There are few things that probably concern you less than a toothache -as long as it’s someone else’s toothache. When you get a toothache, it’s absolutely the only thing you can think about. So while you are busy preparing for those unexpected contingencies for the future, it might be a good idea to remember that at some point one of your teeth is going to start hurting you, and hurting you bad. You may as well expect it and be prepared.
When the dollar finally collapses (and the dollar will inevitably collapse), will you have the means then to get that needed filling? How about a root canal? Can you afford to pay for a crown?
The best way to prepare your mouth for the future, of course, is to get to a dentist today and get everything done that needs doing. But even now a visit to the dentist is no small consideration, and even if you can afford to have everything taken care of today, there will almost certainly be that day in the future when you have a new problem, and either you won’t be able to afford a dentist, or you may find yourself someplace where there are no dentists around.
So, let’s deal with first things first. If you have sufficient dental insurance, get yourself and your family members up to speed. Get all X-rays taken and cavities filled. If your dentist feels you may need your wisdom teeth extracted some day or a root canal is in the cards, get all that taken care of while you can. In the future, you don’t know if there will be opportunity or insurance for it. So do this now.
If you do not have dental insurance, you may be in luck if there is a dental school near where you live. Most of these schools have students who need real live patients to practice on, and they will charge you little or nothing if you are willing to be a guinea pig. There’s really not that much to be afraid of; this is not a barber college. You won’t be left alone with a greenie. Every procedure performed by one of these dental students is carefully overseen by an instructor at his side to make certain he’s doing everything by the book. There is very little chance someone will inadvertently drive a drill through your cheek, so relax. Dental schools are a cheap and wonderful way to get your mouth all prepared for the apocalypse.
There is a further development in the world of dentistry that can work to your favor, and it’s a further sign that we are already deeper into a depression than the government and media “experts” are telling us. And that is that dentists are beginning to hurt for business. In an article written in my local paper, the Sacramento Bee, a number of local dentists reported that many of their regular patients were not coming in for their twice yearly checkups because they just could not afford to. Often, these dentists said, they never even see some of their patients until the patient has a problem that has gotten so bad they had no choice but to finally come in. And of course, by this time something as relatively simple as filling a cavity had turned into an abscess that required an expensive root canal. But that’s how it goes; in hard times, a visit to the dentist is simply not at the top of most people’s to do list -until it’s too late.
The way this unfortunate phenomena can work in your favor is that dentists need your business right now. They are much more willing to accommodate a patient by allowing you to stretch your payments over several months, rather than having to pay it all up front. Here in California, the legislature passed a law which resulted in all adults who were receiving Medi-Cal services no longer being eligible for dental work. This was a sudden and unexpected blow to many dentists whose clientele had largely consisted of Medi-Cal patients.
Since just like everyone else, dentists need to eat, many of them will be much more accommodating. If you are willing to offer say, a hundred dollars up front for X-rays, cleaning, and a couple of fillings, you can probably get the dentist to agree to accept the balance in smaller monthly payments. Just be sure and make those payments timely, because in the future you may need this guy to trust you if the time comes you require something more expensive, like a root canal.
Not long ago I had a conversation with a man whose business involved molding dental appliances. When I pressed him, he admitted that the average porcelain crown he manufactured and sold to a dentist only cost the dentist about $200.00.
If that’s true, it means the remaining thousand dollars a dentist charges for a root canal and crown represents mostly his labor. If you are a savvy bargainer, you might be able to get the dentist to lower the price of his labor, especially if you can cover his cost for materials up front. I’d bet that if you offered $300-$500 up front, you could get a dentist to give you a very good deal, or at least to agree to accept the balance in lower monthly payments.
What About The End Of The World As We Know It?
There is always the possibility that you might have a dental emergency some time in the future when you just can’t pay for a dentist, or perhaps you may find yourself someplace where no dentist is available. The latter scenario was the motivation of author Murray Dickson for his book “Where There Is No Dentist.” My colleague Yonis recommends this book, along with its companion volume “Where There Is No Doctor,” and I agree with him that these books should be in every survivalist’s library. Murray, who spent a lot of time in third world countries, shows what can be done to help those who don’t have ready access to dental care.
The harsh reality, though, is that ultimately every serious concern you have with your teeth will ultimately require professional care, unless you are willing to resort to the way things were in the old days. In days of yore, the skills of a dentist were pretty much limited to one function. If your tooth was sore, he knew how to pull it out.
Dentistry today has advanced to the stage where just about every tooth can be saved, or at least replaced with something indistinguishable from the original, and this without having to resort to wearing dentures. So the trick to keeping your smile intact is to know what temporary measures to take that will keep your tooth alive until you can get to a dentist. Happily, you can find temporary fixes as close as your local drug store, and most are quite inexpensive. Here are a few:
For Lost Fillings or Loose Caps
If you’re chewing on something like a caramel and you feel one of your fillings come out, or worse, if you feel your crown come off, do what you can to keep from swallowing it and put it somewhere safe, such as a baggy. In the toothbrush aisle of your local pharmacy you should be able to find a kit such as Dentak Temparin Max Lost Filling And Loose Cap Repair (about $6.)
You’re not going to be able to put the filling back in your tooth, but you should keep it for when you get back to your dentist. I’m not sure if he can do anything with it, since what he will likely do is make a new filling, but it’s always a good idea to take the old one back for him to examine if you haven’t swallowed it. Clean it off with a toothbrush (make sure you have a colander under it so it doesn’t fall down the drain) and put it in the little jar provided in the Dentak kit. You should, of course, put your crown in the jar after you’ve cleaned it also, unless you want to try and stick the crown back over your dead tooth, which you might be able to do. Unlike your lost filling, that crown is very expensive, so you don’t want to lose it. This is something the dentist can put back on for you. So don’t lose it.
The main magic of the kit consists of a small jar of a chalky clay. Using clean hands, roll a tiny ball of this clay and knead it until it’s soft. Then squish it into the hole in your tooth, doing your best to mash it down and make it fit. If you use too much of it, it will likely come off when you’re chewing, so limit it to the hole you’re trying to fill. If you have a spouse or someone who doesn’t mind looking and digging around in your disgusting pie hole, all the better, but with a little dexterity, you may be able to pull this off yourself.
This substance, Temparin, tends to dry when it mixes with saliva, so if it isn’t going well or starts to chalk up and flake, abandon that batch and dip into the jar for some more and start over. If the filling is on the top of your tooth, that’s best, because once it’s in place, bite down gently so it fits against your upper teeth. It should dry in about three hours, but I would eat on the opposite side for the first day just to be safe.
Dentek also makes something called Tempanol Maximum Hold Temporary Filling Material (about $10) which works essentially the same, except it is said to be better suited to those who won’t be able to get to a dentist for some time. Some folks have been able to make do with just this temporary filling for quite some time, so if you can’t get directly to a dentist, this might be what you’re looking for. It is made of the same stuff as dentists use for their temporary fillings, so you may be able to get by with it for quite a while. Just remember, any time you’re wearing a temporary filling, you’re leaving yourself open to further infection down the road. If you don’t have a dentist eventually fix it right, sooner or later it could all go terribly wrong. I would only look at this as my “permanent” fix if I had no other choice. Otherwise, get to a dentist.
You can use Temparin to “glue” your crown back on, but if you can make it to your dentist within a few days, it might be best to just use the Temparin to fill the hole for the time being, and just take the crown in with you when you go, because if you’ve stuck the crown back on, your dentist is going to have to do all kinds of stuff to get it back off, and his labor means more money it will cost you. If, on the other hand, all he has to do is pry off the temporary filling and glue your cap back on, you will probably be charged less.
If you are not able to make it back to the dentist for quite a while, take a toothbrush to your crown and clean it off good, dry it well, and do a “dry fit” to make sure you can get it to fit onto what’s left of your tooth. If it seems to fit, add some Temparin to the tooth, pack it down, bite down on it, and good luck. Maybe it will hold for several months, maybe it won’t. Follow the directions in the package carefully, and make sure you wipe off any “leaks” that seep up from under, or you’ll be feeling sharp edges with your tongue after it dries.
Just as you can find a tooth repair kit at your local pharmacy, you ought to be able to find a variety of toothache kits. There are a couple of ways to treat this; Dentek has a kit that includes Temparin, but it also comes with a small bottle of Clove Oil (sometimes called “Eugenol”) to relieve the pain. Dab a Q-tip into the clove oil and touch it to the painful area. You should find considerable relief. After a few treatments of clove oil, you can cover the cavity with Temparin, which will help keep out cold and food.
Another method is represented by the Red Cross Complete Medication Kit For Toothache (about $5), which contains a bottle of Clove Oil, a pair of tweezers, and a small box of tiny cotton pellets. You use the tweezers to pick up one of the tiny cotton balls, dip it into the clove oil, then place the ball directly into the cavity. The idea is to let that soaked cotton ball sit there in the open cavity and give you relief. This works well, depending upon whether the cavity is on top of a tooth or to the side. I think it’s a good idea to have both types of kits on hand, as you never know which type will work best for which ailment.
You may be able to skate by without going immediately to a dentist when repairing temporary fillings, but if a toothache is your problem, you had best not waste any time. Get to a dentist as soon as possible, because unless that cavity gets filled properly, things will only get worse for you. Ultimately the tooth can become abscessed and you’ll either have to pay for a root canal, or it will have to be extracted. A toothache is a warning. You can get some temporary relief for it, but sooner or later you had better get it fixed.
It’s a good idea to have a tube of Oragel on hand, which I think works best for gum pain. Oragel now has a sort of pen that contains a retractable brush that fills with Oragel when you twist the handle. You can “paint” that into an open cavity, or simply brush it along the gum area where it hurts. I don’t know how to describe the difference between clove oil and Oragel other than to say that clove oil relieves the pain, while Oragel numbs it. I think there is a place for both in your medicine kit.
While you’re at the drug store, look for those tiny little brushes that you can fit between your teeth like floss. They usually come in packets of several. If you have painful gums between your teeth, you can dip one of these brushes into some Oragel and massage it in.
If Your Tooth Gets Knocked Out
If somehow one of your teeth gets knocked out, you have between 15 minutes and a half hour to save it. That’s how long the root stays alive.
There is a product that should be in everyone’s home called Save-a-Tooth (about $25.00) that will preserve your tooth for 24 hours; hopefully that’s time enough for you to get to a dentist. What you do is pick the tooth up by the enamel part; you want to be careful not to touch the root, because touching it could kill it. Then just drop it in the jar, screw the lid back on, and head straight for the dentist.
If it’s a weekend and no dentists are available, getting your teeth knocked out is a good enough reason to go to the hospital emergency room, so go there if you have to. If you have no Save-a-Tooth available, drop the tooth into some salt water and hope for the best. But get to a dentist ASAP. An implant to replace that missing tooth could cost thousands of dollars, but if there is still enough life in your original tooth, a dentist can reattach it for about $300. So you’ll want to do everything you can to fix that tooth.
And if your tooth does get knocked out and you’re unable to save it, or you’re already missing some front teeth, you can actually make your own replacement tooth using a product called TempTooth ($30.) I’ve read all kinds of testimonials by people who swear by this stuff, and for some of them it seems to work quite well as a permanent tooth replacement. The more artistic skills you have, the better your tooth will look and fit, and the instructions are more than adequate to show you how to do it.
One particular woman writes of making a Temp Tooth for her husband while they waited for his permanent tooth arrive back from the dentist. When the professional tooth arrived, it didn’t fit as well as the temporary one she carved, so her husband prefers the cheaper one. This certainly seems like something everyone should have on hand, particularly anyone who’s already missing a tooth or two in front.
There is nothing quite so debilitating as tooth pain, and when it hits you the last thing you’ll want to do is drive down to the store and get something for it. Buy these treatments in advance, and be prepared for the worst before the pain takes you down.