treatment. They will work with you.

Get it done, before things get worth. You think you can't afford a couple grand now? You won't be able to afford $20,000 later, either.

(I'd be glad to speak more on this, if you have questions. My email is in my profile, please put "MeFi" in the subject so I'm sure to see it.)
posted by CrayDrygu at 11:10 PM on April 29, 2007


Many doctors in Asia were educated in the US. I'm in (rural) Korea and my dental care here is infinitely cheaper than it would be in the US. I had a few cavities filled for $100 each (that's BEFORE insurance). During my last trip home my regular dentist checked out my Korean dentist's work and said it seemed to look great. The Korean dentist even insisted on giving me white fillings instead of metal fillings, and this is in a small town far away from the metropolis and medical advances of Seoul.

I would guess dental care in Bangkok or any major city in China would be of the same quality. Keep in mind that accidents happen and Etaoin's link above may just be a one-off. However, many American's are resorting to overseas travel for medical treatment because the total costs of travel plus treatment is usually less than treatment alone in the US. Also consider that some dental procedures require multiple follow-ups.

Another option is to go to a "country" dentist. I don't confess to know exactly what this means but I used to have several friends in Oklahoma who talked about going to "country" dentists to have work done, claiming it was way cheaper than going to a dentist in Oklahoma City. Since you're posting anon I have no idea where you live or if this is a viable option.

I agree that old fillings or compromised teeth require first priority. As for bleaching/whitening, perhaps you can try an OTC product first or ask your doctor for free samples. My father-in-law is a dentist and he often gives out prescription-strength white stripes as samples. Consider veneers, though they're pricey and sometimes don't look all that good. No one will ever have to know if you wear dentures or an implant either.

Take up flossing, it will really, really make a difference. You have to establish the habit of brushing and flossing. I'm at the point now where if I don't floss I feel totally gross. Also, tell your dentist that you are not there for lectures. You are there for health care. Don't go to any dentist that makes you uncomfortable (that doesn't mean giving up, it just means a lot of searching for a good one).

I'd also say you should try to accept minor cosmetic flaws (fluorosis and staining, for example). I have a medium gap between my two front teeth that many a dentist has tried to fix but I won't let anyone tell me it shouldn't be there. If it doesn't cause problems it doesn't need to be fixed (yet, at least).
posted by Brittanie at 11:10 PM on April 29, 2007


Is there a dental college in your area? In my area, a lot of folks get inexpensive (but quality) at the University of Detroit School of Dentistry. Maybe there's a similar school in your area?
posted by Oriole Adams at 11:39 PM on April 29, 2007


If you are in New York, I can recommend a very wonderful dentist who will work with you on payment and is not scold-y.
posted by dame at 6:37 AM on April 30, 2007


As far as a quick DIY fix is concerned, I had good luck with the Tres White tooth whitening kit. My dentist sold it to me for about three times what it's going for on Amazon.
posted by roger ackroyd at 10:43 AM on April 30, 2007


Try a local college in the area. For example: VCU has a school of dentistry that takes walk-ins and are much less expensive. The only problem is you better take a day off from work, and you better get there EARLY.
posted by slc228 at 2:51 PM on April 30, 2007


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