How to Get Dental Goodness
June 15, 2008 9:17 PM   Subscribe

How do I take better care of my pearly yellows?

Ok, they're not rain slicker yellow, but my teeth have had problems for as long as I can remember (my mom has had the same problems, so I think it's genetic.)

I looked through metafilter but I couldn't find "general tips" for someone who always has to get cavities filled every time she visits the dentist, and has had several root canals--probably 4, but I've lost count.

Things I'll Try:

I'm gonna try to reduce the amount of sugar and sticky foods I eat, floss more regularly (though it's hard because I have a "sensitive" area in my mouth), and stay away from my beloved sugary tea and acidic sodas.

Aside from that:

Does anybody here have some tips? Would love to hear from some someone who used to have a lot of cavities until one day they began to --insert miracle cure here--.

(Incidentally, my tooth seems to be hurting right now...and I'll probably need to visit the dentist this month. ARGH!)
posted by The ____ of Justice to Health & Fitness (19 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: I have similar problems, and for me the biggest difference came when I listened to my dentist and plunked down the cash for a Sonicare toothbrush that I use regularly. My teeth/gums are great now, and I don't end up with cavities at every appointment regardless of what I eat.

I can't tell you how nice it is to just have them STAY without cavities once I am done paying obscene amounts of money at the dentist for a change.
posted by abbazabba at 9:29 PM on June 15, 2008

Best answer: I'm gonna try to reduce the amount of sugar and sticky foods I eat

I've had countless cavities and 11 (count 'em, eleven) root canals in the past. I stopped eating sugar, or anything containing sugar, about 5 years ago and haven't had one single tooth problem since. It's hard to not eat sugar if you eat processed foods, as there are all sorts of ways to mask it using different names. Another comment I made addresses that - the whole thread is worth a read.
posted by iconomy at 9:36 PM on June 15, 2008 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I assume you are using Fluoridated toothpaste? For people with teeth problems, you can get "extra strength" toothpaste prescribed. This may help to strengthen your enamel.

Totally unscientific, but I've found that eating carrots when my teeth hurt magically makes them feel a bit better later on (plus loads of brushing and other careful care).

Since your teeth are finicky, make sure not to use an abrasive toothpaste. That means nothing with baking soda, and definitely
I hate flossing too, but I just remind myself that my teeth will indeed fall out otherwise, and that helps strengthen my resolve. I generally rinse with a nice antiseptic mouthwash after flossing, which makes it hurt a bit less at least for the short term.

I had a bunch of cavities in my teens and haven't really had many in recent memory. I haven't been reducing my sugar intake either, so I guess I'm just lucky. I do find that eating a lot of carrots makes my mouth feel better if it's been a bit sore. Don't know why.
posted by Deathalicious at 9:46 PM on June 15, 2008

Best answer: Also, how often do you visit the dentist? You should go every year for a cleaning. If you're coming in every year and you're having new cavities each time, this just isn't normal (and, theoretically, eventually you should be running out of teeth to get cavities in) and your dentist should be able to work out with you a way to deal with this problem.
posted by Deathalicious at 9:48 PM on June 15, 2008

Best answer: ACT Restoring Mouthwash plus more frequent brushing and more frequent visits to the dentist.

You might consider trying a new dentist too. It has been my experience that some are more "cavity happy" than others. Like any other medical issue, a second opinion can't hurt.
posted by spilon at 10:21 PM on June 15, 2008 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: I have been going every 3 or 4 or 5 years, mostly due to cost and that I'm pretty lax when it comes to going to the doctor or dentist.

Yeah, I know, I'm only making things harder for myself.

I'm going to try for once every 2 years, though. Baby steps!
posted by The ____ of Justice at 10:22 PM on June 15, 2008

I have been going every 3 or 4 or 5 years, mostly due to cost
That seems like not changing the oil in your car for two years to save money. It's ultimately going to cause problems.

Preventative maintenance is much, much cheaper (and, in this case, less painful) than repair work.

Here are the basics: Brush your teeth after every meal. Floss daily. Make and keep dental appointments every six months.

There's no miracle cure. It's just a set of maintenance tasks. And if you aren't doing these things, supposed "miracle cures" aren't going to be much help either.
posted by JDHarper at 10:42 PM on June 15, 2008 [1 favorite]

Seconding the Soniccare toothbrush.
posted by NailsTheCat at 12:00 AM on June 16, 2008

Chew sugar free gum a couple of times during the day.
posted by heffalump at 1:15 AM on June 16, 2008

Would love to hear from some someone who used to have a lot of cavities until one day they began to --insert miracle cure here--.

I had a friend who used to get cavities all the time. Then he started going to the dentist every six months, and the cavities stopped showing up!

I'm pretty lax when it comes to going to the doctor or dentist.

Try making your next dental appointment at the conclusion of your previous one.
posted by grouse at 1:46 AM on June 16, 2008

Best answer: This is what has worked for me:
- SoniCare toothbrush -- expensive but worth every penny.

- Prescription toothpaste -- If you don't go to the dentist often, your doctor can write the prescription (or, mine did). It is available as a name brand (Colgate Prevident 5000) or a generic (EtheDent dental cream with 1.1% sodium fluoride)

- Chewing gum with Recaldent, such as Trident White.
posted by Houstonian at 4:43 AM on June 16, 2008

For the sugary tea: you could: 1. try Splenda in your tea instead of sugar. or 2. Listen to George Orwell: "To those misguided people I would say: Try drinking tea without sugar for, say, a fortnight and it is very unlikely that you will ever want to ruin your tea by sweetening it again."

Try making flossing part of an evening ritual. Do you watch a TV show regularly? Can you insist upon flossing whenever you watch that? (Yeah, a little gross to floss out in public, but worth it.) The pain will go away really quickly.

And, n'thing more regular dental visits. Because I was a poor student I went once just two years without a cleaning and got a ton of cavities; now five years later I'm still dealing with the repercussions (replacing fillings, etc). I had never had any cavities before that.
posted by wyzewoman at 4:44 AM on June 16, 2008 [1 favorite]

Don't drink soda or coffee and most of your work is done.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 5:02 AM on June 16, 2008

Now that we know how often you are going, we know the problem.

With teeth like yours, once every 2 years is not going to cut it.

Did you know a standard cleaning, without any cavities, is only $100 or so? Many insurances have a dental rider that includes one free cleaning per year (or maybe every 6 months)?

For your case, I'd start thinking about twice a year, at least until your teeth get their act together. Is $250/year really too much of an investment in your teeth? If you have problems paying, there are probably ways you can get reduced rates I would imagine. And if you have a credit card, you could always go ahead and charge the cleaning...your teeth are a perfectly good reason to go into debt just a little.

If you only go to the dentist once your teeth hurt, your visits will always cost a lot.
posted by Deathalicious at 6:18 AM on June 16, 2008

My partner goes twice a year because he has the same problem. It's cut down on his need for dental work considerably. A filling is cheaper than a root canal, as you may have noticed.

ACT mouthwash is great, too.
posted by sondrialiac at 8:26 AM on June 16, 2008

Best answer: I've had ~10 root canals myself. Nthing the Sonicare and the twice-yearly visits. Most dentist offices can schedule you 6 months in advance, then send you a little card to remind you when it's time. Do your best to resist cancelling when the appointment comes up. I struggle with this but force myself to go and it's really not so bad.

When using the Sonicare, use it for the full two minutes it says in the instructions and really try to get it up under the gumline. Try to get in the habit of flossing,'s hard (trust me, I know) but it really helps especially with the bleeding and tenderness when you get your teeth cleaned. Of course it has other benefits, but anything that makes the routine visits easier to handle is a good thing. The other benefit is that they will catch problems much earlier when they are easier and cheaper to treat. It's cheaper in the long run, seriously.

If you happen to live in an area with a diverse population, you could try to find a dentist that caters to a particular ethnic/religious group and it might be cheaper out of pocket. For example, there are dentists where my parents live in PA that have many Amish and Mennonite patients, and many of them pay in cash. As a result, the dentist can charge much less since they have fewer insurance hassles. I had an emergency exam at a dentist like this over Christmas one year and it was half the cost of the same exam at my regular dentist.
posted by cabingirl at 9:00 AM on June 16, 2008

Really, for a healthy mouth, you NEED to go for a cleaning AT LEAST once a year. The hygienist will scrape off all kinds of cavity-causing tartar and plaque that no amount of flossing and brushing will ever get rid of.

Going to the dentist only when you feel pain is not only bad for your wallet, but could also be much more dangerous than you might assume. Cavities can cause infection of surrounding areas. "Surrounding areas" means your head.
posted by Sys Rq at 9:57 AM on June 16, 2008

Response by poster: Thanks for all the great tips, folks.

I guess if 1 out of 2 mefi users recommend going to the dentist twice a year, I ought to do so.

Aside from the basics, the Soniccare, ACT mouthwash, and extra flouridated toothpaste also sound like good ideas, thanks!

Glad to hear cutting down on sugar and soda are working for some.

You people are awesome, thanks!
posted by The ____ of Justice at 1:20 PM on June 16, 2008

Flossing didn't ever work for me. I have reasonably straight teeth, but it is a painful struggle to floss.
My current dentist (for three years so far, after 8 years of hiding from all dentists) suggested inter-dental brushes - basically little bottle brush sort of things.
These were discomfort free after a couple of days and keep the plaque away between 6 monthly visits, which makes the visit much less daunting.
No new fillings in the last decade (although an old one had to be replaced) which I think is largely due to the daily inter-dental brushing.
posted by bystander at 5:45 AM on June 17, 2008

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