OFF-THE-GRID DEN­TISTRY

Deal­ing With Your Oral Health in the Ab­sence of Pro­fes­sional Med­i­cal Aid

RECOIL OFFGRID - - Health - By Dr. Dave Miller

Do you re­mem­ber the movie Cast Away?

In this film, pro­tag­o­nist Chuck Noland (played by Tom Hanks) sur­vives four years on a de­serted is­land af­ter his plane goes down in the ocean. At one point in the movie, Mr. Noland de­vel­ops a bad tooth. Since a pro­fes­sional den­tist isn’t avail­able to ex­tract the tooth, he’s forced to im­pro­vise and grue­somely knocks the tooth out with an ice skate blade and a rock. Isn’t there a bet­ter way? Could he have pre­vented the sit­u­a­tion from get­ting that bad?

While this may have been played up for dra­matic ef­fect, think about that sce­nario for a sec­ond. If you de­velop se­vere den­tal prob­lems, such as an in­fected or cracked tooth, lac­er­ated gums, an oral fun­gal in­fec­tion, or one of many other nasty is­sues in that open­ing you’re us­ing to eat food and drink wa­ter, what can you do? If no med­i­cal help is avail­able, you may be in a world of hurt.

Any­one who has ex­pe­ri­enced even a mild toothache or on­set of a cav­ity knows that it’s a level of dis­com­fort you wish to rid your­self of as quickly as pos­si­ble, lest it be­come un­bear­ably painful. With­out proper treat­ment, an ab­scess or in­fected tooth could even be life-threat­en­ing. First, let’s talk pre­ven­tive mea­sures. Don’t as­sume that if you’re with­out floss or a tooth­brush you’ll just have to hope for the best. There are items out there you can ei­ther fash­ion your­self or that can be found in na­ture. An ounce of pre­ven­tion is worth a pound of cure.

An­swers to those ques­tions can be found in Mur­ray Dick­son’s book, Where There Is No Den­tist. First re­leased in Novem­ber 1983, it’s an ex­cel­lent, easy-to-un­der­stand re­source to man­age var­i­ous den­tal is­sues in re­mote third-world coun­tries or a long-term sur­vival sit­u­a­tion. Like Mr. Dick­son, we value pre­pared­ness.

Mother Na­ture’s Mouth­wash

As part of a pre­ven­tive strat­egy, you can rinse your mouth with a mix­ture of ½ tea­spoon of ta­ble salt dis­solved in a cup of warm wa­ter ev­ery day to keep harm­ful bac­te­ria to a min­i­mum. This works by gen­tly al­ter­ing the pH bal­ance in your mouth to cre­ate an al­ka­line en­vi­ron­ment that im­pedes the growth of spe­cific tooth-de­cay-caus­ing bac­te­ria. For­tu­nately, the salt­wa­ter so­lu­tion won’t ir­ri­tate the mu­cous mem­branes that line your mouth and help main­tain its equi­lib­rium.

In a sur­vival sit­u­a­tion, you can boil ocean wa­ter down to pro­cure sea salt crys­tals, but rins­ing with un­treated sea­wa­ter should al­ways be avoided (more on that shortly). If you aren’t near an ocean, you can boil hick­ory roots un­til the wa­ter evap­o­rates. The crys­tals left in the pan are salt. You might even be lucky enough to find a salt block in a farmer’s field.

It’s im­por­tant to note that while pure salt­wa­ter rinses can be ben­e­fi­cial for oral health, the use of salt­wa­ter — es­pe­cially raw sea­wa­ter — on open wounds else­where on the body poses some con­cerns. See our “De­bunked” col­umn else­where in this is­sue for more de­tails on salt­wa­ter wound care.

Where There Is No Den­tist by Mur­ray Dick­son

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