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Some Things I Learned About Dental Care

Paul Palmer was born in NYC, went to Stuyvesant HS and Queens College, then to Yale for his PhD in Physical Chemistry.

In the 1970s he migrated to California and started Zero Waste Systems Inc. which introduced the term "Zero Waste."

They took unwanted chemicals from Silicon Valley and resold them for reuse. They took all of the unwanted laboratory chemicals from the Bay Area and sold them for half price. They had the largest inventory in California.

His book about that experience is called Getting To Zero Waste.

Dental care suffers from an excess of practical applications and devices and a paucity of theoretical directions. I have a mouthful of gold crowns because I did not understand the ideas in this paper when young and no dentist I met did either. And yet some useful devices were developed.

Your mouth is filled with bacteria. You knew that. But one thing most bacteria do is to create biofilms as they create a matrix within which to do their work. Biofilms form on any hard surface. They consist of bacteria that combine into films which coat the surface.

At first they are soft. With time, or desiccation, they harden. When new and soft on your teeth, they are called plaque. If they harden, they become tartar and then need to be chipped off if they are to be removed.

However, when soft, they can easily be removed by classic methods—with a toothbrush. A vibrating one is excellent, but it should be used every single day to remove the new, soft biofilm.

No hard bristles are needed. Soft bristles even conform to the surfaces better than hard ones. The point is to remove that day's biofilm. The brush should contact every single exposed, hard surface.

Go over all of your teeth repeatedly until all the biofilm is probably broken down and rinsed off. Get as far under your gums as reasonable. There is no need for any toothpaste. That is just a marketing invention for making money. Water will do the rinsing.  The only active ingredient in toothpaste is a mild abrasive, usually pumice.

If you do this every day, there is no film hard enough to require an abrasive. Don't imagine that any of the brush is penetrating between the teeth. It isn't and doesn't. A water jet is probably not sufficient as a water jet with enough power to lift biofilm would probably injure your gums too.

You have now completed the first step. The real source of decay bacteria is still in place, between your teeth, undislodged. Food is lingering there which must be removed.



People have gotten used to dental floss for that purpose. It's okay to use it, but it suffers from a flaw. Your tooth surfaces include some invaginations, some concavities, some pockets. The floss glides over these pockets, packing in whatever food and bacteria they contain. They remain to do their dirty work. The bacteria attack the enamel, deepening the pockets every day until they penetrate the tooth, and the floss never threatens or removes them. Floss is not sufficient.

To get into even the superficial pockets, to prevent them from become deep pockets, you need a different implement. You need a tiny brush with bristles in all directions. While this will not reverse a deep concavity that you have neglected for too long, it will get into the shallow ones and prevent them from becoming loci of decay. Thus if you keep up with this treatment every day, you will never create deep concavities which can become dental caries.

Fortunately, today there are such brushes that you can buy and use. I use the ones made by Gum. They are inexpensive (very cheap compared to dental work) and can be used over and over until they bend and become too soft. Remember, yesterday's leftover bacteria are no worse than today's. The purpose of the brush is to loosen, soften and dislodge accumulations of food and bacteria, and then remove them on the bristles, so you can wipe the brush as you use it.

When I started using the brushes, my hygienist could suddenly not find any tartar to chip with steel tools. So there seems to be a kind of spreading of the hard biofilm from between the teeth down to the gums. That explication will require more scientific study than I can perform.

I hope this article improves your dental hygiene and saves at least most of your teeth.

~ Paul Palmer

















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