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What is the Cost of Neglect?

There are so many things in life that get worse if we do nothing about them. Take for example a garden ... if we tend to it, remove weeds, water it, ensure proper light and fertile soil it will flourish and grow to show beautiful flowers or delicious vegetables. If we neglect it, the weeds will always overtake leaving us with a wild area with poor yield. There is a story about a clergyman who was driving through the country side when he came a upon a farm that was so well taken care of. The plants were full of beautiful fruits and vegetables, the lawns were manicured to perfection, the farm house was cleanly and crisply painted. It was truly like a picture postcard. The clergyman was so taken with the land that he stopped his car and spoke with the farmer. He said, "My good man, God has surely blessed you with a wonderful piece of land" The farmer paused for a moment and replied, "Yes Reverend, but you should have seen it when God had it all to himself." We are custodians of our property and that includes our bodies and our health.

In my title I mention the cost of neglect. Most people would think of money, but there are so many costs to neglecting our dental health. I will mention a few ...

1) I have encountered many people who tell me that they don't go to the dentist regularly because every time they go the dentist finds problems. This is in the most part a self-fulfilling prophecy. People who avail themselves of regular dental care and dental maintenance visits will catch problems early, before they develop into larger more expensive problems. Regular dental visits are the best way to avoid costly dental treatment.

2) Many people do not enjoy being in a dental chair. Once again, regular maintenance can usually ensure shorter visits and less time spent in the dental chair. Time is a commodity that many people wish they could have more of. For busy people, this is the best way to reduce time in the chair ... another cost.

3) One of the main reasons that people avoid the dentist and prefer not to be in our offices is the fear of pain. Again, regular visits can minimize the occurance of pain associated with dental treatments. To summarize up to this point, three costs of neglecting dental treatment are money, time, and discomfort. As important as these are, in my opinion one of the biggest costs is to our overall health.

4) In previous blogs I have spoken about the relationship of a healthy/unhealthy mouth to the overall health of our body. We often take things that seem OK for granted. "I feel fine ... that doesn't bother me ... it's not covered by my insurance, I'll just wait ... It doesn't hurt, I think it'll be OK ..." I have found that most dental problems don't hurt or bother us until it is too late. It's like a sinking ship. Perhaps there is a little hole in the bottom of the boat. At first we don't really notice the ship sitting lower in the water as it continues to sink and then suddenly the water hits a critical point and the boat tips and goes under very quickly. Cavities get bigger and as they do, the decay grows closer to the nerve in the tooth and will not hurt at first but will eventually do so if untreated. Gum disease is virtually a painless condition until it is so advanced that infection arises under the gum line, the teeth get loose, or they fall out. Tooth wear from tooth grinding starts slowly at first. It can take years to wear through the hard enamel layer, but once that happens, the next tooth layer called dentin wears at a much faster rate. There are many conditions in our bodies that we learn to live with.

At first we adapt to a condition, but if we leave it long enough, it can become a significant enough problem that it can severely impact our lives. I encourage you to listen to your dentist and hygienist when they recommend dental floss, regular tooth brushing, regular hygiene visits. These actions can save you from the cost of dental neglect.

Our mouths serves us so well in so many ways. Do your best to keep it healthy, pain-free, and functional. It will greatly impact your quality of life.

Yours for excellent health,

Dr. Marty Frankel
Smiles by Design
3030-3080 Yonge Street,
Toronto, Ontario
M2N 1T7