Dental Phobia

Did you know that it is estimated that as many as 58% of US adults have some degree of dental phobia? I ask myself constantly where this anxiety comes from - is it from a past dental experience, negative dental propaganda or something much larger. I tend to ask my anxious patients what exactly about dentists or dental offices make them uncomfortable. In older generations I cannot tell you how many times and stories I have heard about their dental phobia stemming from when they were children. Dental insurance was not always (and is still not always) a benefit available to most people and chances are even if you had it, your dentist did not accept it. Most families could not afford regular dental care and would therefore wait until there was a dental emergency before going to see good ol' Dr. Rootcanal (kidding, of course). Prolonging these visits to when someone in the family was in discomfort only made the situation worse. On occasion, a families could not afford the anesthesia used to avoid discomfort, this made for and extremely uncomfortable procedure. If something got too uncomfortable or if the patient would not hold still, some dentists would use a papoose board to strap the patient down. In these unfortunate situations, the patient, usually a child, had no control. Dentists were/are portrayed as cold, calculated and uncaring for shock value in movies and sadly dental instruments were used as torture devices by some very bad people in history. Luckily - our industry has changed, a lot.

The most reliable way to help a patient deal with dental phobia, is to give control back to the patient. We do not confine patient to their dental chair or the operatory. I highly recommend you allow me to treat you in the operatory, but if you need to stop and get up and move around, take a break - you are allowed to do so as often as you may need. Waiting rooms and operatories are designed with a more welcoming, comfortable feel. In-office amenities such as noise cancelling headphones, televisions, and music are available for your comfort. These things will help keep your mind off of the dental room As with most phobias, there are many way to conquer your fear; solutions such as meditation, guided imagery, acupuncture are in my opinion among the more extreme and may not be the answer for everyone. If those aren't for you - gentle sedation such as nitrous oxide (N20 or laughing gas), moderate sedation such as oral medications and total sedation using IV medications (take me to dream land) are always options. Rest assured, we can and will do our best to make you comfortable no matter the degree of dental phobia you may have experienced, and most importantly I will always take the time to listen and provide recommendations.

Oil Pulling

Oil pulling is the practice of swishing oil (coconut, sesame, or sunflower oil is recommended) for 20 minutes each day. The benefits are said to help prevent gingivitis and plaque buildup - some also say it can help prevent cavities among other health benefits. It is really difficult for someone in my profession to try a different oral health technique to really get a grasp on the dental benefits of it. I say this because anyone in the dentistry profession has a tendency to get regular cleanings and check up's and often times more than every six months. As the "oil pulling" trend is becoming more popular, patients are asking me how I feel about it - so I did it. My oil pulling experience was interesting. Swishing coconut oil for a solid 20 minutes each day was trying on me, my jaw got tired and it seemed like 20 minutes lasted a lifetime. I did read that there are other, shorter methods to do this - but I wanted to try it as authentically as possible.

I did notice right away that my breath felt like it was fresher. I am not able to attest whether it was the refreshing coconut oil or if it really genuinely cleaned bacteria and plaque off of my gums and teeth. After a few days of this painstaking task, I did notice less tissue breakage when I flossed meaning my gums were a little healthier. I will have to have one of my hygienists tell me how well I did at my next hygiene cleaning where they can check under the gum line and take my periodontal readings. All in all, I can see how oil pulling has some benefits. I would not recommend oil pulling as a substitute for regular hygiene appointments and dental check up's and I certainly do not suggest skipping brushing or flossing regularly either, but as an addition to your current healthy dental hygiene habits, I say go for it. Let me know if you have tried it and how you feel about it.

How do you choose the best dentist for you?

Finding someone who your trust to take care of your smile can be a daunting task, after all - it is only your smile. Doctors in general tend to abide by a strict code of principals, ethics and professional conduct; however that is not all that makes a good match. How do you choose the best dentist for you? The majority of the new patients that come to my office for the first time come on the personal recommendation from a trusted colleague, friend or family member. Asking a friend or family member is typically the go to when searching for something new and different. The American Dental Association has done everything they can to make alternate searching fast and easy. All American Dental Association Members have promised to follow the ADA Principles of Ethics and Code of Professional Conduct, which consists of five ethical principles: 1. Self-Governance 2. Do no harm 3. Do good 4. Fairness and 5. Truthfulness (for more information go to http://www.mouthhealthy.org/en/az-topics/e/Ethics-and-Dentistry).

Other things to consider when choosing a new dentist are if office is near your work or home, your schedules work together, there are options available for after-hours emergency care, you feel comfortable in the office, the office appears clean and orderly, the staff is friendly, etc. Now-a-days most of this information can be located online. If someone has had a bad experience, the internet will know about it. Most dental offices have professional WebPages that allow you to preview the office, fill out forms, and see pictures of the Doctor and other staff members - pre acquainting yourself with office before you even make an appointment. How do you choose the best dentist for you? Only you can answer what your personal expectations and needs are. For more resources or information on how you can find an ADA dentist in your area go to http://www.mouthhealthy.org/en/find-a-dentist

Make a plan, pick a day and quit

Every November the American Cancer Society promotes the "Great American Smoke out." Its purpose is to encourage tobacco users to make a plan, pick a day and quit. We all know there are a million and five reasons to quit using tobacco. The education organizations like the American Cancer Society providers for free is almost overwhelming!

It is no secret that tobacco use affects the heart, lungs, throat, skin etc. - but did you know, according to the American Cancer Society, that smoking and chewing tobacco can increase your risk for bladder and cervical cancer as well? 5 years of quitting tobacco the risk for these cancers decreases to that of a non tobacco user. There is a multitude of immediate benefits of quitting as well, all of which are located on the American Cancer Society's webpage http://www.cancer.org/healthy/stayawayfromtobacco/guidetoquittingsmoking/guide-to-quitting-smoking-benefits

From a dental standpoint, smoking and chewing tobacco causes staining of the teeth, bad breath, and gum disease (which can cause tooth loss) not to mention it can lead to mouth and/or throat cancer. Tobacco can even threaten current dental treatment you are undergoing or have already completed. The instability tobacco use causes to gum tissue can make you more at risk of losing restoratives on teeth. If you needed more reason than this, quit because you deserve a life without addiction. My office will always offer the incentive of "Quit smoking for 6 months and get free bleach trays." As this year comes to an end, make it your resolution to make a plan, pick a day and quit for good!

Understanding Dental Insurance

Now that the end of the year is approaching a lot of you are going through plan after plan your employer has selected for your medical, dental and vision plans. I hope this will help in understanding dental insurance better and will assist in helping you choose the correct plan for you. One of the largest misconceptions about dental insurance is that it works hand in hand with your medical insurance - it does not. Dental insurance is a completely different animal. The way I can best describe it to a patient is to think of it strictly as a discount - no more, no less. Dental coverage is decided by how much your employer pays into the plan, it has nothing to do with what your dentist would recognize as the best possible treatment. It is a contract between your employer and the insurance company and they are deciding what amounts your plan pays and what is covered. You as an employee have every right to let your employer know if your coverage is not adequate for your health needs.

So many of my patients will tend to select the treatment option that is covered by their dental insurance and not what is recommended. I feel I must point out that your health is the most important thing. As many of you know I tend to recommend to my patients what I would to my own mother or father to keep their mouths healthy; it is not my practice to overextend your wallets. Many dental offices, including mine, try to help take all the guess work out of dental insurance. We will call and get full breakdowns from each company to get an overview of what is covered and what is not. We will file all of your claims so you do not have to mess with the paperwork and follow up ultimately saving you a lot of time and money. Dental insurance is just one part of staying healthy. If you ever have any questions on how your insurance works - we will be more than happy to take the time to explain all of the ins and outs. We will help you understand what your insurance will cover and how to plan accordingly. Remember, the least expensive option is not always the best option. This goes for dental, medical or vision. Understand your insurance; it will make your life a lot easier when it comes to deciding what is best for you.

What we expose ourselves to

These days we can never be too careful with our bodies and what we expose ourselves to. More often than not I have patients who will decline dental X-rays because of the myth of how much radiation they actually produce. It is not my practice, nor any member of my staff to unnecessarily expose patients to radiation. The recommended amount of X-rays truly depends on your age, oral and physical health, and your risk for disease, thus the reason a health history update is asked for at each visit to the office. For instance, children require dental X-rays more often than adults as their mouths continue to grow and develop and their mouths are more susceptible to tooth decay. Even though adult's mouths stop developing at a certain point that does not mean that the mouth stops changing. X-rays are important for adults as well to monitor new decay and any wear and tear that comes with (gasp) age, eating habits, previous dental work or trauma.

Dental X-Rays are safe, but they do require very low levels of radiation exposure. There are certain types of images in very specific instances that do emit a much high dose of radiation, but Cone Beam images are rare and if your dentist or doctor suggests one, it would be for a very good reason. The lead jackets provided protects your vital organs and your thyroid from the low levels of radiation delivered though routine dental X-rays. The background radiation of a set of dental X-rays is 1 day. Background radiation is natural radiation that we are all exposed to on a daily basis and can be found in soil, rocks, buildings, the sun, air and water. The radiation you are exposed to on a 4 hour passenger airline flight is the same as 1 set of dental X-rays. For this and more information about dental x-rays please visit http://www.mouthhealthy.org/en/az-topics/x/x-rays

What some healthier options are to hand out – from a dentist who truly loves Halloween

With Halloween just around the corner, you may be asking yourself what some healthier options are to hand out - from a dentist who truly loves Halloween. Of course we need to give out items that won't get your house egged or teepee'd at the end of the evening. Let's face it; nobody wants to be that guy. What fun is Halloween without an endless supply of perfectly portioned chocolate bars and suckers galore? As a dentist I feel inclined to tell you to pass out tooth brushes or apples, but to keep the holiday light and fun let's review some other options and keep you under the radar.

Certain candies should always be avoided; caramels, suckers, super sour candies or anything containing a lot of acid and sticky chewy bubble gum. These types of candies have a tendency to get stuck in the grooves of your teeth and are harder to remove with regular brushing. Better choices would include pretzels, milk chocolate, dark chocolate and sugar free gum. As a parent, I do not forbid my children to have all sorts of candies, but I do limit their intake and make sure they are brushing and flossing for at least 2 minutes twice per day.

Here are a few tips straight from the American Dental Associations "Mouth Healthy" site to help your children stay on top of their hygiene year round: Drink more fluoridated water, it can help prevent tooth decay; avoid sucking on candy for long periods of time, the amount of time the sugar stays in your mouth plays a role in tooth decay; eat Halloween candy shortly after mealtime, the saliva your mouth produces while eating and help rinse away those extra food particles. For this and more tips please visit http://www.mouthhealthy.org/en/az-topics/h/halloween-tips

Lastly, if you want to incentivize your kids to make a little mad money and not run the risk of getting cavities - I offer $1.00 for every pound of candy that is brought into my office. All the candy brought to the office and bought off your kids will be sent overseas to our soldiers who need a little extra as the holidays approach.

Are your dentures on the loose?

This is an important topic for me because I feel very passionately about what some generations have endured with dental appliances that are not up to current standards. When I see a patient wearing dentures that are loose, ill fitting, and uncomfortable I am continually baffled by what we will internally rationalize to make something "work". So many patients have the mindset that dentures are not supposed to act and feel like real teeth, and I am not going to blow smoke - nothing will act and feel like your natural teeth, however, dentures can in fact be comfortable, attractive, and most importantly work for your needs. Dentures are not meant to last forever. Whether you have natural teeth or not our mouths are constantly changing. It is a lifelong process. Are your dentures on the loose? It may be time to look into some new options to help you feel better about eating, speaking and functioning on a daily basis.

Believe it or not, 27.27% of seniors over age 65 have no remaining teeth. There are so many people in our community that live day in and day out without the ability to properly chew food, or speak with confidence. The bone in the body acts like muscle. When muscles are exercised, they grow strong. When bone is stimulated, it also becomes stronger. Bone of the jaw can only be stimulated by a tooth or by an implant. The connections between a tooth, or an implant preserve the size and shape of the bone. Bone needs the stimulation of the tooth roots to maintain its form, density, and strength. Studies have proven that the normal chewing forces that are transmitted from the teeth to the bone of the jaw are what preserves the bone and keeps it strong.

With the technology as advanced as it is today, new options for denture replacement can range anywhere from single tooth replacement to full arch restoration; standard removable dentures to implant retained hybrids. My office offers every option and I love nothing more than being able to change patients well being by restoring their smile.

What you eat matters

Remember in the 1980's when fitness became all the rage? We tend to go in cycles of what we as a group consider popular or trendy. The fitness craze is back, and it is back with a vengeance. Everywhere I turn there are marathons, 5k's, fun runs, cross fit, hot yoga, Barre3 - I could go on and on. The cycle is the same with our diets; juicing, the raw food movement, the sudden popularity of kale and Brussels sprouts, 6 small meals a day, low carb, no carb, paleo diets. Regardless of trend the bottom line is always the same: What you eat matters. I fully embrace a healthy lifestyle, and as a dentist I am more aware of what I put into my mouth because I know the effects certain foods have on my oral health. I understand, and I want all of you to understand that your mouth is a huge component in your overall health.

Just to cover all the angles I will go ahead and state the obvious; sugar, sticky candy, lollipops, hard breads, and soda can be damaging to your teeth. Did you know that items such as fruits, certain coffee and tea, alcohol, sports drinks and flavored waters, nuts, even ice can lead to an unhealthy mouth? Fruits that are high in citric acid can cause erosion and irritate your gum tissue, causing sores. Coffee and tea, when you add all the good stuff can cause tooth decay; alcohol promotes dehydration and dry mouth which causes tooth decay as well. What you eat matters more than you know. While we all strive to live a little healthier - body, mind, soul and mouth, avoid excessive snacking. Not only is it dangerous to your waistline it is dangerous to your teeth as well - the more you snack the more food is collected in the little tiny crevices and remain hidden until your next brushing. When snacking, choose cheese, almonds, leafy greens, eggs, etc. Try to avoid sugar, even "sugar free" snacks. Most importantly, remember to brush and floss regularly - and come see me for your preventative needs.

Baby teeth, are they really THAT important????

There are a number of parents out there that think; they are just my kid's baby teeth, are they real THAT important???? I think we assume that since teeth aren't visible they aren't exposed to the same thing that adult teeth are. 20 baby teeth are already formed in the jaw at the time of birth and typically erupt before babies are 6 months old. When I see decay on baby teeth and I discuss those findings with Mom or Dad - you wouldn't believe how many of them say they would rather wait until their baby teeth fall out. Baby teeth are just as important as adult teeth. Teaching your children about good oral hygiene early can lead to healthy mouth habits that will preserve their smile for the rest of their lives. We are only given two sets of teeth - and once the permanent ones are gone, they are gone for good. The American Dental Association recommends that parents take children to the dentist no later than their first birthday and then at intervals recommended by their dentist.

Kid's mouths go through so much. First they have to deal with the awkward gaps that can form when teeth are missing. If a baby tooth comes out too soon, it can cause problems for the adult teeth trying to grow in. Drifting, spacing, crowding and crooked teeth can be a result of losing teeth before their time. That then results in a mouth full of metal to correct that. 2 years of metal - orthodontia has come such a long way but still. I went through orthodontics as an adult so I UNDERSTAND, trust me. As if it couldn't get any worse then come the wisdom teeth. Without regular dental care; cleanings, x-rays, sealants and fluoride - all preventative items - we are putting our kids at risk of making dentistry a horrible, dreaded thing.

I am not out to make braces or getting your wisdom teeth pulled a terrible thing, it really isn't. Ever heard the saying "An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure?" That is the bottom line; Baby teeth, are they really THAT important???? Yes.