13 Things Your Dentist Wants You to Know (But You’re Too Scared to Ask)

No one likes going to the dentist, but educating yourself can make the experience less nerve-wracking and more productive.

   1. The X-rays won’t harm you

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.

 2. Strangers do notice good teeth

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.

3.  We can smell your last meal

Don’t eat a heavy garlic lunch before coming to see us—we’d appreciate that

4.But we won’t call you out

If your breath is bad, we won’t tell you unless you ask.

5.Your dream teeth may not be possible

Patients come in with pictures of celebrities and say, “I want to look just like her.” I’m sitting there thinking, You can’t have a smile that looks like Angelina Jolie’s, because you don’t have a face that fits those teeth. It’s like when you get your hair color done—you can’t just put the same highlights or lowlights in everybody’s hair.

6.Bottles can seriously damage your baby’s teeth

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.

7.Chewing gum should be part of your routine

If you want to reduce the bad bacteria in your mouth, you should be all over xylitol (a sugar substitute found in chewing gum). It changes the chemistry of your mouth. Six or seven pieces of xylitol gum every day will help keep cavities away.

8.No mouth piercings. Please

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. (Talk about a dental emergency!) Even when things go well, virtually everyone I see with a tongue piercing has chipped front teeth. Don’t pierce your tongue.

9.That old idiom just isn’t true

People say something difficult is like pulling teeth. But pulling teeth is really fast and easy.

10.Dentists are only as good as their waiting rooms

When choosing a dentist, check if the magazines in the waiting room are current. That shows attention to detail.

11.Know what your insurance covers before coming in

People come in for an appointment without knowing what their insurance covers. They think we have a crystal ball that tells us everyone’s insurance information. We don’t. And we need to find out what’s covered before we can do anything.

12.Bleeding gums are serious business

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.

13.You don’t have “soft teeth”—You have tooth decay

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.

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