How are your teeth? From my experience, the range of answers to this question is directly linked to age. People of my generation (born in the 1960s, give or take a few years) are likely to still have most or all of their own teeth, but with some combination of fillings or crowns, maybe even the odd bridge. People from my parents’ generation (born in the 1930s, give or take a few years) will generally have lost some or all of their own teeth. Anyone born after 1980 is likely to have kept all their teeth, and to have fewer fillings than people of my generation, or no fillings at all.
When I was growing up, nearly all of my friends had fillings. Most of my molars have been filled since before my teenage years. Some of these teeth decayed so much that the fillings became unmanageable and were replaced with crowns, so the amount of amalgam visible when I open wide is less than it would have been 30 years ago.
A friend at university was one of the few people I knew with no fillings at all, but that changed when he was 21. He had become a keen rower and most mornings after training, like many of his fellow crew members, he would eat a Mars bar. The TV adverts of my youth told us that “A Mars a day helps you work, rest and play”, and in the case of my university friend his daily chocolate bar contributed to his first experience of tooth decay. When his dentist told him that he would need a filling he was surprised, thinking that his dietary regime hadn’t changed that much. The dentist asked him if there were any major changes and he said something along the lines of, “Well, I eat a Mars bar every day”. “Yup, that’ll do it,” the dentist replied, matter-of-factly.
Last month I took my children for our 6-monthly dental check-up. The time taken for all three of us to be seen was well under 30 minutes. For at least the third time in a row the three of us were given the all-clear. This never happened in my childhood. When my brother, sister and I had our check-ups, one after the other, at least one of us (and sometimes all three) would require at least one follow-up. We never managed three successive check-ups without some kind of treatment. I rarely manage three successive check-ups these days without some kind of remedial work. There’s often a dodgy filling, or a crown that needs replacing, but I have not experienced the dentist’s drill since January 2016, a visit which prompted this earlier piece. It recounted a newly acquired fear of injections, which turned out to be misplaced.
Before last week our most recent check-up was in December 2017. Our next check-up is scheduled for next year, Monday 28 January, at 5pm. It is the only confirmed appointment that I have for 2019. All being well, by then my son and daughter will have reached the ages of 14 and 12 respectively without a single filling, and I will have managed three years without any form of dental work. At 12 I already had a significant amount of amalgam in my back teeth. At 14 I needed white fillings in four of my front teeth. My children’s teeth have fared better than mine did at the same age. Long may it continue.