Friday, January 25, 2008

The whole tooth and nothing but the tooth

We all have grown up with a host of age-old wisdom that has been handed down from generation after generation, intended to help us live healthier, avoid pitfalls and generally make life easier. From food to clothes to even the colour of the wall, these collective myths have shaped Asian thinking into a unique collage of do's and don'ts that border on the ludicrous at times.

Take my dental patients, for example. Here's some of the more, let's just say, interesting misinformation that I have encountered in my practice over the past ten years.

1. Scaling will make your teeth 'thinner' i.e. wear off the teeth.
This is the excuse most patients give when they have not come for their regular cleaning for an extended period of time and belies the actual reason they've procrastinated - they can't tolerate the sound that the scaler makes which is something like scratching your fingers on the blackboard.
TRUTH: Scaling does not make your teeth thinner, no matter what 'they' say. I would like to find out who 'they' are and give them a good scaling till their teeth really do get thinner. In fact, brushing your teeth, especially using the hard bristled brushes WILL wear off your teeth more significantly than anything the dentist can ever do with scaling.

2. Babies who are born with teeth already erupted, need to have the teeth extracted, otherwise they will grow up to erm... eat their parents up.
Don't laugh, I have actually encountered a few of such taboo-minded parents. Well, the idea behind it is actually quite sound. Babies with teeth tend to bite down harder on their mothers' nipples when they're being breastfed, causing unnecessary pain for the mothers. So, I guess this is not too far off the mark - the kids do 'eat' their parents, except they don't actually wait till they're all grown up, just till their next mealtime. ;)

3. Do not have your teeth extracted at noon, otherwise you will bleed to death.
I have to admit, there is some misguided logic behind this one as well, as the noonday sun tends to be the hottest and people would be forgiven to think that this might cause your blood to perhaps boil over into the extracted socket and thereby bleed profusely. But the truth is, human beings and most other mammals, being homeothermic, have a way of maintaining body and hence blood temperature to within an acceptable range. It's called sweating.

4. Extracting the canine (the tooth, not the dog) will make you go blind... or crazy.... or both!
Really? Then I guess all those elderly folk who have absolutely no teeth left (you know, the ones who rely on their full set of dentures to eat) are all blind and foaming at the mouth, as they have had all their canines extracted too.

And last but not least,

5. 'Planting' a tooth (a layman's term in Chinese or Malay to denote anything from crowns and bridges to implants) means to put in a tooth germ and wait for it to grow.
Teeth are not trees. You can't plant a seed in your mouth and water it daily and watch it bloom into a fully grown tooth. Well at least not yet. ;)


Shah said...

I got one for you - I don't want to have my one impacted wisdom tooth extracted coz I heard that after that my smile will be crooked. True or not?

Hehehe I made that up coz I'm just too chicken to go get it done...

Amazonman said...

Shah: Erm... this one I'm afraid can be true... in the worst case scenario lah.

Josh said...

Hey bro, this entry is very informative.

Pressing Danger said...

Wahahaha... as a sister to TWO dental surgeons (ahem) I'm guilty of believing the first myth. My God, after all these years, and I have to get the truth from your blog. Tsk, tsk, tsk...