Secrets Your Dentist Won't Tell

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Contributed to the reporting of this fun story, which appeared in the July 2009 issue of Reader's Digest

Transcript of Secrets Your Dentist Won't Tell





What your insurance company wants us to do isnt necessarily whats best for you.


Do you floss about as often as you flip your mattress?Do you spend more time putting toothpaste on your brush than actually cleaning your teeth? Dentists notice these things. And thats not all. They also know when youre asking for a procedure thats going to disappoint you and when insurance companies are stinting on the care your smile needs. We asked 22 dentists from across the country to tell us what theyre really thinking as they peer at our teeth. What came out of their mouths will change the way you treat yours.

You Dont Get It>> Some truly educated people thinkthat if nothing in their mouth hurts, theyre ne. High cholesterol doesnt hurt, either, but its a big problem. I honestly think that the general population doesnt understand that their mouth is part of their body.D a nine F resch Gray, DDS,general dentist, Arlington, Virginia

>> Many of my patients have periodontal disease affecting their back teeth, but their front teeth are ne. Evidently, they brush only what others Joel Slaven, DDS, see.general dentist, Valencia, California

>> Dentists often tell patients withadvanced gum disease to oss more often. But ossing is useless at that point. Imagine trying to clean out the bottom of a shirt pocket with a piece of string tied to your ngers.Reid Winick, DDS,holistic dentist, New York, New York

>> If your hands bled when you washed them, youd run to the doctor. But in the publics mind, bleeding gums are okay. Unless youre really whaling away with your brush, if your gums bleed even a little, thats periodontal disease, period. Ron Schefdore, DMD,general dentist, Chicago, Illinois

>> People come to me with a mouthfulof tooth decay and say, I got my grandfathers soft teeth. I dont even know what soft teeth are. Bryan Tervo, DDS,general dentist, Trenton, Ohio

>> The advice to see your dentist twice a year applies only if you have healthy gums. Most people dont.Chris Kammer, DDS,cosmetic dentist, Middleton, Wisconsin

>> When someone meets you for therst time, the rst thing they notice is eyes. Second is teeth, and third 7/09


hair. But people spend way more money on their hair than their teeth.D a mian D achowski, DM D,general dentist, Horsham, Pennsylvania

minty for a half hour, but then the bad breath comes back worse than ever.Gary Hersk ovits, DDS

>> Proper oral hygiene requires tenminutes of brushing and ossing every day. The average adult spends two or three minutes total, and kids do even J oel Slaven, D D S worse.

New and Improved? Yeah, Right>> Theresno reason to sanitize a toothbrush unless youre sharing it with other people. Those UV devices

Our Noses Still Work>> People who smoke try to cover itup with mints or mouthwash, but that stench is steeped into their gum tissue and the tissues in their mouth.J ennif er Jablow, DDS,cosmetic dentist, New York, New York


Gary Herskov its, DDS, family dentist, Brooklyn, New York

and other germ zappers are totally unnecessary. Joel Slaven, DDS

>> Theres a limit to what toothpaste can do. New whitening formula? It can get rid of surface stains, but it cant whiten like a bleach.Careen Young, DDS,prosthodontist, Beverly Hills, California

>> Brushing doesnt go deep enoughinto the gums to reach the plaque that causes bad breath. You need to oss every day and get a cleaning every few months. If you do all that and still have bad breath, I start looking into diet and checking for health problems.N ed Windmiller, DDS,general dentist, Stillwater, Minnesota

>> The electric toothbrush is one ofthe best things to ever happen to dentistry. The newer ones replicate professional cleaningthey wont reach much below the gum line, but theyre far superior to regular toothbrushes. The cheap ones are okay for kids, but youll have to pay more than $75 for a really good brush with a warranty and replacement heads.Danine Fresch Gray, DDS

>> A mouthwash with alcohol dries out your mouthyoull smell nice and


>> I wish people still used the Waterpik [a water-shooting device that was popular in the 1970s]. Each tooth is surrounded by a putrid, germy moat of saliva. If you replace that moat every day, youll go a long way toward keeping your mouth clean and your gums Chris K ammer, DDS healthy.

tal health and you taste your babys food and then pop the same spoon into his mouth, youre putting him at risk.Mark Help in, DMD,pediatric dentist, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

>> Kids with dental problems oftenstruggle in school. Theyre distracted and easily agitated. Teachers will say they have behavior problems, but they really have toothaches.Winifred J. Book er, DD S

We Blame You When Baby Teeth Go Bad>> Its not unusual for me to see abeautiful little child dressed to the nines with teeth rotted down to the

>> I have to extract a lot of baby teeth that are abscessed or heavily decayed.



gums. And Ill see teenagers from affluent homes with nine cavities. Its just a total breakdown in parental supervision. J oel Slaven, D D S

>> For the past 20 years, weve beentelling parents about baby bottle tooth decay and not to let a child go to sleep with a bottle. But I havent seen much of a change. W inif red J. Booker, DDS,pediatric dentist, Owings Mills, Maryland

Parents think theres no reason to pay attention to baby teeth because they fall out. But when a tooth comes out prematurely, other teeth crowd in to ll up the space. Without the right treatment, it turns into a mess.general dentist, Orlando, Florida

Paul Hettinger, DMD,

Free Advice>> 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 7/09

>> The bacteria that cause cavitiescan be spread from mother to baby through saliva. If you have poor den-

of xylitol gum every day will help keep Chris Ka mmer, DDS cavities away.

>> Some people give up on tooth whitening because the gel irritates their teeth and gums. Just use a uoride rinse or gel before and afteritll make your teeth much less sensitive.N ed Windmill er, DDS

>> I have amalgam llings in my own mouth. Theres no proof that they do any harm. Convincing patients to remove their llings for health reasons Michael Alk on, DMD, is quackery.general dentist, Holmdel, New Jersey

>> A lot of patients are worried thatdental X-rays can cause cancer, but if youre outside for an hour, youre exposed to more radiation than youd get from a full set of dental X-rays. What I worry about is that if I dont take an X-ray, I might miss something Bryan Tervo, DDS serious.

>> With any kind of mouth piercing, theres a huge risk of infection if its not done in a really sterile environment. Ive seen cases where weve had to cut out pieces of the tongue because the infection was so rampant. Even when things go well, virtually everyone I see with a tongue piercing has chipped front teeth. Dont pierce your J a y Grossman, DDS, tongue.cosmetic dentist, Brentwood, California

We Hate Insurers Too>> A few decades ago, most insuranceplans would cover up to $1,000 or $1,500 in dental bills every year. Today, a single crown can cost that much, but most policies still have the same limit. People are getting teeth pulled that could be xed because they cant afford to pay for the work.Bryan Tervo, D DS

Quit Worrying>> Amalgam [silver] llings do releasea small amount of mercury through wear and tear in the mouth. But youd have to have about 300 llings for the mercury level to get high enough to pose even the smallest risk.Ed mond Hewlett, DDS,prosthodontist, Los Angeles, California

>> Patients seem receptive to everything I say until I tell them how much it costs. I feel really good when patients accept 40 percent of what I recommend. Joel Slaven, DDS

>> Taking metal llings out can releasemore mercury than leaving them in.Brody Hildebrand, DDS, orthodontist, Dallas, Texas

>> If youre missing teeth, chancesare that your insurance company wont cover implantsonly one out 22 insurance companies I deal with covers them, even though theyre better than dentures in every way.Joel Slaven, DDS

>> Composite [tooth-colored] llings are popular, but a metal lling is going to be more durable, especially for bigger jobs. B rody Hildebrand, DDS


Your Teeth Can Alert Us to Disease>> Misaligned teeth can cause migraine headaches. If we can align the teeth and x the bite, the pain often M a i-Ly Ramirez, DDS, goes away.general dentist, San Francisco, California

>> Teeth get whiter when they dryout. Some dentists promise that their office procedures will make your teeth four shades whiter. But if you leave your mouth open for an hour, you could easily be two shades whiter just from dehydration.Careen Young, DD S

>> One of the rst signs of diabetes is bleeding gums. I started taking blood samples from all my patients with bleeding gums and bone loss around

>> If you bleach your teeth too often,it can thin the enamel. Your teeth can end up almost translucent.Jennifer Jablow, D DS