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How it all began

posted September 12th, 2017

This week I am going to discuss how it all began- my love affair with dentistry!

When I was 8 years old I was staying over at my grandmother’s house and woke up during the night having had a nightmare. I crept into my granny’s bed and promptly fell back asleep. In the morning I was horrified to waken up next to this very old, toothless woman, who was unrecognisable to me. To my horror she laughed and there was only gums to be seen. She lisped as she asked me “Who did I think she was?” I calmed down enough to say “Great aunt Mae!” She turned to her bedside table and slipped back in her dentures. Suddenly she was transformed back into my lovely Granny by the replacement of tooth and supporting plastic. I was very relieved, however, at that moment I vowed internally that I would do everything in my power to prevent such a fate befalling my own teeth.

My passion for prevention had started! Then when I was older I was fortunate enough to get career guidance and achieve the right grades to get into dental school. Once I finished my degree, I had initially thought I would pursue an academic career within the hospital pathway but after one year I realised I hated the lack of continuity of care for the patients and decided to start working in general practice.

That was 22 years ago…… Many of my long standing patients started their journey with me in those early days. They have followed the preventative advice I have given. This has resulted in less tooth decay and gum disease for them and this will ensure their dentitions outlive them unlike my poor grandmother’s…

The following three steps are fundamental to the health of tooth, gum and bone:

  1. Brush with electric toothbrush and fluoride toothpaste for 2 minutes morning and night
  2. Floss or use an interdental cleaning aid
  3. Don’t eat or drink more than five separate times daily as this creates an acid environment for 1 full hour after (unless you brush your teeth)

Follow these steps and in combination with regular hygiene visits your teeth and gums will outlive you. The only exception is that when one has genetically acquired gum disease you will need more care and intervention from the dental team.

Follow these steps and in combination with regular hygiene visits your teeth and gums will outlive you.

As teeth are developing they receive a blood and nerve supply through the roots of the teeth. Below are photographs of x-rays taken through the life of the tooth from tooth bud to fully formed tooth. The teeth are most vulnerable in the early years due to the size of the nerve and blood supply. As the teeth grow into the oral cavity they become harder due to the daily application of fluoride from toothpaste and as the skeleton hardens so do the teeth. We have increased calcification within the tooth every year and thus the teeth become harder. This is one of the reasons children are more susceptible to tooth decay.

Dr. Eimear O'Connell

BDS (Edin, 1992) MFGDP

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