I have been around the block, for that matter around the sun, enough times to realize that just because knowledge exists does not mean it will be applied. People, humans, like most other species are innately indolent. We’re lazy! If work or a change of habit is required the masses will likely find some emotional reason to avoid making the changes or doing the work unless the reward is immediate and substantial. We all “know” if we save a little every pay day, invest even as little as a cup of coffee each day, we can achieve significant wealth. (The coffee example may be too big at today’s prices.) But the process is slow and the rewards are delayed so the majority of us do not even make the effort or if we start we “fall off the wagon” rather than sticking to the plan.
Sadly the same is true when it comes to applying knowledge to our health and well being. We may know what is necessary to achieve one degree of health or another but somehow the ability to apply that knowledge eludes us. From the summer of 1977 until the summer of 1981 I was stationed at Pearl Harbor Hawaii as a brand new dentist. I had occasion to live in a duplex with a nuclear submarine commander and his family next door. As it turned out his family and mine were “demographically” similar. We had the same age and number of children, two boys at the time, our wives were close to the same age and he and I were very near the same age although he did out rank me. Physically we could not have been better selected for a matching “controlled” study since environmentally we could only be closer if we slept in the same bed.
Our source of water was the same, our food was virtually the same, our personal and family activities approximated each other’s, yet there was a distinct difference in our family’s dental health. As a dental officer I could have discreetly brought my family into the dental clinic and treated them for any dental needs they might have had only they didn’t have any dental needs. The submarine driver did not have that option.
Despite the propaganda distributed by the Navy, their basic attitude is “if we wanted you to have a wife or family, we would have put one in your sea bag” therefore getting dental treatment for a sailor’s family was nearly impossible if that sailor wasn’t the dentist. Thus this family had to go out onto the civilian market and pay full bore for any dental treatment. Even though I was able to “sneak” some care for the kids when they were in severe dental pain, there was no way I could care for them in the way that would have alleviated their disease or provided a satisfactory long term solution.
At the same time my family, with its unlimited access to dental care had no need of any treatment. The only difference that I can put my finger on was the fact that I had specialized training in dental disease prevention. The nuclear engineer/submarine commander while every bit as intelligent (likely smarter) as me did not have that specific training to lead his family away from dental disease and therefore had to try to “restore” dental health at considerable expense. It just doesn’t seem fair yet the knowledge and the application of that knowledge is the only variable I can put my finger on to demonstrate the difference in our family’s dental health.
The point is knowledge and the application of that knowledge circumvents or alleviates most dental problems by preventing them from occurring. In reality today many of our medical problems are the result of poor choices. Smoking is associated with everything from lung cancer to heart disease to saggy skin. Dentally speaking sugar and refined carbohydrates are at the root cause of most of our oral health issues.
This blog is my humble attempt to at least alleviate the lack of knowledge so individual choices can be made and ignorance cannot be claimed as an excuse for poor oral health.