Tie One On

Most of you will notice that I wear a tie to work every day (except Fridays—I mean who would wear a tie on Fridays?!?). With that in mind, I had a discussion with a friend of mine at church the other day regarding the type of knot one should tie and why (really apropos church discussion topic, right?). We discussed large knots and crooked knots and clip-ons and highly decorative techniques, etc. Now, I know you’re probably thinking I’ve lost the remaining part of my mind and am currently talking gibberish, but stick with me a bit longer and you’ll see where I’m going with this one.

Knot tying is one of those subjects that boy scouts and sailors talk about, and mostly everyone else ignores. However, most of us have to tie different knots on a fairly regular basis without even realizing what we’re doing–shoelaces, tent tie downs, even braiding our hair—for those of us not losing ours. We tie the basics and think very little about any other types of knots for securing, fastening and even decorating. But, it is a truly good thing that there are people who have been trained specifically in certain knot tying techniques. For example, consider rappelling down the face of a high cliff with a rope that had been secured and handed to you by some untrained punk kid who didn’t put his phone down while tying you off. Or, imagine you’ve fallen off a boat into the ocean during a storm and the life preserver that the rope was attached to simply slipped it’s mooring after they threw it—not good. Now both of these might seem like extremes and perhaps even a bit far-fetched, but in both situations it would behoove us to have verified that the knots were in fact secure and that the person in charge was well trained in tying them.

Back to the discussion about ties: I tend to be a full-Windsor knot tyer (spell-check says tyer isn’t a word—maybe it should be tie-er, or perhaps TIEer, because tier is already an entirely…oh well you get the point). I like that this knot isn’t terribly complicated but that it doesn’t have a flat side like the half-Windsor or a tiny baby-knot like the Four-in-Hand knot. I realize there are other knot types, like the Merovingian or the Eldredge, but they are really quite cumbersome to tie and I don’t like the fancy/impractical look of them as well. So, what does this have to do with anything in the dental world?!? Just this; every person has certain ways of doing things, including the way they tie a tie or how they care for their teeth, but in direct contrast to how we tie our ties, there really is a right and wrong way to maintain your choppers.

Now, this is the part of the lecture where most people’s brains automatically shut-down and they begin the involuntary nodding while concurrently doing the invisible eye roll and imaginary “sheesh” thing, but here goes anyway. There really is only one PROVEN way to keep what God gave you in your mouth—take care of it! Now I know that you may have this friend of your grandfather’s cousin that never brushed or flossed, drank three cokes a day, smoked like a chimney, ate candy by the fist-full and only went to the dentist to show off his full set of pearly whites, but that’s not normal, that’s the exception. The word “exceptional” doesn’t mean “awesome” like we all think it does, it means other than the average. That’s why it’s even noteworthy, because it normally wouldn’t happen that way. Normally, even people who take relatively good care of their teeth still have the occasional cavity or broken tooth. Even if you floss every day of your life, you might have been given less than ideal dental genetics…but this is NOT AN EXCUSE, it’s a call to action!
I realize that most people hear the same words from their dentist every time they see them, but I want you to perhaps hear them from a different perspective. I went to school for a long time and have worked even longer after trying to save people’s teeth, sometimes after those teeth have spent a lifetime with neglect and abuse. I will continue to do this until I retire, and will continue to give the obligatory floss, brush, quit smoking, soda-pop lecture every time I see my patients, but I want them to know that the health and appearance, as well as the feel of your teeth is ultimately up to you! I can only do so much with the short and infrequent times I have you in my chair, so the “type of knot you decide to tie” depends mostly on you.

The only proven way to keep your teeth long-term is to brush twice a day, FLOSS once a day (emphasis added), avoid sugary/acidic drinks, don’t smoke and snacks and see the dentist regularly (usually every six months). There are those of you out there that will say to me, “my family and I have always had bad teeth and I just want dentures so I don’t have to worry about them anymore”, but I think that’s a cop-out and a pitiful excuse rather than a useful justification. Simply because you didn’t rank in the advanced and gifted class at school hopefully didn’t translate into your dropping out and selling origami on the roadside, and just because your teeth aren’t as strong as the rare person who’s never had a cavity isn’t justification for throwing in the towel on your homecare. To those who were given the short sheet hereditarily, I simply say that unfortunately you will have to work even harder than the normal person to maintain what you have. It’s doable in almost every situation with a little hard work and some coaching from us. If you have to brush three times a day with a prescription toothpaste, FLOSS everyday (emphasis added) and not drink anything but water and milk, isn’t it worth it to keep your teeth?!? When it comes to your teeth, you’re the man!!!..or perhaps the woman!!! The great thing is that you get to decide what you want out of your mouth (mostly by what you do or don’t put into your mouth), and ultimately it will be the type of knot you decide to tie.

There’s lots of fancy cleaning aids and rinses and water picks and lozenges and, and, and…just like there are lots of fancy knots to tie your tie with, but what really works and what is proven with years and years of studies and research are the same few tricks that have been around for hundreds of years. Brush and FLOSS (emphasis added) that’s it! The simplicity is almost laughable, but it really works. In the old days, they used to tie a string around the finger to remember something important. So if you need to, grab a piece of floss and “tie one on” so that you won’t forget—even use the full Windsor if you must!…just please don’t use that same dirty piece later as that would be extremely gross.