The Throwaway Generation

The Throwaway Generation

Recently, I was told by a long-term patient that I was part of the “Throwaway Generation.” The patient had a molar with a failed crown that had extensive decay. To save the tooth would have required crown lengthening, root canal treatment, a post, a core, and a new crown. The patient would spend thousands of dollars on a molar that I believed would have a questionable long-term chance of staying healthy. I recommended having the tooth extracted and replaced with a dental implant, believing that for around the same cost it would be more of a predictable treatment with longer lasting results. However, this approach to dentistry wasn’t what my patient had in mind. Hence the comment.

Although, the patient’s comment was a little insulting, it did make me think about how our society views consumerism and the value of our belongings compared to previous generations.

When I think back to when my grandparents were alive, I remember their house was tidy but full of stuff.  No matter of how old the “stuff” was, everything had value to them. They would repair thirty year-old appliances instead of replacing them, find new uses for things, and would never leave a scrap of food on their dinner plates.

While I stand by my dental diagnosis for the patient with the failed crown, this idea of a “Throwaway Generation” has got me thinking. How did our society evolve to this? We can all agree that the many of the products we purchase today are not made to last, but has this changed the way we look at saving teeth?

Herodontics Role in Modern Dentistry

The concept of herodontics questions whether we should take the approach of trying to save a tooth, no matter what it takes. This includes undertaking measures far beyond what would normally be considered reasonable to salvage the tooth. Is this the right approach in the world where implant dentistry has become a standard of care? Of course, I believe that implants are not a panacea for all patients. However, with the evolution of implants and their continued technological improvements, they have certainly created a paradigm shift in treatment recommendations.

In contrast to being a herodontist, a new ideology has arisen called simpradontics.  An odd word, but it means that dental professionals should start practicing simple and predictable dentistry that’s current, successful, cost effective and longer lasting. Sure, we should educate out patients about all their treatment possibilities both short- and long-term so that they can make better decision for their overall oral health, but the focus should remain on what technology has to offer.

Herodontics or simpradontics? Should dentistry embrace what technology has to offer or do everything it takes to save and restore the natural elements of a patient’s oral health? This is a question I’m sure we will be pondering for a near future and beyond.

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