Ask a Nurse: The Top10 Things Dentists Want You to Know

Pamela is an RN, MSN/Ed.

Pamela is a mother of 6 amazing children ages 11 to 24. She is a nurse educator and loves to travel overseas to work in medical clinics and teach health-related topics to schools and communities. She has been married to her best friend, Steve, for 29 years. She has many different interests including reading, writing (NOT arithmetic!), baking, teaching, and spending time with her family. She lives in central Pennsylvania with her husband and two youngest daughters. To see all Ask a Nurse articles click here.

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The Top10 Things Dentists Want You to Know

Do you have a fear of the dentist? I have a very strong fear of going to the dentist! I was always hard to numb up when I was a child, and the pain and frustration of past dentists have caused me (a nurse!) to want to avoid dental visits. By the time this is posted, I will have been to the dentist for a broken tooth and probable (horrors!) root canal. I plan on interviewing my dentist and asking what his top 10 things he wants us to know are. Hopefully, they will agree with my research! If not, I will add his information. I have put off this broken tooth for (wait for it…) 3 years! It is a back molar, and it caused me no pain. Well, until recently, that is! I have had my share of root canals, and I want to share this information so hopefully you will not have to go down the same road. This time I looked for a new dentist who specialized in catering to cowards. The big words, “sedation dentistry” caught my eye. Maybe, this could be my answer! Put me out, and when I wake up, the work is done! It sounded great to me! I requested a call for an appointment online before I changed my mind. The woman who called sounded so sweet, professional and calm. “Oh, yes,” she said, “we will put you in for an emergency visit first thing in the morning.”  Well, this wasn’t so hard! But, wait! She didn’t say anything about making sure I had a driver with me! I was afraid to ask. I timidly spoke up, “ummm…don’t I need a driver?” her answer? “Oh, that won’t be necessary; we don’t do sedation on Fridays!” What? That was the whole reason I picked them! So, I had to fumble around trying not to sound too ridiculous, explaining that sedation was why I picked them. She assured me that they had other ways to help me feel calm (so does my regular dentist, it doesn’t work!). Now I feel really dumb! I want to back out, but I now have an appointment.

All this to say, don’t avoid the dentist, it only gets worse! Now I have scoped far and wide to find out what dentists wished we all knew. Ready? Here goes!

  1. Brushing twice a day (after breakfast and before bed) and flossing once a day really make a difference! “Thirty to 40 percent of 3-year-olds have at least one cavity, and 50 percent of children have at least one cavity by the time they enter elementary school. So, tooth decay is the single most common chronic childhood disease,” says Dr. Foud Salama, chair of the department of pediatric dentistry at the University of Texas, Health Science Center at Houston.
  2. Don’t put children to bed with a bottle! “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.” Winifred J. Booker, DDS, pediatric dentist, Owings Mills, Maryland.
  3. If every time we took a shower, our ears started bleeding, we would see a doctor, right?  When people brush their teeth and their gums bleed, they think it is normal! Unless you are brushing way too hard, any gum bleeding is considered gingivitis. Gingivitis is gum disease with inflamed, bleeding gums. If you have this, see a dentist right away!
  4. Sports drinks are causing young people to have decayed teeth. Sports drinks are marketed as being healthier, what they are doing are bathing teeth in acid. Dentists are seeing a lot of decay due to sports and energy drinks. Give your child water! Rinsing the mouth with water after drinking these drinks can help, but how many kids are going to do that?

  1. You can have cavities without a toothache.  Mild tooth decay doesn’t cause symptoms. The pain we associate with cavities comes when tooth decay is more advanced and causes damage to the nerve.

Allowing tooth decay to advance can “lead to much more expensive procedures, like root canals,” Harms says. That’s why regular dental checkups are so important.
Also, once a cavity starts, it doesn’t repair itself. A cavity “will always grow once you get to a point where you can’t clean it out any longer.” Once decay gets into the dentin of the tooth — below the enamel — it just continues to grow.

  1. Change your toothbrush! Manual toothbrushes become worn out after about 3 months and are not as effective as they once were. If you have gum disease, you should change your toothbrush every 4 – 6 weeks because bacteria can harbor in the bristles. You should always rinse your toothbrush out with hot water after every use and change it after you have been sick.
  2. Bad breath could be from a dental problem. About 85% of people with persistent bad breath have a dental condition that is to blame. If bad breath is the cause of a dental condition, mouthwash will only mask the odor and not cure it. Don’t be embarrassed to talk to your dentist; they are there to help you. Flossing daily and brushing your teeth & tongue twice a day can greatly reduce and possibly eliminate bad breath.
  3. Smoking increases you chance of poor dental health. Smokers have seven times the risk of developing gum disease compared to non-smokers.
  4. Dental Hygienists find more than just dental problems. Routine dental checkups can discover skin diseases, mental illness, diabetes, thyroid problems, leukemia, cancer or hardening of the arteries in their early stages.

  1. . According to Oral Health in America: A Report of the Surgeon General:

Tooth decay is the single most common chronic childhood disease. It’s five times more common than asthma and seven times more common than hay fever.

More than 50% of five- to nine-year-old children have at least one cavity or filling, and that proportion increases to 78% among 17-year-olds.

Wow! There are lots of good reasons to take care of our oral health, huh? One more fact from the very latest in dental research is that chewing sugar-free gum with Xylitol effectively prevents cavities!

I hope you learned something new this week, I know I did!

Be Well,

Nurse Pam

For more dental health tips, read these:

Save on Dental Bills
Read Ask a Dental Hygienist: Fluoride
Ask a Nurse: The Top10 Things Dentists Want You to Know
A Trip to the Dentist

Comments

  1. Sharon says

    I am faithful to change out my toothbrush every 3 months, but it sounds like I should actually be doing it every 4-6 weeks. Thanks for the tips and good luck!

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