Tidbits of information I have learned over the last 14 years in private practice being a dental hygienist.
Over the past 14 years I have learned so much about the dental world, how patients view the dental office, their own mouths and the lack of real knowledge of how it all works. I am often blown away at the lack of priority and motivation an individual has when it comes to active infection in a part of their body that determines how they will EAT!!! I have also come to discover that unless it hurts afterwards, a patient has no idea how good of job a dentist or dental hygienist has done for them.
Tip #1 - Just because a dentist has a license to practice doesn't make them good at what they do.
In 14 years, I have seen more BAD dental work than I have seen good. Many factors can play into this, but most of them could have been detected had an X-ray been taken after the work was done to check margins, contacts, overhangs, excess cement etc. As a patient, it’s ok to ask for an X-ray after. Even if you don’t feel like you know what you are looking for, it will make the dentist aware if a filling or crown isn’t done properly or seated correctly. Outside factors can play into this and even some of the best dentists may find themselves performing average work due to a patient’s inability to open widely enough, occlusion, limited working access, saliva, or any number of other reasons. But that number should be minimal. Most poor dental work I’ve seen is due to “operator error”.
Tip #2 - The price you pay for treatment is not determined by experience.
Dental offices aren’t Visible Changes. Your cost for service is not based on the experience or expertise of the provider doing it. A new graduate straight out of dental school needs time to be able to apply what they have learned in school and put into action in a real dental setting outside of school. They also need time to learn from their mistakes. The hygienist I am today is definitely not the same person I was when I graduated, and I made a PERFECT SCORE on my clinical boards. Reality is under different time constraints, patients who can be difficult to work on, and/or learning how to work with an assistant who may or may not be trained well. As patients though you don’t know any of that! You pay the same cost for a filling regardless of whether the dentist working on you has been working for days or decades.
New Grads should be given a grace period to implement what they have learned in school into real life dental scenarios, so not to cost patient more money from rushed improper dental work.
Tip #3 - It's cheaper to take care of them, then to replace them.
You only get one set of permanent teeth, and if treated properly you can keep them your whole life!!! The strongest your tooth will ever be is in its natural state. Once a filling or treatment is done to a tooth it’s not a matter of if that restoration will fail? It’s when. Keeping on top of your dental care can prevent medical issues in the future. It’s ok to get a 2nd opinion. If you get diagnosed with a lot of cavities, I’d recommend a 2nd opinion. Keep in mind there are many ways to skin a cat and, pending on the mindset of the doctor you see, some may be more conservative, others more aggressive. I think finding someone who is middle-of-the-road is best, you don’t want a dentist to treat every little thing when it pops up, but you also don’t want someone who’s going to “watch” a tooth all the way until it falls out. Moderation in life is always beneficial.
Tip #4 - You are worth it, don't let anyone else treat you otherwise.
Don’t be just another number in a dental practice. If your provider doesn’t take the time to listen to you, doesn’t explain why s/he is recommending treatment, and doesn’t seem to truly care about your overall health, then maybe s/he isn’t right for you. If we started holding Practitioners to higher standards, we might encourage those in the rest of the dental community to raise their standards as well.
Tip #5 - Only YOU can prevent TOOTH DECAY!!!
Many factors cause dental work to fail, and sometimes it’s YOU. We can’t come home with you and make sure you are taking care of your teeth. We can only give you instructions and hope, if you have any issues, you’ll let us know. If you get a crown or filling placed and something doesn’t feel right, let your office know!! Don’t wait months. While some things do take time to get better, a bad occlusion isn’t one of them and can, in fact, lead to bigger problems!!!
Tip #6 - Knowledge is Power
Educate yourself!! You need to be your own advocate. At the end of the day, it’s not my mouth that will be affected. I have patients every day who tell me - they just want to wait until it hurts. Pain is a huge motivator, but oftentimes leads to more costly restorations and happens at the worst times!
Tip #7 - TMJ is more Common than you think.
Almost all adults, especially women, have some form of TMJ. Grinding and clenching can exacerbate symptoms, but there are OTC supplements like glucosamine and chondroitin that can help with adding fluid for smoother movement and reduce chronic inflammation of the joint. Talk with your dental provider about a custom fitted nightguard to protect you from breaking or cracking teeth.
Tip #8 - Don't stop..... Breathing ( by Journey LOL)
Airway obstruction is a real thing and it’s not normal to snore or to stop breathing in your sleep. GET A SLEEP STUDY done!!!
Tip #9 - Get in a routine.
If you come for cleaning twice each year (once every six months) that leaves another 363 days on your own. Your daily dental routine will impact you more than anything your dental hygienist can do for you.
Tip #10 - Sorry, you are stuck with floss.
NOTHING replaces flossing. I’m sorry. Sure, there are things you can use (water pick, electric Toothbrushes etc.) but it’s still not as effective as floss
There are so many more pieces of advice I could give but if you leave this blog with nothing else it's these top 10 tips. Sign up for emails and updates and check back often for all of your dental needs. Send me a question