Brush now and benefit later

A few days ago I had to go to the dentist for what is, for me, my half-yearly check-up.

I count myself lucky in that ever since I was a small boy, I was encouraged to take care of my teeth.

Brushing regularly became part of the daily regime and I soon discovered it to be a great way of getting out of doing the drying up after Sunday lunch too.

For some people, going to the dentist is simply part of a routine, much like going to the opticians, visiting the doctor, or even having a hair appointment.

For many though there’s at least some element of dread, either with the anticipation of pain and/or cost. In these enlightened times, however, why should that necessarily be the case?

Isn’t it a false economy not to take care of our teeth?

According to a BUPA survey earlier this year, 63 per cent of people believe that having bad teeth can prevent a person from finding a partner. 52 per cent think that having nice teeth could help get a better job.

However, only half of the people polled said that they went for regular dental check-ups and 14 per cent hadn’t been to the dentist during the last four years.

Four per cent had never visited the dentist at all.

The stereotype of a dental visit is all too easy to picture.

Steve Martin did a brilliant job of reinforcing it in Little Shop of Horrors as Orin Scrivello DDS, but the reality is, mercifully, very different.

My own dentist is based in Far Cotton, where I used to live, and there’s no way I would change.

There, patients find very relaxed surgery with soothing prog-rock music piped into the treatment rooms and
pictures of Ferraris on the walls . . . the man is an enthusiast.

He and his staff are also remarkably good at putting patients at their ease, telling them what they’re doing and, crucially, why.

I still shudder at the memory of a previous dentist that I used to visit as a youngster who used to just get the ironmongery out and dive in. And he had bad breath.

Praise be for progress.

There are elements of a dental check-up that become, over time, something of a game.

How many times have you heard the word “erupting”? How about “occlusal” or “mandibular”?

The lexicon of the dental language is quite something to latch onto.

And of course there’s the best game of all: “Answering The Dentist When He Asks You A Question”, while your mouth is full of any number of bits of equipment and your tongue is flopped over to one side.

If you can manage more than a somewhat laboured “Uh-hughhh” to any question, then you’re doing better than I normally manage.

I sometimes wonder if that particular pastime is played out for the dentist’s gratification rather than ours.

Thanks to a childhood of parental encouragement to look after my teeth, the rewards of doing so have built up over time and it’s now been over 20 years since I’ve needed anything other than a clean and polish, saving a fortune in dental bills.

If that sounds a self-congratulatory, it’s only because there’s been plenty of maintenance and habit put in first.

Teach childen about dental hygiene early enough and our irrational fear of dentists would disappear.

The responsibility starts with us as adults and parents, but it continues with schools as well as dentists themselves of course.

Why not invest in a little prophylaxis yourself and lead by example . . . the regular cleaning of your teeth for a lifetime of benefit.