June 3, 2015

DIY Dentistry

Dental work found on a 4,000 year old mummy.

Dentistry has probably been unaffordable for as long as it has been around - about 9,000 years or more if archaeologists are right. Those that can't afford proper dental care no doubt have been driven to do it themselves for about as long.

The only time I have ever done do it yourself dentistry is when I used white glue to stick a crown back on until I could get an appointment with my dentist. I was kind of surprised that it worked as well as it did, but it didn't make me think of expanding my DIY skills in this area.

At the time I didn't realize that there was such a thing as home dental repair kits for temporarily attaching teeth and replacing fillings. Then I read an article about the hundreds of thousands of such kits sold every year that are unfortunately being used instead of visiting a dentist.

It is squirm-inducing stuff, and conjures images of people pulling teeth with a pair of pliers and anaesthetic in a bottle. But if you can't afford the cost, what is one to do?

12% of those who had tried DIY techniques had tried to extract a tooth by using a piece of string tied to a door handle. 30% of DIY dentists had tried to whiten their teeth with household cleaning products. 
Other DIY procedures people admitted to included: 
• Using household glue to stick down a filling or crown (11%)
• Popping an ulcer with a pin (19%)
• Trying to mend or alter dentures (8%)
• Trying to stick down a loose filling with chewing gum (6%) - source

The estimate I have from our new east coast dentist (our west coast dentist was the best we have ever had and we miss him dearly) amounts to many thousands of dollars worth of work. To replace my missing tooth alone would be about $5000.

Thankfully none of it is an emergency (unless a slightly less toothy smile is an emergency), and most amounts to maintenance work that we will be able to get done (or not) over the next few years. Any money we spend has to come directly from our pockets.

We have not had the benefit of dental insurance since we quit permanent full time employment about 15 years ago. On the other hand, we have had more time to live a healthy lifestyle that promotes good dental hygiene.

Now our dental insurance is adequate brushing and flossing, and a healthy diet. And low stress. Stress is bad for teeth and other living things. And bad teeth cause stress - it a vicious circle.

No one should have to rely on DIY dentistry. Perhaps there is some way we can provide adequate dental care to everyone. Even if we did manage to engage our governments in an enlightened dental policy, brushing and flossing go a long way to avoiding problems. That and living simply.


  1. Anonymous6/04/2015

    How timely for me, as I went to the dentist on Monday for a routine cleaning. He told me I needed a bridge to protect the only bottom molar I have left. The cost is $3,000 for the bridge or $7,000 for an implant. I have no dental insurance either, so I need to think long and hard about what to do next. One step I won't take is do it yourself!

    1. Miss Marla,

      That is quite a hit to the old pocketbook. But teeth are pretty important - just ask someone that doesn't have any.

      Our wheelchair accessible van that we bought to traverse Canada last summer cost the same amount as replacing my missing tooth would. It would be nice to have both, but right now I would rather have the van.

      Our last dentist was unique in my experience. Knowing that we did not have dental insurance, he gave Linda and I free dental care every once in a while, work that amounted to thousands of dollars over several years. I wish there were more like him. A universal national dental plan would be welcome as well.

      I hope things work out for you and your teeth, or tooth. Probably a good idea to not do it yourself. An implant sounds complicated.

  2. Anonymous6/04/2015

    Your topic today made me smile (sorry for the pun). My late father, an engineer and the ultimate do-it-yourself handyman, lost a filling one weekend. He decided to fill his tooth with waterproof epoxy. His epoxy filling lasted over 10 years, much to the chagrin of our dentist. We were just happy that he didn't try his hand at other dentistry or medical procedures. Though, perhaps I should have paid more attention as I am now self employed and paying for my own dental insurance, which never seems to cover much!

    1. Anon,

      That is funny. Your dad is my kind of guy.

  3. What an amazing photograph! Wow. That dental work is the ultimate of ingenuity, not to mention engineering. I kept going back to the photo to view the the work and double and triple check the date, 4,000 years ago. Hard to believe. I wonder if the person was able to eat food of that time, it surely wasn't processed like our food is today!

    A less expensive fix for a bridge might be a partial.

    1. Anonymous6/07/2015

      Thanks Terri- I was surprised that my dentist didn't mention a partial. You've given me the impedance to ask if that might be a viable choice.

  4. Very cool, Miss Marla! Hope that works out well for you.

    A month ago, I was gifted a dental and hygienist exam, full x-rays and an assessment. I had done a small job for a dentist and his wife, the office manager at the dental clinic, at their home. The free exam was a bonus for the work I did! I was given a very reasonable estimate of what it will cost to repair my teeth. The estimate was for $4700. It is an astronomical amount relative to my income, but there is a lot of work to do. I expected it to be a couple thousand more. They will further discount that per visit.

    I was fortunate that the side I had a lot of work done a few years ago is holding nicely. It sounds like I happened upon a great dentist like the one Gregg and Linda had on the west coast. I am truly grateful. I'm busy working on budget to get started. Teeth are really important. Like many, I live on small income with no dental insurance. It's hard to take care of preventative when nothing is hurting. But I've neglected this, glad most can be saved.

    After the $4700, I will need a couple of partials at some point. I asked my new dentist about bridges (not that I could afford any time soon, but thought bridges would be needed to get one side of my mouth functioning). He thought partials would work better for me which sounded cheaper too! So that is why a partial was on my mind. He had a whole cart full of sample partials to show patients, about 50 of them. It was kind of cool to see what all can be done with an dental appliance!

    Here's to dental health for all of us!

  5. I have friends who, fed up with high dental costs every year, financed dental implants. They no longer worry about cavities, ill-fitting dentures or worry about the cost of yet another root canal. You would not believe how unbelievable white their teeth are; every one of them said it was the best decision they ever made.

    Victor Peterson @ Dr. Farole


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