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UK Against Fluoridation

Friday, May 04, 2018

N.Z. - Chewing through stages of teeth grief


Ro Cambridge can smile after finally visiting her dentist, and her "empathetic" Lewis Stanton portrait.There are two kinds of people in the world: people with toothache and people without toothache. For five days last week I joined the people with toothache. During those dark days I progressed through each of the stages Elizabeth K├╝bler-Ross describes in her writing on grief. First comes denial. A small ticking throb in the lower jaw? Nah, it can't be toothache. It's probably a nerve misfiring, or a sesame seed jammed between a couple of teeth. Or it's a sore spot caused by brushing too vigorously.

Then comes anger. Everyone in the world except me has strong, healthy teeth! Look! People with pain-free teeth are everywhere! Crunching on toffee apples and nuts! Chewing through entire sides of beef without wincing! Look at the buggers! Tossing their heads, laughing and gurning and guffawing their way through life with nary a care! I drank fluoridated water all my childhood, and I've still got terrible teeth! It's not fair!

Scientific note: Hastings began fluoridating its water in 1954. Napier, the neighbouring town did not, and so became the control in an experiment to test whether fluoride improved children's oral health.

Having analysed the experimental data, Dr. John Colquhoun, the former Principal Dental Officer of Auckland, reports that "even after 50 years, fluoridation has conferred no benefit to Hastings inhabitants, regardless of social status."  I was one of the child inhabitants of Hastings in the 50s and 60s, and the state of my teeth 65 years later - held together with generous gobs of amalgam - seems to support his conclusion.

After the anger, comes the bargaining stage. I just have to take these left over anti-inflammatory pills and it'll go away. Surely if I brush and floss and gargle a lot it'll stop. If I don't do anything to upset it (swallow for example) it must get better.

Then, when the bargaining fails, depression sets in. My mouth hurts! I can only eat bananas! It hurts more at night so I can't sleep.

In the daytime I'm exhausted and in pain as well! I'll have to go to the dentist. That's sure to hurt. The way it always did at the school dental clinic. Or the time I had a wisdom tooth out and ended up a bloody, blubbering wreck. The dentist said I really needed a general anaesthetic, but it was too late for that. He said he'd just have to go ahead without it. And he did. Almost knelt on my chest to get enough leverage.

It'll cost thousands to go the dentist. I hate my teeth. I hate my life.

Then, finally, comes acceptance. This is what acceptance sounds like: I don't care if I have to spend the rest of my life paying for it, and it hurts like hell, I have to go to the dentist. 

Of course, the state of my teeth can't all be blamed on fluoride's less than miraculous properties. I wasn't issued with the best set of teeth in the first place. Neither was I issued with a family that could afford orthodontics (see "social status" above).

As a result, I have what I think dentists call a malocclusion. Very mal. If I place the molars on the left side together, my right molars(and my front teeth)fail to meet. If I place the molars on my right side together, it's my left molars and my front teeth which don't meet.

When I try to put my front teeth together, only two of them connect and none of my back teeth do. With such a misaligned mouthful of heavily-filled teeth, it's amazing I haven't starved to death, or that the impressionable young don't flee at my approach.

I'm also guilty of neglecting my teeth. Youthful experiences of painful and fear-filled dental treatment have left my adult self leery of dentists, even though I understand that neglect almost inevitably leads to decay and toothache. Dental treatment is also expensive, at various times in my life it's been prohibitively so. Potential pain in the mouth: certain pain in the wallet. You can't beat that as a deterrent combo.

The words "cheap dentist" have a peculiarly disquieting ring, and DIY dentistry (yes, it's a thing) is still in its infancy, so I finally took my toothache to Janette Wilcox, my favourite dentist.

Janette, and her long-time dental chair sidekick Joy, are warm and funny. They know exactly how to disarm the dread and fear which accompanies me to all dental appointments.

They do what has to be done kindly and painlessly. The only shrieking that's heard emanates from the high-speed drill. Every time I visit I am surprised at how un-awful a visit to these tooth fairies actually is.

I had another pleasant surprise during my visit: I shared the surgery with Nelson's own ex-boulevardier Lewis Stanton. A portrait of Mr Stanton to be more exact. Delicately rendered in soft pastels, framed and hung on the wall, he watched with some empathy as Janette and Joy extracted the ache from my tooth.


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