GUEST COLUMN: Normal teeth and natural instincts
Monday, 14 January 2013 by Mark Magnan
I recently went for my biannual dental cleaning. Which brings up the question, why is biannual twice a year but bimonthly is once every two months. What puzzles me is how many normal body instincts we have to over come in a typical dental visit.
The first obstacle is that we need to keep our mouths open for the endurance of the procedure. Of course we all know someone that can keep their mouths open for long periods of time. But normally we keep our lips shut. A trip to the dentist requires us to open our mouths, and most of the time keep them open wider than we typically would under normal circumstances. To top this off the hygienist will put several objects in your mouth, and their hands, then ask you a question. It is difficult to not try and speak.
Dentists make their own rules about teeth. They tell you to not put anything metal in your mouth around your teeth. Yet the first thing the hygienist grabs is a sharp pointed metal probe. It is actually a sharp metal point on both sides, I assume in case they poke around too much and dull one end they can just twirl it around and keep on prodding and scraping. They are looking for a number of minor cleaning problems that will affect the health of your teeth. Most of the time good brushing and flossing habits will prevent anything serious.
While all the work is going on, your body is doing some natural things like creating saliva, which gathers in the back of your mouth and soon you are resisting the urge to swallow. These days you are given a small suction tube to vacuum out the excess liquid, instead of spitting in the small sink that was next to the chair. I think there is a contest to see how much saliva a person can hold before they erupt like a volcano. Of course there are a few times when the hygienist needs to dry your teeth, so they use air to blow your mouth dry. This goes against another instinct for your mouth, your body goes to great lengths to keep your mouth and lips moist. So you have this off balance struggle going on while your body does its thing and the hygienist fights to do the opposite. And, like you don't have enough troubles, you have to control your tongue. The tongue apparently is the master of the mouth, it feels the need to investigate anything strange that is going on. If you have ever had something caught in a tooth you know your tongue will drive you crazy until you get this situation corrected. Well it is the same concept with the dentist. Your tongue is wanting to see what is happening and you have to make the attempt to control the tongue and keep it out of the way of whatever hand or tool happens to be in your mouth at the time. This sounds simple but again this goes against some strong instincts in your body. The tongue is ready to defend your mouth by throwing out the hygienist's hand and whatever pointy tool are invading the domain.
One interesting and amazing things about about the digital age is that x-rays are now instantaneous. Within seconds you can see what the inside of your mouth and teeth look like. I still don't like having the x-ray machine pointed right at my head when everyone else flees the room like scared rabbits. I did, however, check myself before I left, I went to the restroom and turned out the light to make sure I wasn't glowing in the dark. One of the most interesting views is the full shot that is taken of all of your teeth. You can see everything in your mouth on one image. Of course you can see the jaws and sinuses as well. It is amazing to see how all the teeth fit together and work like a well designed machine to help process your food.
Once all the jabbing and poking is finish then the final cleaning can start. This is much better than a just a few years ago. They no longer use the flavored cleaning paste, which was basically sand with some fruity flavor mixed in. Although I am sure this was made with expensive sand. But now they use a different method which is basically dry. It goes fairly quickly and produces the smooth clean feeling to the teeth. That feeling that makes you want to not eat for quite a while to preserve the extra clean smoothness.
I have successfully harnessed my body and controlled my instincts enough not to embarrass myself in the dental chair. I am good for another six months now. If I was a horse and someone looked in my mouth I am sure that I would bring top dollar.