Long in the Tooth

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“Long in the tooth” is a way of estimating the age of horses since their teeth continue to grow even as they wear down. It was also a somewhat derogatory comment describing an older person in earlier times.   There are some grains of truth in the label. Our teeth don’t continue to grow as the biting/chewing surfaces wear down, but losses in the underlying bone cause gums to recede, so teeth may look a bit longer.

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Being labeled “long in the tooth” wouldn’t bother me but the associated pockets between and around the teeth where stray food particles consistently hide and plaque (tooth bacteria) can flourish certainly do. So does knowing that the bacteria growing in unremoved plaque can get into the bloodstream and migrate to other organs, creating potentially dangerous inflammatory conditions there.

During my quarterly year visits to get rid of the now-faster-growing tartar, my dentist, and dental hygienist consistently remind me to floss and brush. I certainly agree as to its value. But knowing and doing are two different things when my hands have growing difficulty in grabbing and manipulating a toothbrush, much less skinny dental floss.

But, praise be, technology comes to the rescue! Electric toothbrushes have nice fat handles and mechanisms to do the brushing. All I have to do is guide the angle correctly and move it around properly to remove plaque from the gum line. And a water pick with a bit of mouthwash added to the water and force I can adjust takes care of those pesky nooks and crannies.

I might wish that my teeth were not so age-darkened, but I’m happy to still have them. And I’m delighted to have checkups that end with the comment, “Looking great. No additional treatment needed.”

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