Health-conscious Dentistry for the Future Generation

L.A. Health News

Today, we as parents, most of us are spending tens of thousands of dollars to fix your teeth, and most of it to repair dental work done (or often not done) during your childhood. Tomorrow, as our children grow into adults, and face the challenge of repairing their past dental work, that amount will rise ten-fold, as dental fees skyrocket and insurances pay less. It is a known fact, that most costly dental treatment in adults involves teeth that have been treated throughout the ages 8-18.

When a tooth with a neglected cavity is restored, many times its integrity is invaded, thereby starting a sequential downward cascade of re-filling with a larger filling, root canal, crown, extraction, bridge, partial denture. Along this path, heavy expenses, time away from work, pain, gum disease, TMJ, long-lasting anxiety and fear, health problems. Sounds familiar?

A filling is really not just a "filling". A tooth’s restoration may range between a 10-minute, indiscriminate, "grind and pack", to a detailed, conservative, bonded tooth-colored filling. The live tooth structure can be ground away at a startling speed of 400,000 RPM, or with the gentler electric drill at 40,000 RPM, or nowadays, with the ultimate in technology, the tooth-friendly LASER, which removes decay without even physically touching the tooth. All these, and many other factors, will determine how far along that downward cascade a certain tooth will follow, and how much misery and expense it will cost your child in adulthood.

We have entered the era of prevention, cosmetics, and laser micro-dentistry. Many dentists are now trained in extremely conservative and tooth-friendly ways to restore a tooth. Advances in diagnosing and filling early cavities, high magnification, lasers, and advanced bonding and filling materials should eliminate outdated restorative options for the new generation.

Most parents nowadays are eager to have their children get braces. Believe it or not, there are many options even for orthodontic therapy. In many cases, fixed braces can be avoided altogether, if removable appliance therapy is implemented earlier on in childhood, as early as 7. Between this age and the end of the pre-teen growth spurt, which ranges between the ages of 11-14, a lot can be achieved by appliances. These influence and steer the natural craniofacial growth patterns of the jawbones, to create larger arches, more space for all the permanent teeth, and a harmonious spatial relationship between the jaws and the skull. Mainstream orthodontics, on the other hand, may align teeth, but sometimes at the expense of four healthy teeth, small dental arches, stunted roots, a higher risk of decay, and retruded upper and lower jaws, resulting in a flat profile. Other problems that only manifest years later may be in the form of "TMJ", premature wear of teeth, and sleep apnea.

Unlike yesterday, there are many options in treatment and materials, and parent education and informed consent on all procedures, material compatibility and durability, is and should be a part of all treatment of minors. With the big issue of mercury in silver amalgams, and a higher incidence of chemical sensitivities in the population, a biological and naturopathic approach to dental issues is a necessity not only for dentists, but also for all physicians, including pediatricians. The right choices we make today for the growing generation will be only appreciated later.