Monday, April 6, 2015

Breaking Up is Hard to Do

Last week, my 85 year old patient, Mr. W, came back from the dentist singing the blues.  



Well then, what?
Plaque...and the dentist told him he needs a new toothbrush. 

What's so bad about that?

Well, my patient has an affection for his toothbrush and here's why: he has a  Kiss toothbrush that plays "Rock and Roll All Night" as he brushes. 

Well, no wonder he's sad!

If you're like most people, toothbrushes come and go without event as there is no real attachment. Take me, for instance,  all I can tell you about my toothbrush is that is has a green stripe. Pretty soon, I'll be trading it in for a newer model- I'm thinking purple. Anyway, it'll be no big deal when I toss it for a new one, but not for this patient! His wife told me he nearly fell to pieces when his Bruno Mars toothbrush died. Everyone involved here recognizes, for Mr. W,  breaking up is hard to do.

So, flash forward to today- I was asked to break the news to Mr. W that is was going to be out with the old and in the with new. Me? Why me? 

I took a deep breath. Here goes nothing...

Mr. W frowned and narrowed his eyes when the topic of a new toothbrush came up.  After some explaining, a little sweet talking, lots of reassurance and a little bit of eyelash batting, his caregiver brought out the new toothbrush. Mr. W, I would like to introduce you to your new toothbrush:  the mighty plaque blaster...Sonicare!

(Quick, someone cue the applause)

His face said it all- he was not happy. There were no rock stars, there was no music, there was no happiness.

Reluctantly, Mr. W squeezed the toothpaste from the tube and began brushing. He moaned,  he groaned, he even rolled his eyes, but he was brushing. I knew I needed to keep this going for as long as possible, so I reached way back into my memory bank and started talking about the correlation between plaque on your teeth and plaque in you blood vessels. His eyes got wide and he brushed a little longer. 

Over the next few minutes, he heard the condensed version of a study researchers completed in 2003. (You can find the entire article on the Internet.) In case you're pressed for time, and don't have time to read the entire thing,  here's the gist of it:
  • hardening of the arteries is caused by plaque built up on inside of  blood vessels
  • gum disease is caused by plaque built up on the teeth
  • when gum disease is advanced, teeth are lost
  • the more teeth lost,  the more likely you are to have  carotid artery plaque
  • conclusion:  plaque on your teeth is related to plaque in your blood vessels

Well, in the end, Mr. W was sold! He realized that thorough elimination of plaque on the teeth could limit the amount of plaque in the arteries which could reduce his risk for having a stroke. He understood that the old toothbrush was just not as effective at removing plaque as the new one. So, pretty soon, it was bye-bye Kiss, hello Sonicare. Once again, the speech therapist saves the day!

This week, as you are busy performing oral mechanism exams and promoting the importance of good oral hygiene, keep your eyes peeled for plaque. Who do you know that needs a new toothbrush? 

 Thanks for reading...I hope it's a great week for you!

"A smile is a curve that sets everything straight."  Phyllis Diller

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