Brushing Away

Just so my friend doesn’t feel that she’s the only 30-something who feels like she is falling apart, I’m writing of my newest aging issue. No, not the back thing. No, not the toe (which is definitely seeming broken, as it is getting worse not better.) One that has been on the horizon for years and one that I dutifully exacerbated in my attempts to thwart it. You know how dentists tell you to brush very gently, in little circles on each tooth, never hard, never “back and forth,” always in little circles? They really aren’t kidding about that.

When you don’t brush in circles, when you rub on your gumline thinking that you need to be “massaging” it (as once recommended by your dentist), and when you do all of this on gums prone to recession due to thin tissue (a heredity thing) and early braces on small teeth (an unfortunate thing), you can do a lot of damage. Apparently, I have.

Months ago, when I saw our dentist, she referred me to a periodontist to check the gum recession on a few teeth. The gingiva over my teeth (that rounded part of tissue) was receding to the point where the bone underneath was visible and possibly eroding away (it’s not tough like enamel.) I’ve known that I had problems with recession since college — a long long time. Back then, I was told to brush at the gum line to massage the gums back down, which is what I thought I was doing. I brushed and flossed the heck out of them. And now, well, now I don’t have much gum left on 7 — yes SEVEN — teeth. All the teeth are in the back of my mouth, since I was most concerned over plaque in these areas and worked the hardest back there.

So on November 7th, I am scheduled first for a tooth scaling and then to have two teeth surgically repaired through a soft tissue graft, where tissue is taken from the roof of my mouth and placed over my receding gums to bulk up the thin tissue and cover up the exposed root. The good news is that I don’t have periodontal disease, although I am currently a good candidate. So the prognosis is good. What is unfortunate is that the surgery is costly, insurance only covers to a certain point, and I’m looking at doing one or two teeth each year for the next 3-4 years (so as to spread out what can be covered by insurance). We are nearing an open enrollment period for benefits and are considering an insurance change and/or getting Aflac as a secondary provider. In the meantime, while we wait for all the teeth to get done, I’ll have scaling (which Paul had done earlier this year) every 12-18 months to clear any exposed root, and three normal cleanings each year.

The periodontist recommendations included: using a toothpaste with a very low RDA (Relative Dentin Abrasivity) which is a measure of how abrasive the paste is on your teeth. Most toothpastes are really abrasive, which can be damaging. (Who knew?) She recommended Biotene Gel with Fluoride (an RDA of 60) and using a toothbrush of very small size with extra soft bristles, which can be special ordered since they are hard to find in stores. Yowza.

So today’s public health announcement: gently brush in circles!