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Laura’s Dental Thoughts

I was astounded recently when I learned of a survey somewhere that stated that 68% of Americans dread going to the dentist. This short list included doing one’s taxes and death. I think some of this comes from childhood fears and some bad experience in “the chair”.

Think for a moment about the purpose of your teeth and gums. Most of us first think of chewing and thus nutrition. Then, we dig deeper and think of cosmetics and esthetics. What a vivacious impression a great smile makes. What would our favorite public figure be with poorly kept teeth. Finally, we understand that our teeth are critical to our speech. Do you remember hearing a person who just got a new retainer and they sounded different? Or listening to the difference in a person’s speech when their dentures are in versus out?

Your teeth are very important! But there is a bigger player- your gums. There is no mouth that doesn’t have gums, even mouths without teeth still have gums. Teeth and gums go hand in hand, but the gums are the “keepers” of the mouth. You can get all the crowns, bridges, rootcanals and implants you can afford, but you will not be able to maintain them with bad gums. Sick gums will create problems for good teeth no matter how much you paid for them. If you don’t keep your gums happy and healthy, eventually you will end up with no teeth and all gums.

Anyone who has more gums than teeth will testify that they wished they had taken better care of their teeth when they had them.

The Dentist is there to help you maintain the health of your teeth and gums. Keep in mind that our little round mirrors are not magical and cannot fix your oral problems without your participation. Just as your Physician needs your cooperation with diet and medication to control your Diabetes or High blood pressure, your Dentist needs your cooperation too.

Did you know that most of these problems could have been avoided by seeing your dentist regularly and following their advice? Think of all the money you have spent on deep cleaning, crowns, rootcanals and bridges. Now think of this, if you had gone for your regular checkups and followed the recommendations of 3-minute brushing twice a day and flossing daily, you could have gone on a great vacation with that money.

Here are some oversimplified facts about your gums. You need to keep your gums happy. There are too many instances where the teeth are fine but the gums are sick and the teeth eventually need to be removed. Remember, your gums are the keepers of your teeth. Keeping your gums happy and healthy and brushing and flossing as recommended by your Dentist, you can probably get by with a teeth cleaning every 3-6 months ($). If you allow your teeth to accumulate debris and bacteria because you aren’t brushing and flossing regularly, your gums will get infected (Gingivitis/Periodontal Disease) and you’ll need a more thorough cleaning (Deep Scaling) ($$). Then, if you really neglect your teeth and gums the regular cleaning instruments cannot do a thorough job and you may require gum surgery (Periodontal Surgery)($$$). If you still don’t learn your lesson, eventually one by one, your teeth will get loose and fall out or need to be removed ($$). First you’ll get Removable Partials ($$$) adding more and more teeth ($) until you end up with no teeth and full dentures ($$). Ask any denture or partial wearer if they prefer their dentures or if they wished they had their own teeth again. Realize that you can control your gum destiny. After whatever stage of treatment you need is completed, and with effort on your part, you can stop the progression of gum disease and maintain healthy gums with simple regular cleanings ($).

Here are some more oversimplified dental facts: all tooth decay will eventually worsen, it’s just a matter of time. If you catch a cavity when it is small and causes you some discomfort once in a while, you may get away with just a filling ($). If you wait and your tooth chips, you are probably looking at a crown ($$). If you wait until the tooth hurts intensely, you’re probably looking at a root canal (Endodontic Therapy)($$$) which requires a crown ($$) and probably a post ($) to go with it. Often there will be a need for gum surgery (crown lengthening surgery)($$). Now, if you finally wait until it’s really painful, throbbing and swollen, you may have waited too long and the only option may be tooth removal ($). Once it’s gone, you’ll have a space left over which if left as a space has it’s own collection of consequences. To fill the space, you will need a removable partial ($$$), permanent bridge ($$$) or an implant ($$$).

Your Tooth and Gum destiny is in your own hands and your dentist is there to help you help yourself. We cannot do magic and we don’t want to harm. Dentists are here to heal and prevent further damage.
Some may not like this analogy, but I think it’ll work for some of you. Think of your mouth like it’s your car. You get the oil changed regularly so that your car runs well and you can prevent more costly repairs later. Stop and think about it. Do you spend more on your car maintenance than you do on your body maintenance?

Fear of visiting the Dentist starts at home

If you are one of those people who avoid going to the dentist, I can bet that some influential adult also is/was reluctant, fearful or even petrified of visiting the dentist. This avoidance has done you no good. Do you wish you could freely and happily visit your Dentist and be free of dental problems and expenses? Well, it may be too late for you, but you have the ability to change that for the children around you.

Kids are smart and they pick up on your tone of voice and attitude towards the Dentist. With a negative tone in your voice, saying how much you dread getting a root canal done or how uncomfortable a deep cleaning is going to be etc. Kids form a negative opinion of the Dentist and dental procedures. The biggest harm is done when a visit to the Dentist becomes a threat, “ If you don’t behave I’m going to take you to the Dentist!” or “Brush your teeth or the Dentist is going to give you a BIG SHOT.” Anyone, especially a child, will perceive the Dentist negatively and fearfully, and as someone who will hurt them intentionally.

There is a great opportunity to influence and help the children around you to develop a healthy adult with far less fear and apprehension about the Dentist and dental treatment. Any adult who interacts with any child can help them to see a visit to the Dentist as the beneficial and helpful experience, not a punishment or a duty. It’s your job as a loving adult to make a “visit” to the dentist more of an opportunity than an obligation. Try to substitute “going” to the Dentist with “VISITING” the Dentist.
Especially with children, the key is in the optimum presentation.

In the Big Picture, everyone will have a Dentist involved in their life and we can be perceived as a good thing or a bad thing. Too many adults pass on their personal fears and avoidance of the Dentist to children. As this new DENTAL-PHOBIC child becomes an adult, the cycle of fear has turned once more, and they scare their children, and so on, and so on.

Wouldn’t it be nice to dream of the day when “Dentist” is not a bad word.

 
Information and Links

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