Dentist visit - Don't forget to brush your teeth on a long hike!

One word, FLUORIDE

I went to the dentist right before Christmas. The dental-tech was chipping away at my teeth for a long time while I lay there trying to respond to her questions and keep up with her stories.

Why do they ask so many questions when you are in the chair? Their fingers are in your mouth!

When the tech was done scraping my teeth the dentist came in. I've been going to the same place for over 20 years now, and the dentist has gotten visibly older.

It turns out that, with all the hiking and traveling that I've been doing, I haven't had an appointment in two years. Two years! I was very worried that he would find at least one cavity. I have a couple of new, very small chips in some of my teeth as well. I was certain that one of these would turn into an expensive repair job.

Apparently none of the above. No cavities. No problems with my teeth at all. The dentist checked out the little chips I told him I'd found and he said they were very slight surface chips. I think I got them from eating out of my cook-pot in the woods for so many months on trail in the last year and a half. Sometimes you'll get a little grain of sand or something in your food. One of the easiest ways to clean your cookware is with some wet creek sand. You just have to make sure to do it well away from the water source you get the sand from. Grab some wet sand and walk away from the creek while you scrub your dishes. You don't want to ruin the water source for everyone else that comes after you!

While I got away lucky on the cavity front, there was plenty of plaque for her to scrape off. I'm just now getting better after several days of feeling the after effects of all that tooth-scraping. There were so many times that it would have been easier to just go to bed instead of getting up to brush my teeth before crawling into my sleeping bag. I'm so glad that I kept up with it. I could have been looking at having to pay for very expensive dental work.

Fluoride, fluoride, fluoride

If you go on a long hike, don't forget that you will probably not be drinking much tap water for several months at a time. Tap water has trace amounts of fluoride in it that serves to promote healthy teeth. When you don't drink tap water every day, you will have to get your fluoride from your toothpaste. I see a lot of people using these "ultralight" toothpaste solutions to bring their pack weights down. People use all of these liquid and powder toothpastes instead of carrying a small sample tube of normal toothpaste, and I'm worried that there's no fluoride in them! (I met one guy that used charcoal from the fire pits to brush his teeth.) Make sure that it's in there, and when you brush make sure you get each side of every tooth! The dental tech said that you are most likely to have plaque build up on the back sides of your bottom teeth.

I use a small dab of toothpaste twice a day on my travel toothbrush when I am hiking. It has worked out fine for over two years. You don't need to carry a huge toothpaste tube and a fancy toothbrush. Just carry a smaller version of each of these and USE THEM! Avoid that expensive and often painful dental work in the future.

It's really funny to watch everyone else grab their toothbrush and get scrubbing when they notice that you are doing it. When there are a lot of people at AT shelters everyone tends to brush their teeth together. Monkey-see I guess.

I'm feeling so lucky right now that I have healthy teeth. Thankfully I also don't have much of a sweet-tooth.


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