what dentists wish you knew

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I don’t get birthday cards from many of my friends, but I do get one from my dentist. A smiling tooth wishes me a happy birthday, as well as a reminder to make an appointment.

Yet I’ve postponed my last three trips, somehow convincing myself that, like cleaning the gutters at my house, I’ll put it off until there’s a problem.

It’s a mistake, said Tricia Quartey-Sagall, a spokeswoman for the American Dental Association and a practicing dentist in Brooklyn. “Many people see the absence of pain as an indicator that nothing is going wrong and say, ‘My teeth are fine, I don’t need to go,'” she said.

The ADA does not have a set schedule for checkups; Some people only need to visit the dentist once or twice a year, while others may need more visits. But all three dentists I spoke to for this newsletter agreed that you should go.

Often, Dr. Quartey-Sagal pointed out, “there’s no pain” with periodontal diseases, which are typically caused by infection of the gums and bones that support the teeth and affect about half of adults 30 and older. affects, potentially leading to tooth and bone loss. And the last thing you want is to make an emergency appointment when you’re in pain. For one thing, she said, when it happens, it’s inevitably “on the weekend, or when you’re on vacation internationally.”

It’s a good thing. I’m going to my dentist next Tuesday (though I haven’t made an appointment to have my gutters cleaned yet.) Here are five other things the dentist would like us to know.

As every dentist you’ve ever seen has probably said, you should floss daily. It’s true that if you slack off for a while, you may see a little blood when you resume the habit, said Tien Jiang, MD, instructor of oral health policy and epidemiology at the Harvard School of Dental Medicine. But stick with it. “It’s like starting to exercise when you haven’t in a while, and your muscles ache,” she said. “I encourage patients to push through that initial period because they need that debridement to get back to health.”

If you have prolonged bleeding gums, visit your dentist. said Poornima Kumar, chair of the Department of Periodontology and Oral Medicine at the University of Michigan School of Dentistry. “Would you be worried if you bleed from any part of your body?” He asked. “Don’t normalize bleeding gums!”

Dr. Kumar also suggests that people who have gaps between their teeth use an interdental brush, a small, thin, “absolutely fine” brush designed to reach the hidden places where bacteria can grow. Has been done

Toothpaste containing powdered activated charcoal, marketed as a natural teeth whitener, has grown in popularity over the past few years.

But a 2017 study published in the Journal of the American Dental Association concluded that while charcoal toothpastes may be “trendy,” they don’t have a whitening effect. Instead, the researchers found that the abrasiveness of the charcoal toothpaste could lead to tooth hypersensitivity; Charcoal particles can remain in gum pockets, causing damage and discoloration; And some of them contained fluoride. (These toothpastes also leave a “gray-black smear” on your towels.)

Be aware that no charcoal toothpastes have received the ADA Seal of Acceptance, which is a good resource for researching products. Instead, Dr. Jiang said, white toothpastes that get the seal are good to use every day.

brush your teeth. Do this twice a day for two minutes at a 45-degree angle against the gum line. This is what the ADA says you should be doing when it comes to brushing. Both electric and manual toothbrushes work.

That said, if you’re an avid brusher, Dr. Jiang said, an electric toothbrush with a pressure sensor that tells you to take it down a notch can be helpful, since brushing too vigorously can damage the gums. One of the main reasons for the decline of

The mouth and the rest of the body are interconnected, but are often treated separately in health care, said Nazer Al-Hebshi, co-director of the Oral Microbiome Research Laboratory at Temple University’s Kornberg School of Dentistry.

And a growing body of research shows how dental health can affect other parts of the body. Dr. Al-Hebshi listed five diseases for which there is “moderate to strong evidence” that periodontal disease may be a contributing factor, including diabetes, some cancers and heart disease.

“So if you maintain very good oral health, you have a lower risk of developing cardiovascular complications, for example,” he said. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, people with diabetes who treat their gum disease may be able to lower their blood sugar over time.

In a 2022 survey of dentists conducted by the ADA, half reported that they had treated patients who were under the influence of marijuana or another drug.

“I’m watching it in my office,” said Dr. Quartey-Sagale. One reason patients may self-medicate, she said, is that they are nervous. But, she explained: “You can’t consent to treatment if you’re intoxicated. If patients have anxiety, it can make things worse, and I’m not able to numb people effectively.” ” A 2019 study of cannabis users undergoing minimally invasive procedures found that a quarter of them required twice as much anesthesia as patients who did not participate.

Inquire about options for pain control, if that concerns you, Dr. Jiang said. For teeth that are especially sensitive, he said, start a brushing a few weeks before your appointment with a potassium nitrate solution such as Sensodyne.

And if you took weed gummies before coming, tell your dentist. (You’ll join the 67 percent of patients in the same ADA survey who reported they were comfortable talking to their dentist about marijuana.)” Dr. Quartey-Sagale said.

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