As a dentist, I hear it almost daily from middle-aged patients: “Hey, I’m not excited to lose this tooth, but my mom and dad had dentures by the time they were my age, so I guess I’m doing Okay.” There are lots of ways people justify the decision not to save their teeth; that is, while they’re young.
As people find themselves in the later stages of life, we watch them fall into two fairly distinct groups. There are folks that are very proud to have their own teeth at whatever their age, or there are those that are ashamed, demoralized, even embarrassed that they allowed themselves to lose their teeth. Some of my least favorite visits are those when I have to tell someone that I have no remaining tricks available to prolong what’s left of their natural teeth.
My own little time machine...
After 25 years of watching patients fall into one of these two categories, I’ve come to feel somewhat like I’ve had access to a time machine. Within this very limited scope, I get a sense of what’s coming in a way others cannot. I watch their younger selves make decisions not to fix things their more senior selves are likely to regret. And honestly, it feels to me, very self-serving to share this observation when I’m the one lobbying for the patient to spend their treasure paying me to preserve their teeth. But I exist to make the most of your teeth.
How are our teeth going to shape our self esteem? #selfesteemandteeth
Then my best friend sent me an article that struck a note with me. It studied, in a very detailed and mathematical way, the very issues I had been watching play out. The research looked at how seniors’ view of self was affected by the presence or absence of teeth, at a time when control of other aspects of their bodies was diminishing. Listening to how some of these elders felt about themselves, based on the condition of their teeth, grabbed my heart a bit, on both extremes. I was proud for some, and sad with others. This study really is worth a few minutes of your time. Check it out HERE.
What this study meant to Dr. Lance...
When I’m doing a dental exam for someone trusting me to protect their teeth, some might imagine I’m looking for ways to make money. This has never been the case. I really want my patients to feel good about their teeth, both now, and in ages to come. No one who knows me would ever accuse me of being a hard-sell kind of dentist. And yet, in this jaded world, distrust has become the norm. This study explains, more credibly than I ever could have myself, why I recommend the tooth preserving procedures I so regularly recommend. And as our length of life expectations stretches toward 100 years, taking care of your teeth now has never been more important. Don’t take it from me, read the results in the link above and imagine you have a time machine of your own.