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
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.