Tooth gems – the pros and cons

Fashion always appears to be cyclical in character. If you have noticed carefully, many trends that were in vogue in the 90s are making a comeback after 3 decades. Clothes, styles, and musical acts that remained forgotten for long are going through a period of brief revival. The tooth gem that appears to have taken the fashion mongers by storm also belongs to pop culture of the 90s. The younger generation, in particular, appears to be fascinated by this new trend without regard to the potential damages that the new trend can cause to their dental health.

Tooth gems

Tooth gems represent small jewel stones pasted to the surface of your tooth with an adhesive. Some of these are small in size and stuck at the centre of your tooth. Another option is to have cap encrusted with a jewel over a teeth. Artists like Jonathan Davis and Lil Wayne have popularized yet another variant in the form of a decorative cover that sits across most of the front teeth of a person. This new fashion wave is attendant with significant risks to the dental health of the wearer. Over a period of time, the jewelled caps and gems can wear away the tooth enamel enhancing the risk of tooth infection and tooth decay. In the absence of regular dental care like flossing and brushing, the tooth gems provide a convenient hideout for harmful bacteria and stray food particles. If all these were not enough some people also use DIY kits to apply the gems which further enhances the risk of damage to the tooth and elevates chances of causing complications.

Risks associated with dental grills are even more. Most grills are crafted out of base metals and this can lead to gum irritation and allergic reactions. The surface of the teeth can also suffer damages when worn for longer durations than recommended and cause erosion of tooth enamel and consequent exposure to teeth bacteria.

What holds the tooth gems?

It is an adhesive that helps the tooth gem to stick to your teeth. The adhesive needs to be strong so that the gem can be held without any interference, but mere dental floss can remove the gem and that in turn means that you need to be extremely careful about the gem. In fact, dental floss is also the recommended methods to remove the tooth gem. This also brings up another interesting situation. The adhesive holding the tooth gem can be dislodged by other events like biting into an apple.  If you bite very firm or pretty quick, you can also crack your tooth. Yet another possibility is that the gem can dislodge itself and you can potentially inhale the gem through the mouth. If this happens, it can trigger serious consequences and you could be heading for the emergency room in a nearby hospital.

You are at risk even with the best oral practices

Even assuming that the adhesive does hold the gem for a reasonable length of time, you are not wholly free from attendant risks. A better option, therefore, is to speak to your dentist and ascertain if you are a fit candidate for tooth gem at all. Similarly, for people with a poor oral health regimen or regular maintenance visit to a dentist, the tooth gem may not constitute the best fit relative to your lifestyle. You should also give a thought to that little lump created by the gem on your tooth. This makes proper brushing around the jewel difficult and consequently, stains can accumulate around the tooth promoting tooth decay when such accumulation is unabated for several months.

Craving for a unique identity

With aesthetics gaining a foothold in dentistry in recent years, new techniques and materials have also joined the space. Everyone is looking to create their very unique visual style making them identifiable in a crowd. Wearing jewellery at somewhat strange and unconventional sites has come to be referred to as ‘body art’. The developed world is leading the trend in expressing individualism through methods like body art paving the way to the increasing popularity of tooth jewellery. The younger generation, in particular, have their own set of rules when it comes to looking fashionable and dentistry is no exception in that context.

Adolescence brings tremendous transformation in how your body appears and the adult mind begins to evolve. When the child transitions to a teenager, it also becomes a medium of communication to give expression to self-individualism. Body art is one component of such self-expression. Thus, tooth jewellery is seen as indicative of one’s standard of living and being up-to-date with the fashion world. As mentioned earlier, tooth jewellery is nothing new and Native Americans are reported to have used tooth gems some 2500 years ago.

A recent study that examined several thousand teeth from a collection in the National Institute of Anthropology and History in Mexico has shown that Sapphire and Skyce were used most commonly and were reckoned as tooth jewels of high quality.

Nuances of the human body

In the context of tooth gems, let us also examine the creation of the human body itself and how we nonchalantly interfere with the creator’s designs in myriad ways. We eat what we want to, drink what we want, and even in matters of physical relationships, our wish prevails over the creator’s design. The consequences of our actions in many instances are not instant but are delivered over an extended period of time when the damages are either irreparable or reversible only with a great amount of pain physically and financially.

Human body – a complex product from the creator

The human body is a masterpiece of the creator most of us recognize as God. There can be no doubt that we, the humans are the special creation of the master craftsman we call God and the precision with which he created it from designing the tiniest bit to the finished product remains to be fathomed even to this day. Scores of researchers, scholars, philosophers, spiritualists, physicians, medical specialists have all attempted to unravel this most complex in the universe called the human body. 

About 5 decades ago, the modern day personal computers and its more sophisticated variants were yet to be born and processing of large volumes of data (just about payroll for large organisations employing a few hundred or few thousand at best) needed mainframe computers that worked on punched cards. Obviously, these mammoth machines occupied a large amount of floor space and needed a battery of experts to produce the desired end result.  These tasks have now been simplified to an extent where a teenager can perform the tasks that all those experts together achieved, and that too in a fraction of the time they consumed. Today, we cannot even imagine a mammoth computer like this because in less than 5 decades technology has taken the computing world to dizzy heights simplifying our lives and beneficially impacting many of our day to day needs.

The complexities of a human body are yet to be fully understood

When it comes to the human body, technology continues to have limitations because no medical system or scientific quest can claim to have acquired complete knowledge of how the human body functions. Interestingly, when we consider information processing systems, the most complex among them is the human body itself! 

As opposed to machines, life energy moves up and down rhythmically. The flow of this energy through the nerves is linked to the cardiac rhythm, ultradian rhythm, the sleep cycle and more. The ultradian rhythm further impacts sleep, hormonal secretion, blood flow, brain wave frequency, brain hemisphere and a host of other related and independent functions within the body.

Across the globe, today, several thousand men and women are engaged in the information processing space. New technologies like artificial intelligence, machine learning etc have also come into play. But, the human body is the most complex of all information processing systems that exist under the sun. If we consider all the information processed by the human body, conscious (language, deliberate and voluntary movements controlled by information) as also the unconscious (functions of the hormone system and organs controlled by information), it equals processing of 1024  bits of information every single day.  Now, if we compare this with all the human knowledge stored in all libraries across the globe, it is just about 1018 bits.

Working of the human body

It is very interesting to explore the way the human body works. Functioning of the human body involves interconnection through multiple systems working together to ensure harmony between all functions. Therefore, we can read a lot from many of the external parts of the body like the eyes, skin and the mouth. The overall health of an individual is dictated by these body parts and can give early warnings of nearly every illness and that is one reason why medical profession dedicates itself to studying these individual body parts as a focus area.

The mouth, in particular, can divulge many things for a trained pair of eyes looking at it.  Thus, when you follow dental advice from a competent dentist, you can potentially avoid serious illnesses.  If you pay close attention to the health of your teeth, gum and overall mouth, you can recognize those early warning signs of illness and perhaps even reverse its adverse effects.

How the mouth mirrors underlying disease conditions in the body

While dentists primarily work with teeth, their education encompasses mouth health and their education and training equip them to identify illnesses in every part of the mouth. The human teeth comprise of pulp, enamel, cementum, and dentin. The pulp composed of connective tissues, blood vessels, and nerves.  This composite system of the teeth connects it to the skeletal system and the cardiovascular system which in turn means that bacteria and infections in the mouth can move to other areas of the body. Most of us would have noticed doctors commenting on dental hygiene even when we are seeing specialists from other branches of medicine like gastroenterology, ENT, cardiology or similar branches of medicine.

Oral system connection

Oral system connection represents the connection between overall health and oral health. Several studies have found a link between the mouth and other parts of the body suggesting that poor oral health contributes to health issues like diabetes, cardiovascular problems, and certain forms of cancer, rheumatoid arthritis, dementia and even complications associated with pregnancy. Thus, the practice of good oral hygiene such as regular brushing and flossing, and visiting a dentist for a cleaning, can prevent such health risks from becoming overwhelming. Many of these diseases are of a long-term character and in some instances could even be life-threatening. What is important however is that these diseases are bred in our own body and therefore, we should initiate steps to stay safe. HPV 1  is a common disease that is orally transferred and though this is common with mild side effects, it is not curable and therefore you should be cautious not to contract it. This disease typically spreads during outbreaks and manifest as sores on the mouth and lips. Therefore sharing drinks and kissing is best avoided when the presence of the disease is known. Symptoms of the diseases are seldom recognized and those who carry the virus are not aware of this. This is yet another reason to exercise caution while sharing drinks or kissing. However, a dentist can easily identify the onset of the disease.

Oral care and the body

Modern healthcare has grown from many of the ancient systems of medicine. Physicians and patients seeking redressal from a variety of health issues have used solutions that were available at the respective times to contain the gravity o the issue. People have also been able to look at one part of the human body and by comprehending the disparities between a healthy individual and an ailing individual and define what was needed to enhance the well being of the ailing person.

Many times, even when there are no clear externally visible symptoms, the mouth, eyes, and skin can indicate symptoms of serious ailments in the pipeline, when a trained pair of eyes is merely looking at an individual. Integrative care is a form of healthcare wherein the entire person is treated rather than any single illness.  Human bodies work as a whole and a person can, therefore, be healthy only when all mental health and physical health issues are addressed simultaneously.  Similar to dental care, chiropractic care is another specific care method to address problems associated with the skeletal system in an individual.

Similarly, the onset of several illnesses can be noticed through different body systems. However, in some instances, the underlying cause may be attributable to other circumstances.  If a person suffers an accident or other bodily injuries, the mouth should also be examined as a vital aspect of health. Therefore, even after a minor accident, it is a good idea to have your mouth examined by a competent dentist. This is essential because certain apparently minor injuries may not present symptoms of a more serious illness until several weeks or months have passed by and it could be significantly difficult to mend the condition when the symptoms start appearing.

Thus, your mouth can reveal many infirmities with the overall health of a person and it is important to comprehend the differences in the body when symptoms of an injury or illness are suspected. Identifying diseases early on, such as gum disease, can prevent such problems from reaching a point of exacerbation necessitating additional medical attention.  Listening to your body and practicing good oral hygiene is a desirable way to prevent the spread of diseases and address many health issues that affect the lives of people across nations today.

Conclusion Nature has provided us with several tools and ways to remain healthy and stay safe from diseases. But, with the introduction of many unhealthy practices like junk foods, over-dependence on packaged nutritional supplements, the exuberance of marketers to push products that claim to enhance your health etc we tend to ignore natural ways of leading a healthy life. If we turn back and look at the life of our grandparents, most of them lived a healthier life without the modern day medical aids and lifestyle blemishes. This was possible because they followed the old and beaten down track. Is it perhaps time that we harness the old values and push behind what is orchestrated as a modern healthy lifestyle? The choice between body art and a healthy body is entirely in your hands.

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