Happy Monday! My oldest daughter left a book of poems by Shel Silverstein’s classic book “Where the Sidewalk Ends” on our kitchen counter. Flipping through it, I found a hilarious though clearly anti-dentite (see Jerry Seinfeld) poem titled the Crocodile’s Tears. Here for your reading pleasure is the poem in it’s entirety. The link at the bottom takes you to a video narrated by Mr. Silverstein himself.
The Crocodile’s Toothache
Went to the dentist
And sat down in the chair,
And the dentist said, “Now tell me, sir,
Why does it hurt and where?”
And the Crocodile said, “I’ll tell you the truth,
I have a terrible ache in my tooth,”
And he opened his jaws so wide, so wide,
The the dentist, he climbed right inside,
And the dentist laughed, “Oh isn’t this fun?”
As he pulled the teeth out, one by one.
And the Crocodile cried, “You’re hurting me so!
Please put down your pliers and let me go.”
But the dentist laughed with a Ho Ho Ho,
And he said, “I still have twelve to go-
Oops, that’s the wrong one, I confess,
But what’s one crocodile’s tooth more or less?”
Then suddenly, the jaws went SNAP,
And the dentist was gone, right off the map,
And where he went one could only guess…
To North or South or East or West…
He left no forwarding address.
But what’s one dentist, more or less?
A rite of passage for every dental student is when you are assigned and given a mannequin head, complete with a fake mouth (and fake teeth), on which you can practice one’s tooth preparations for fillings and crowns. These heads are your first patients, and dental schools are wise in thinking that a complete novice should practice using a high speed drill on fake teeth before moving on to the real deal. Practice does make better (note I’m not saying perfect), and it was of great help to me to be able to practice (and mess up) on fake teeth (without saliva, tongue, cheek and scared human being trying to talk) before ‘graduating’ to the clinic floor and seeing live humans.
That being said, the mannequin’s we used back when I attended dental school (gulp – over 2 decades ago) were fairly primitive. Adequate but nothing fancy. We used to joke that we preferred the mannequin’s to real people because we could manipulate them, and twist their heads in positions that no real person could possibly achieve. No longer – Fast forward to today, and new dentists-to-be are the beneficiaries of highly realistic mannequins, new technology, and impressive computer simulation.
Instead of having 20-30 students gathering around a single instructor, standing on chairs for a better view, and straining to see what the instructor is doing (something I did), students these days can sit at their own chair and view the preparations on their own individual high-def computer monitors. The mannequins are more sophisticated, some with real time feedback for students and instructors, showing computer tracings of the student’s preparations. Workstations are equipped with interactive computer monitors, high speed internet access, electronic keypads, two-way microphones and simulations of live patients with running water and air. Amazing!
I’d have to think that all of this new technology can only help students. One can be nostalgic for the ‘old’ days when we walked through 3 feet of snow to get to school, or had to use unrealistic models with fake teeth to practice on, but one must admit that this is something any dentist probably wished they had access to.
The flip side of all this technology though is cost. None of this comes cheap, and at some level, the costs are probably getting passed on to the students. For those of you who are curious, Tufts School of Dental Medicine (the aforementioned school with amazing views and simulation lab) projects the cost of ONE year of dental school at $104,000. It is not unheard of for new dentists to be graduating with over $300-400,000 in school loans.
But at least they got to practice on some pretty awesome mannequins.
Put this in the category of “A REALLY BAD IDEA” – home orthodontics.
The internet is truly incredible. If one had told an individual back in the early 70’s or even 80’s that you could access all of humanity’s knowledge from a device that could be carried in the back of one’s pocket you would have been called a hopeless fool or dreamer. The fact that information is so easily available to anybody who has access to a smartphone is simply astounding.
The downside of the internet, is that these days anybody who would like to pose as an expert, can do so if they have an interesting website, youtube post, facebook page, twitter feed or vine video. It used to be that one had to graduate from High School, attend 4 years of college, 4 years of dental school, then 2-3 more years of specialization at a post-doctoral program, and decades of professional practice, before one would feel comfortable calling oneself an expert in the field of dentistry. Apparently, these days, the bar is much lower.
I recently came across this website http://www.teethgap.com/ which sells ‘elastic bands’ that can be used to close spaces between one’s front teeth. The website is professional looking with pictures of white coated ‘clinicians’ (interestingly enough some are wearing stethoscopes, something not typically used by dentists), impressive phrases like “FDA Approved”, “Made by Orthodontist” and “100% guarantee”. At the risk of being completely wrong, even the management team looks a little suspicious in the sense that they are all really good looking, and the photos appear to be stock photos culled from a internet photo distribution site. If the management team is legit, my apologies and congratulations on a very photogenic team.
The website claims that through the power of simple elastic (‘Non-Latex too!) bands placed around teeth, that one can easily, simply and cheaply close gaps between teeth. The video shows before and after pictures.
There are also dozens of video testimonials on youtube from individuals who have tried this technique at home and who swear that it works (Here’s one – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HpZKF72qvW8). What is scary is that this particular video has gotten over 200,000 views. What is even worse is that a video from an actual orthodontist showing how one should close spaces garnered 2000 views.
Trying home orthodontics is a terrible idea. Aside from the fact that it doesn’t work (I can guarantee you that the space will return), using rubber bands for the express purpose of closing spaces is dangerous. There have been many reported cases of these bands slipping under the gums, getting lodged in by the roots of the teeth, and in cases where they are not removed, lead to bone destruction, infection and eventual loss of the teeth.
There is a consumer alert posted on the website of the American Association of Orthodontists which cautions consumers to “please be wary of any suggestions to move teeth with rubber bands, dental floss or other objects ordered on the Internet.” We would agree with this advice.
And for your dental health, don’t believe everything you read or see on the internet. Except for us of course.