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50 Secrets From Real Dentists
Submitted by Quest-News-Serv... on Mon, 04/19/2010 - 20:24.
50 Secrets From Real Dentists
By Chris Woolston
Dentists from across the country tell us what they're really thinking as they peer at our teeth.
Do you floss about as often as you flip your mattress? Do you spend more time putting toothpaste on your brush than actually cleaning your teeth? Dentists notice these things. And that's not all. They also know when you're asking for a procedure that's going to disappoint you and when insurance companies are stinting on the care your smile needs. We asked 22 dentists from across the country to tell us what they're really thinking as they peer at our teeth. What came out of their mouths will change the way you treat yours.
Thinkstock Images / Jupiterimages
You Don't Get It
Some truly educated people think that if nothing in their mouth hurts, they're fine. High cholesterol doesn't hurt, either, but it's a big problem. I honestly think that the general population doesn't understand that their mouth is part of their body.
-- Danine Fresch Gray, DDS, general dentist, Arlington, Virginia
If your hands bled when you washed them, you'd run to the doctor. But in the public's mind, bleeding gums are okay. Unless you're really whaling away with your brush, if your gums bleed even a little, that's periodontal disease, period.
The advice to see your dentist twice a year applies only if you have healthy gums. Most people don't.
Many of my patients have periodontal disease affecting their back teeth, but their front teeth are fine. Evidently, they brush only what others see.
Dentists often tell patients with advanced gum disease to floss more often. But flossing is useless at that point. Imagine trying to clean out the bottom of a shirt pocket with a piece of string tied to your fingers.
People come to me with a mouthful of tooth decay and say, "I got my grandfather's soft teeth." I don't even know what soft teeth are.
When someone meets you for the first time, the first thing they notice is eyes. Second is teeth, and third is hair. But people spend way more money on their hair than their teeth.
Proper oral hygiene requires ten minutes of brushing and flossing every day. The average adult spends two or three minutes total, and kids do even worse.
Our Noses Still Work
Brushing doesn't go deep enough into the gums to reach the plaque that causes bad breath. You need to floss every day and get a cleaning every few months. If you do all that and still have bad breath, I start looking into diet and checking for health problems.
A mouthwash with alcohol dries out your mouth -- you'll smell nice and minty for a half hour, but then the bad breath comes back worse than ever.
If your breath is bad, we won't tell you unless you ask.
"New and Improved"? Yeah, Right
There's a limit to what toothpaste can do. New whitening formula? It can get rid of surface stains, but it can't whiten like a bleach.
The electric toothbrush is one of the best things to ever happen to dentistry. The newer ones replicate professional cleaning -- they won't reach much below the gum line, but they're far superior to regular toothbrushes. The cheap ones are okay for kids, but you'll have to pay more than $75 for a really good brush with a warranty and replacement heads.
I wish people still used the Waterpik [a water-shooting device that was popular in the 1970s]. Each tooth is surrounded by a putrid, germy moat of saliva. If you replace that moat every day, you'll go a long way toward keeping your mouth clean and your gums healthy.
We Blame You When Baby Teeth Go Bad
It's just a total breakdown in parental supervision.
PLUS: The 10 Healthiest Fruits
For the past 20 years, we've been telling parents about baby bottle tooth decay and not to let a child go to sleep with a bottle. But I haven't seen much of a change.
The bacteria that cause cavities can be spread from mother to baby through saliva. If you have poor dental health and you taste your baby's food and then pop the same spoon into his mouth, you're putting him at risk.
Kids with dental problems often struggle in school. They're distracted and easily agitated. Teachers will say they have behavior problems, but they really have toothaches.
I have to extract a lot of baby teeth that are abscessed or heavily decayed. Parents think there's no reason to pay attention to baby teeth because they fall out. But when a tooth comes out prematurely, other teeth crowd in to fill up the space. Without the right treatment, it turns into a mess.
I call soda pop the liquid chain saw. It cuts through teeth. And it's not just the sugar -- it's the acid.
PLUS: More Healthy Eating Tips
Some people give up on tooth whitening because the gel irritates their teeth and gums. Just use a fluoride rinse or gel before and after -- it'll make your teeth much less sensitive.
With any kind of mouth piercing, there's a huge risk of infection if it's not done in a really sterile environment. I've seen cases where we've had to cut out pieces of the tongue because the infection was so rampant. Even when things go well, virtually everyone I see with a tongue piercing has chipped front teeth. Don't pierce your tongue.
Taking metal fillings out can release more mercury than leaving them in.
Composite [tooth-colored] fillings are popular, but a metal filling is going to be more durable, especially for bigger jobs.
I have amalgam fillings in my own mouth. There's no proof that they do any harm. Convincing patients to remove their fillings for health reasons is quackery.
A lot of patients are worried that dental X-rays can cause cancer, but if you're outside for an hour, you're exposed to more radiation than you'd get from a full set of dental X-rays. What I worry about is that if I don't take an X-ray, I might miss something serious.
We Hate Insurers Too
Patients seem receptive to everything I say until I tell them how much it costs. I feel really good when patients accept 40 percent of what I recommend.
If you're missing teeth, chances are that your insurance company won't cover implants—only one out 22 insurance companies I deal with covers them, even though they're better than dentures in every way.
Your Teeth Can Alert Us to Disease
One of the first signs of diabetes is bleeding gums. I started taking blood samples from all my patients with bleeding gums and bone loss around the teeth and discovered that many of them were diabetic or prediabetic.
We're Not Miracle Workers
Teeth get whiter when they dry out. Some dentists promise that their office procedures will make your teeth four shades whiter. But if you leave your mouth open for an hour, you could easily be two shades whiter just from dehydration.
If you bleach your teeth too often, it can thin the enamel. Your teeth can end up almost translucent.
We Feel Your Pain
Everyone should be able to get basic dental care. At our public health clinic in the Shenandoah Valley, we see a lot of people who don't have money, and some of them need to have every tooth in their head taken out. It's like a Third World country.
I tell nervous patients that we can give them the sedative triazolam an hour or so before their appointment -- they just need to have someone else drive. It works so well that sometimes they don't remember the appointment.
A study showed that tooth implants increase libido, probably because people feel much more confident without missing teeth or dentures sliding all over the place.
PLUS: Top 10 Aphrodisiacs
Many people without insurance don't go to a dentist until they're in a tragic situation. They could wind up needing $20,000 worth of work.
We Choose Our Own Dentists Carefully
I put in veneers for a living, but they're really overused. At some offices, patients come in for a simple cleaning and are sold on the idea of getting veneers too. Veneers are excellent for making teeth longer, but if what you want is to get your teeth whiter, use a bleach. If they're too crowded, get them straightened.
Some dentists will say you need a deep cleaning because they can charge your insurance company more for that than for a standard cleaning. But unless an exam shows you have a lot of tartar on your roots or other specific signs of disease, you probably don't need it.
People assume that the more a dentist charges, the better the dentist is. But I see no correlation. Ask coworkers or friends and family for a recommendation, but make sure they've been going to their dentist for at least five years. It takes that long to know if crowns and fillings are any good.
When choosing a dentist, Check if the magazines in the waiting room are current. That shows attention to detail.
We Wish You'd Think Ahead
Don't eat a heavy garlic lunch before coming to see us -- we'd appreciate that.
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