Latest posts by Dr. Joshua Colkmire (see all)
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The dentist takes one look at the patient and says, “Hmmmm, it looks like you grew up in a country near the equator, you probably experience headaches, and you had a mouth piercing.”
“Dentist, how did you know?” the patient exclaims.
“Oh, just making a guess,” the dentist says with a twinkle in his eye.
When you come in for a dental checkup, your teeth tell a story. Things that happen to your teeth can indicate things that you’ve been doing, and the dentist doesn’t have to be Sherlock Holmes to make some reasonably good guesses as to what some of those things are. While teeth never tell the whole story, they do bear certain telltale signs that can tip your dentist off to what you have been up to. Here are some of the signs that your dentist sees on your teeth, and the conclusions that they may draw from those signs.
Teeth that are severely worn down
If your teeth are far more worn than the teeth of most other people your age, your dentist will probably ask you if you have a problem with grinding your teeth at night. Teeth grinding, also called bruxism, is a condition where you unconsciously grind or clench your teeth. It can lead to headaches, worn teeth, jaw disorders, and other problems. In some people, it may be so bad that they have to wear a device while they’re sleeping to cut down the amount they are grinding their teeth. However, getting the treatment that your dentist recommends can be extremely helpful at alleviating the symptoms that you’re experiencing from grinding or clenching your teeth.
Teeth that are chipped
Chipped teeth may have a number of different causes, and in many cases, the dentist won’t have to guess at all because you’ll be coming into the dental clinic with your battle story of how your tooth bit the dust. Common causes of chipped teeth include impact against a hard object, biting down on something hard (like ice, bone fragments, or popcorn kernels) or having a mouth piercing.
Front teeth that are worn in a subtle upside-down V shape
If you grew up in a country where you ate a lot of raw sugar cane (and peeled it with your teeth), your teeth may show the signs of it for the rest of your life–and not because of the sugar. Sugar cane comes with a very fibrous stem, and many people eat it by scraping it against their front teeth in a downward motion to extract the juicy sweetness from the stringy core. This can wear your teeth down over time.
If your dentist sees cavities, they can tell that you might not have been practicing the best dental hygiene, right?
- It could be that you have dry mouth from taking certain medications, especially antidepressants.
- It could be that you have the wrong mouth bacteria, and these bacteria are contributing to your tooth decay faster than you can get rid of it.
- It could be that your diet is a bigger factor than your dental hygiene.
So don’t beat yourself up if you get cavities. It can happen to anyone. Good dental hygiene is better than none at all, but if you still get a few cavities, don’t assume that your dentist will think you’re a horrible person.