Tag Archives: Dentistry

OUR UNSUNG HEROES

My oral hygienist’s chair

We all clapped and cheered for our NHS and other heroes who risked their lives to save ours – and quite right. But what about our Unsung Heroes, who now are coming into the line of fire – workers whose professions bring them into potentially dangerous close contact with us, like our dentists and oral hygienists.

My oral hygienist, who has been helping me keep my remaining teeth for the last 14 years, assures me that the fact that I collect lots of calculus around my teeth, so that they need scaling every 3 or 4 months, is not to do with Central London’s hard water, but the constituents of my saliva. Whatever the cause of my heavy accumulation, a visit to the Oral Hygienist was long overdue.

She has worn a mask and gloves since I first went to her, but she does not, of course, wear full PPE and so is at some risk from patients stupid and uncaring enough not to self-isolate when knowingly exposed to Coronavirus infection. I was interested to see that, when I rinsed my mouth, my washings were disposed of safely, not tipped into the bowl attached to the dental chair as in the past.

Especially now that the number of cases of Coronavirus in the UK is worryingly high, we should appreciate these less popular members of the caring professions even more.

I qualified in medicine after training as a dentist and was always amused by the fact that at the end of a course of treatment, when I had taken great care to cause my patient as little pain and discomfort as possible, my dental patient would shake my hand and say

‘I’m glad I won’t be seeing you again.’

In contrast, as a doctor, I might have had difficulty getting a needle into a vein, making several painful attempts, but my patient would still thank me profusely and say they looked forward to their next visit and discussing their diagnosis and treatment.

I was the same person but the patient’s view of my two professions was so different!!

Read more of Abby’s previous posts in her book Abby’s Tales of then and Now. It is £2.99 for the Kindle version and £12.99 for the 7” x 9” paperback. Both are illustrated in colour. You can Look Inside on the Amazon site to get a taster for free.

THE PHANTOM HEAD – OR HOW I BECAME A DENTIST

As a student in 1951, removing decay in a tooth embedded in a Phantom Head

I was 17, almost 18, when I started my dental training in October 1949. In our first year, like the medical students, we studied Anatomy, Physiology and Biochemistry with, for us, the addition of Dental Anatomy – the structure and function of the teeth and jaws. The second year was spent learning to make and fit Partial and Full dentures (Prosthetics). We spent  our two final years in the Conservation Department learning how to do fillings, gold inlays and bridges and how to pull teeth either in the General Anaesthetics room (always called the Gas Room because we used nitrous oxide gas as an anaesthetic) or under Local Anaesthetic injection in the Locals Room. We also carried out some minor oral surgery like removing redundant gum flaps or trimming the gum around the teeth – Gingivectomy – and learned how to Scale and Polish teeth – these were the days before this was delegated to Oral Hygienists.

We learned how to remove decay (caries), trim the cavity so a filling would hold – in those days often mercury amalgam – and also how to cast and fit gold fillings when they were more suitable.

All this was carried out using a Phantom Head – not a Virtual Head (hardly even dreamt of in 1951) – but a solid one made of metal with a jaw that opened and closed.

Teeth that weren’t too broken down – perhaps had been removed for overcrowding or because they were loose – were collected in the extraction rooms and stored in antiseptic solution. Our first task when we joined the Conservation Department was to fish out a set of 28 teeth – 4 upper and 4 lower incisors; 4 upper and lower premolars and 4 upper and lower molars. We didn’t bother with third molars – wisdom teeth – not everybody had them anyhow.

I developed enough skill to get a Distinction in my Dental Surgery Finals but for me it was always a question of thinking ‘right a bit’ and ‘left a bit’. I wasn’t a natural and had to plan very carefully how to go about any task, though I learned to be competent.

But during our course we had lectures on Medicine, Surgery and Pathology and I fell in love with the whodunit of Pathology – but that’s another story.

I thank all those lovely people who wrote to say they had read and enjoyed my memoir ‘Woman in a White Coat.’

‘Woman in White Coat – the memoir of girl growing up the East End making good.

Buy it on Kindle at £2.99 or as a paperback on Amazon at £9.99

Woman in a White Coat paperback

http://bit.ly/Woman_in_a_White_Coat

20 Years On – My Super Dental Hygienist

My Hygienist’s Lair

I have been going to the same dental hygienist for over 20 years. Hard to think her strapping 26-old son was just a toddler when I was first referred to the practice and we exchanged stories about our families. At the time I was well on the way to peridontitis – inflammation of the gums – as well as accumulating masses of calculus – tartar.

In all that time I’ve only needed one new filling and one filling re-done. I’m lucky. I seem to have outgrown caries. But i grind my teeth at night – it’s called Bruxism – and over the nearly 80 years I’ve had my permanent teeth, my grinding has split most of my back teeth. When the split involved the pulp – the central ‘nerve’ – I had to have those teeth root-filled. After some years, one of them developed an abscess and couldn’t be saved so I had to have it extracted.

Still – two fillings and one extraction over 20 years isn’t bad and I’m sure my charming hygienist is responsible for keeping my teeth and gums as healthy as that.

Thank you N.S.

Phantom Head

The Phantom Head
The Phantom Head

I am a retired consultant pathologist but I qualified in dentistry before I studied medicine.

In our third year we learned how to do fillings, carry out extractions and perform minor oral surgery. If they are not too broken down, extracted teeth are kept, cleaned and mounted in plaster blocks fixed to a metal head with opening and closing jaws – A Phantom Head. On these we learned how to drill out caries (decay), mix fillings and pack them into the cavities. Mostly we used amalgam – a mixture of mercury and metal powder – but we also learned how to cast gold fillings.

From my memoir Woman in a White Coat