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The Tooth the Whole Tooth and Nothing but the Tooth.

~©PC Young April 27 2019 

The Atlantic a well known publication ran an article this month regarding dentistry.  Mind you, the author Ferris Jabr, has a science degree, but has not put anything other than his personal animus into his writing.  Here is his divisive article and below, the requisite response.

The Tooth the Whole Tooth and Nothing but the Tooth. 

        Sure lets talk about truth. One of my favorite passages from the gospels is when Jesus while being interviewed by Pontius Pilate upon Pilates inquiry: “Truth,  What is truth” Whereupon Jesus responded “You will know truth when you hear it”

      Surely a corollary of such a profundity would be “Lies well we know bs when we hear it” So it could be said regarding that which is written.  A reasonably intelligent, experienced, educated free thinking individual should be able to distinguish between BS wrapped in pretty packaging or well worn truth even if scribbled on a paper bag. So it was when pondering such truths I chanced upon this prettily packaged smelt. 

       Before taking this journey lets make a single addendum to this tale: Caveat Emptor.  Now with that additional detail complete lets proceed:

     The Truth about Dentistry:  A speculative fantasy adapted from Ferris Jabr article in THE ATLANTIC by Ferris Jabr (I consider it speculative fantasy for two very solid reasons: drawing a conclusion regarding an entire profession using a single example is not objective, but is heavily biased)

      However Who doesn’t like to lampoon dentists but a single “please Mr Dentist Sir/Mam for God sakes I need you this tooth is killing me!” Moment should generate life long gratitude who has lost sleep, work days from a tooth ache or bad teeth. Much of dentistry now is intended to be preventative and before WWII and subsequent formation of ADA few Americans had access to good dental care. 

      My grandmother a perfect case in point. Born in 1898 Nebraska, one of 6 of a pioneer family from Mass.  Had neither knowledge of what tooth decay still used tooth powder containing ammonia (which removes enamel thus strips protection away from bacterial acids , drilling small holes in teeth which leads to eventual mechanical failure of the tooth etc etc etc).

       She grew up in a time when there were no antibiotics, when little was known about bacteria, viruses which we take for granted today.  She lost all her teeth early in life.  For a little history much of the aristocracy lost their teeth very early and suffered greatly from dental problems. Commoners washed their teeth in yes boiled down cow urine, used to remove stains from clothes and thus whited teeth. 

        Contemporary Dentistry:  Those who have undergone the necessary education in dental science understand the importance of dental care, and effectively provide useful information to consumers on preventative dental care. How this has impacted Americans longevity has not been investigated by this author. However, we do know now that failure to take care of our teeth can lead to serious health consequences only show up later in life:  Principally with cardiovascular disease ¥ and cosmetically. After all we might unconsciously subtract 20 IQ points when talking with an adult missing their front teeth. 

       As for Mr Jabr’s piece: the Truth about Dentistry does nothing to improve the readers understanding of dentistry tremendous advancements since my Grandmothers time on earth, nor brought to light the importance of preventing periodontal disease as its ominous nefarious relationship with heart and cardiovascular health, only he has furthered reticence of a public already fearful of dentistry. Further Perhaps Mr Jabr never heard this relevant phrase:  true in Roman times as today: “Caveat Emptor” (buyer beware) or that consumers should do their due diligence when shopping for someone they later will be allowing to explore their own oral cavity with sharp instruments, in a nearly supine position.  The sad circumstance of the individual he chooses to highlight his fantasy is one   avoided by due diligence.  Not to say the dentist whose practice was a fraud and we know of many instances of such individuals.  Therefore, due diligence would help others in avoiding the financial and physical injury sustained by keeping such frauds in practice. A Social responsibility one might say. 

   Medicine has been an empirical science from its days when barbers, drained cysts, removed cancers performed amputations, removed arrowheads and later treated gun shot victims.  This was just the 15th century.   As it is unethical to experiment on living people progress is slower than many doctors and other health professionals are comfortable with however, progress has been swift since the days my grandmother endured.  We now have fluoridated toothpaste (some suggest a Calcium Fluoride toothpaste might be better as Fluoride is soft but does plug holes (caries) in teeth preventing further decay. 

        While the girth of responsibility is with the individual in choice of diet, dedication to their own dental care and prevention there are Periodontal procedures,   orthodontist offered now not offered some 20 years ago.  As with cars and surgery you have the best results when done by competent professionals. 

       Mr Jabr’s speculative take down of dentistry  does no favors to the consumer, still left with the awful question of who to choose (I find it interesting none of Dentist Lunds findings are referenced anywhere in his “article”, he offers no solutions but presents too many questions.  It is a very critical piece yet given Mr. Jabrs scientific background he offers his readers nothing in helping them find answers. 

      Mr Jabr does do some free advertising (likely for monetary compensation) for a few books and a plug here a plug there. A journalist is tasked with wading through the muck and finding, simplifying the relevant information condense and hopefully with clarity provide his readers a useful perspective on the subject.

       Honestly I became tired reading the entirety. But yes there are shysters, yes there are unethical lawyers, dentists doctors only in it for the money but it’s the consumers responsibility to ferret those out and either communicate it to others or complain to the ADA, or law enforcement. 

       Finally  Mr Jabr seems to think it is an easy matter to educate all to a level of competence that is acceptable to his standards is a daunting task one that is by its nature nearly impossible. Advancements are made slowly and painfully sometimes.  But walking into a dentist’s office without checking their education, reviews on their practice of some degree of research into latest successful treatment methods are easily available in this the age of information, is just being lazy.  But this current grievance culture is all about that and putting a little time in before hand seems to much for some so they just complain complain, and complain.


       ¥ Article cited directly below the correlation between periodontal (essentially gum) disease and cardiovascular health.

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