Your Name Is In the Mouth of Others: Be Sure It Has Teeth

The average woman smiles 62 times a day. The average man smiles about 8 times a day. Just like fingerprints, tooth prints are unique to each individual. The most valuable tooth ever belonged to Sir Isaac Newton. In 1816 one of his teeth was sold in London for $3,633, or in today’s terms $35,700 (Ksh.3, 570,000). The tooth was set in a ring! (Guinness World Records, 2002). Teeth are therefore quite essential if we decide to examine them. According to the Kenya National Oral Survey of 2015, Kenya had 1000 dentists against a population of 42,000,000. Mathematically, that is one dentist for 42,000 people. The overall prevalence of dental caries among children (5, 12, and 15-year-olds) was 23.9%. The prevalence of dental caries among the adult population was 34.3%. These statistics prompted me to visit ‘My Dentist’ dental clinic along Arwings Khodek Road in Kilimani. The visit was motivated by the fact that the checkup was free. In times like these, money is only spent on food and Wi-Fi.

Laying on the dental engine or bed, a screen, presumably 32 inches was placed right in front of my face.

“I will go through your teeth, one after another so that you can visualize how stained your teeth are. However, you have no cavity and your teeth are as strong as normal should be.” The dentist muttered professionally.

By the time she was done with the last wisdom tooth, I had three questions to ask her.

“Why are my teeth so much stained yet I brush them vigorously every morning? What are the black elements on the surfaces of the molars and premolars? What can I do to have my teeth snow-white?”

Reading the awe in my voice, she dragged a seat and objectively answered that staining of teeth is not anything out of the ordinary and it is heavily dependent on the history of my diet from a tender age. This is regardless of how I scrub my teeth. She went ahead to explain that the blackness of the surface of the molars and premolars was a result of the fissures that exist which are usually hard to clean by the normal toothbrush and so over time, particles of food stick in them and the resultant color is black. Finally, she told me that snow-white teeth are not the natural form of teeth as teeth ought to be light yellow. I thought of how Colgate adverts have people with such white teeth and I pitied their unnatural states of teeth.

“If you so wish, we can mechanically clean your teeth at 4,000 shillings. However, the stains will remain but you’ll have cleaner teeth.”

“No, thanks.” I responded with finality as I did not see the point of cleaning my teeth leaving the stains there. I was however glad that I did not have any dental decays. In the clinic card, she wrote, ‘Normal, strong teeth.’ I walked out all smiles with my light-yellow colored teeth.

Two months later, my sister developed a condition known as gingival hyperplasia. This is a condition in which there was an overgrowth of gum around the teeth. For her, it was around the molars and so she experienced untold pain. A visit to Coptic Hospital informed us that she needed to have four of her molars removed. Two on the upper jaw and two on the lower jaw.

“No way that is happening to my child.” I recall mother saying to the dentist who looked at her with the look of, if we don’t remove the teeth, your child will continue being in pain.

Fast forward, thanks to a medical insurance cover, we were seated outside the theatre of Coptic Hospital waiting for my once tooth full sister to be partially toothless. The anxiety we experienced, is one that is unhealthy for normal humans. I thought of several other family members of patients who were undergoing heart surgery, gall bladder removal, liposuction, bone marrow donation, total hip replacement, and abdominal hysterectomy. I concluded that there was no need for anxiety.

Coming out of the theater, she walked feebly holding a can with four of her molars, from the enamel to the root, and I was moved with compassion. As I was still letting the compassion for my sibling marinate, she sprawled to the floor. The anesthesia still had its effects on her. Mother screamed in a deafening manner that I stopped for a moment to look at her to ascertain it was her. The professionalism of the staff at Coptic wowed me. They sprang to action and before we were engulfed in shock, sister was smiling at us in the emergency room. Shortly afterward, we were headed home with the headache of what she would eat in the coming days till she healed.

A workmate of mine most recently experienced toothache that isn’t normal. We headed to Taiba Dental Clinic in Ngara. He was told he had a deeply rooted cavity. He was given two options, to either have the tooth removed or salvaged by the process of a root canal. He chose the root canal as he had heard of my sister’s story. A root canal is where the nerve and pulp of the tooth are removed and the inside of the tooth is cleaned and sealed. The tooth then remains there to robotic, with no supply of blood.

Ladies and gentlemen, let us brush our teeth regularly and not aggressively. Visit a dentist regularly. Consider using mouthwash every once in a while. Limit sugary foods and starch. Drink water instead of sugary drinks. In the event you do all these and you have gingival hyperplasia, you probably are not faithful in giving tithe.

“Your name is in the mouth of others: be sure it has teeth.” – The Seventy Maxims of Maximally Effective Mercenaries― Howard Tayler

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