What's with the teeth?

Living in Southern California most of my life, I didn’t see many people with bad teeth. I moved up here near the Canadian border in 2003. There was a girl (about 20 or 21) at the gas station/mini-mart who was missing her front teeth. Her canines didn’t look so great. (She eventually got false teeth.) A couple of guys at the same mini-mart are missing teeth. There’s a girl there now, in her early-20s, whose teeth seem to be rotting. A woman in her 40s who works there is working on making some black pegs. My local gun dealer, who lives in a nice middle-class tract, has some black in a couple of his teeth. My ex-fiancée, when she was living in Aberdeen and Hoquiam, once lamented that she wished she could find a guy with a driver’s license and all his teeth.

This is a rural area, and meth labs have been found. There was a lab a couple of blocks away from here a few years ago. I don’t know if the people at the mini-mart use or have used meth, but it wouldn’t surprise me if they did. The older woman there? Maybe that would surprise me; but I usually don’t associate women who look like middle-aged mothers with being drug users.

In 2005 there was a push to have fluoride added to the water supply. The initiative failed. (Communists, Government Plots, Rampant Cancer… :rolleyes: I had frequent fluoride treatments when I was a kid, and look how I turned out!) Maybe people up here just aren’t all that big on oral hygiene?

It’s just weird that I’m seeing so many people with black teeth. What’s going on?

You mentioned two of the bad culprits: lack of fluoride and meth. The rural area part may have something to do with it but I grew up in a very poor rural area of Louisiana and youngish people did not generally have bad teeth. The very poor black population took pride in their teeth for example with gold fillings which may not appeal to all but they were an indication of care. I only knew a couple of younger people that had horrific teeth and they were straight out of Deliverance. Bad hygiene there was just as unacceptable there as it is in any major city although the styles were often different. Of course, I think if I went back today, lots of teeth would be destroyed by meth use just like they are in most rural areas.

Fluoride has been a huge gain though. Older people in all areas had some pretty horrific dental problems by today’s standards. Some had the money for a natural looking fixes and others just had them all pulled and went straight to dentures. I don’t see the aging baby boomers resorting to that as a general rule. Dentistry has advanced as fast as the rest of medicine although it can be pricey because most medical plans don’t cover dentistry.

I’ve been noticing the blackened tooth stump/missing tooth thing more in people in recent years around here. (I’m in the upper Midwest.) I think some of it is meth, some of it is rampant soda drinking–especially Mountain Dew–and some of it may be the difficulty of finding a dentist willing to treat you if you don’t have insurance and/or ready cash.

As far as I know–and this is secondhand, for the most part–most city water is fluoridated in my area, but rural kids either take fluoride pills or go without.

Probably meth. And the cost of dental care. It’s expensive, and if you’re working in a mini mart, you don’t have dental insurance.

I think bad teeth is one of those things that happen gradually. It sneaks up on you, like chin whiskers on women, or nose hair on old men. After awhile, you don’t notice. When you do notice, maybe you try to hide it by not smiling.

When I was in grade school (before fluoridation), we couldn’t get our final report cards until we went to the dentist. Seems like teeth were healthier in the 50’s, when soda pop was still a treat rather than something we drink all day long.

Pills? When I was a kid the dentist would fill these little troughs with a fluoride gel and put them over my teeth. Some would invariably ooze out the back and make me gag. I’m glad he did it though.

“It’s incredibly obvious, isn’t it? A foreign substance is introduced into our precious bodily fluids without the knowledge of the individual. Certainly without any choice. That’s the way your hard-core Commie works.” – General Jack D. Ripper, Commander of Burpleson Air Force Base

Curiously, despite the persistant and pernecious fluoridation of water, the Commies didn’t, in fact, take over.

I’m going to guess a lack of supplementary fluoridation (still not found in many Northern areas), subpar dental hygiene, and an increase in fructose- and sucrose-sweetened foods and drinks into the diet of children are the culprits. The use of methamphetamines also tends to result in tooth decay and gum disease, but that tends to show up in more long-term users and is accompanied by other physical symptoms, like jaundice, chronic shakes, and face/arm sores (from continuous scratching). The relative poverty of rural areas and the dearth of dental practice in those same areas is also a contributor. I noticed the same thing as the o.p. when I had to spend some time in central coastal Virginia; the better educated imports (NASA and Navy personnel) tended to have “normal” dental health, while the life-long residents displayed an abnormal (to me) amount of missing, stained, or damaged teeth.


She’s probably 14 and looks like a middle aged mom because she’s a junkie.

My home state of West Virginia, according to a study a few years ago, leads the nation in toothlessness (which, for purposes of the study, was the percentage of people 65 or older who had lost all their teeth. Hawaii’s rate was 14%. WV’s was 48%.) I hate it when statistics confirm a stereotype.

Anyhoo, when I visit WV, I am always struck by the number of people I see who have really bad teeth – not just blackened or missing, but problems that look like something that orthodontia could have prevented.

Count me as another vote for lack of fluoride and the cost of dental care as the main reason for bad teeth.

On the same topic, I am amazed at how many of my coworkers have problems with their teeth. And they’re professionals.

I think one the biggest problem is that a lot of people don’t use dental floss on a daily basis. As you get older, cavities usually become less of a problem while gum disease becomes more of a problem. Hence flossing becomes more important as you get older.

I am a compulsive flosser; I floss two or three times a day. I am completely convinced that flossing is the sole reason I do not have major dental problems. I sometimes think flossing is even more important than brushing.

Hm. I would have guessed Alabama, where the tusks are looser.

I must admit that I didn’t really encounter too many people with bad/black teeth until I started being more directly exposed to people in lower social strata than my own. (I was in high school, middle class, and going to school with kids whose parents made three times what my mom made in a year-- I was one of the poor kids, and my mom makes good money!) Most of the kids who were poorer that I had encountered during high school had good teeth, but there were a handful of reasons why some of them had bad teeth: drug use, lack of orthodontic intervention, excessive smoking, and really terrible overall hygeine. Drug use was the worst culprit, really, especially if the kids were into things like meth. Smoking was next if combined with bad diet (lots of sugar and stuff like twinkies) and bad oral hygeine, but it was a marked difference between the two, as the kids who just smoked and didn’t take care of themselves just had yellow teeth with a small amount of decay at the worst, and the kids who were into meth (and other stuff) had teeth that were literally rotting most of the time. However, I have seen relatively well-off kids with similar tooth problems of the “tobacco and sugar” sort if they don’t keep up with preventative maintenance or smoke like a chimney.

Speaking of awful teeth, I encountered someone at the library the other day who had itty bitty baby teeth that were shattered and blackening from the inside out. If she had never opened her mouth, she would have looked reasonably well taken care of if a bit unhealthy weight-wise. However, once her mouth opened to display the teeth, it became a slightly disturbing visage-- so bad, in fact, that I cannot Google an image that accurately displays the amount of decay that this individual had. It would be as if the teeth were transparent but filled with black tar and jagged edged. These, by far, were the worst teeth I had ever seen in my entire life.

I lived in rural Ohio (near the WV border) for a few years and was shocked at the number of people who were missing teeth and/or had visible tooth decay. It did seem, however, that younger adults’ teeth were better.

Poverty and McJobs = no useful dental insurance.

To be fair, dental insurance has always been pretty rare. I have it because I work for a mega-corp and pay dearly for it for our family but it doesn’t work the same way as medical insurance and just offers a discount past preventive care. Even countries like England that have socialized health programs don’t cover dentistry in the same way (that is why they have the bad teeth stereotypes). It is really odd that the mouth and teeth got segregated from the rest of the body when research shows that dental health is crucial to the rest of physical health from the heart to the brain. Dentists are no different from other physician specialists and should be treated the same way when it comes to insurance.

[Lenny] Dental Plan! [/Lenny]

It’s a little known fact but the toothbrush was invented in West Virgina. How do I know this? It should be obvious, if it had been invented anywhere else, it would be called a teethbrush.
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“Lisa needs braces!”

Do you think kids eat sweeter diets than they did, say, 40 or 50 years ago? I really doubt it, at least with respect to going as far back as the Baby Boomer generation; my parents claim that, if anything, they ate a LOT more unhealthily that I did. Sugar, sugar sugar has been the word in kid food since the end of World War II.

I’d also guess that teeth on the whole are BETTER than they were then too. even in rural areas; the OP’s just moved from a richer place to a poorer place, and so there’s going to be a contrast there. But there would have been a contrast before, too.

And to support Shagnasty’s point about dental insurance, in Canada our famed social health insurance system doesn’t cover dentistry. You can have a doctor look at almost any problem you have at no cost… but to have a dentist check you out you need private insurance or cold cash. I will be damned if I understand why, but that’s the way it is, and my perception is certainly that people in poor areas have worse teeth than in better off areas.

The difference between my generation (I arrived at the tail-end of the baby boom) and the generation of my nieces and nephews is staggering, actually. Part of that may be economic; we were pretty poor. However, our mother also expressly forbid pop and chewing gum, and any kind of candy or ice cream was a very rare treat on a holiday. Thanks to her, none of us developed a soda habit, but my brothers’ children sure picked one up somewhere! They can’t live without soda. They get cranky and headachy if they run out. They also eat a lot more sugary snacks than we did.

I think they eat a healthier diet than we did as far as fat content and general nutrient value goes, but I think the sugar content is much higher, and this probably accounts for not only some of the dental problems but also some of the obesity we’re seeing so often in kids.

My dentist spent some time in the US Air Force, as a dentist. He told me that he could tell what part of the country a recruit was from ,by looking at his teeth. Those kids from the SW (where naturally occurring fluoride levels are high) had mottled, yellowe dteeth-but no cavities. But the amount of sugar kids consume today is staggering-when I was a kid, we only drank soft drinks on special occasions-these kids drink a quart of the stuff a day now. That can’t be good for your teeth.

I hate teeth, well, not teeth necessarily, but having to deal with something that no matter how much care you give them, eventually they wear out / need crowns / other sorts of help.

If it wasn’t such a pain, I’d have all mine pulled and get dentures.

My dad always took care of his teeth. Always. Still had crowns, root canals, etc. Probably spent at least 60k on his teeth to get them fixed the last five years of his life, the last visit was 5k in bills a month before he passed away.

I love my dentist (the same as his) but it’s such an absurd amount of money to allow you to chew food without pain and look good.