A visit to the dentist’s office is often thought of as a slightly stressful experience. For some, the floodgates of ‘what ifs’ may burst open – what if there’s decay, what if an extraction is needed, what if it’s costly, what if it’s uncomfortable, what if I can’t clique with my dentist, what if I receive news that I’m not prepared for, what if there’s something abnormal. The list of questions seems to be never ending, and even more so if one has not been to the dentist regularly. The irony is that recalling all our initial concerns suddenly becomes difficult when we are seated on the dental chair.
An excellent way to help you make the most out of your visit would be to list down the concerns or questions that you have. This way, you are less likely to miss out on something that you’ve been wanting to ask but, let’s admit it, been putting off for the longest time, be it out of fear or sounding silly. Be it why your gums bleed or feel tender when you brush, why there is soreness or discomfort at your jaw joint, why that stubborn ulcer does not seem to stay away, if having this lump or bump in your mouth normal, or simply what the correct brushing or flossing technique is. As clichéd as it may sound, most dentists will probably concur that there is no such thing as a silly question so fret not and ask away!
Our experience is that patients who ask questions about their care often feel more confident, motivated and in control about their own treatment choices. It also gives your dentist the opportunity to clear any doubts or alleviate any unfounded fears that you may have been feeling. All these translates to a better relationship with the dental team and may even lead to better treatment outcomes.
Sharing your medical history
Your health is important to us. Information that is relevant to your dental care includes allergies, medications that you are taking, pre-existing medical conditions and previous or upcoming planned surgeries.
Allergies to medications are fairly common. The degree of the allergic reaction vary significantly between different individuals, and in some instances can be life threatening. It is prudent to inform your dentist on the very first visit if you are new to the practice and to update the dentist promptly should you suddenly develop an allergy to any medication.
Allergies to dental materials, though fairly uncommon, do occur in some individuals. The most commonly encountered allergies in the dental setting are hypersensitivity to latex and metal alloys used in the fabrication of dental appliances, dental fillings, dental crowns or dentures. The symptoms of an allergic reactions may differ between individuals, often manifested as a combination of a skin rash, burning sensation or swelling on or adjacent to the area that has come into contact with the material. These symptoms may occur immediately or start to show after a few days. While most allergic reactions tend to be localized and resolve spontaneously once the offending material is removed, it is always wise to inform your dentist to prevent unnecessary repeated suffering and distress. If you are unable to pinpoint the source of the allergy, you can request for a patch test to be carried out with your physician. Having understood the nature of the allergen, your dentist can subsequently counsel you on the use of alternative materials in your future dental care.
Your health history and past experiences with surgeries provides your dentist with a baseline assessment of how best to provide you with safe dental care.You should also always keep him or her updated about any recent changes in your health, tweaks in the medications that you are taking or other planned medical procedures that you are embarking on.
Talking about regular preventive care
We are all familiar with the saying ‘Prevention is better than cure’ but truth be told, most of us would rather adopt the ‘wait and see’ approach – perhaps my gums will stop bleeding if I brush less vigorously, maybe that bump will go away if I have a less “heaty” diet for the next few days, maybe my tooth will stop aching if I avoid chewing on that side, perhaps a delay for another 6 months before another dental cleaning – than go near the dentist’s office with a ten foot pole.
Here’s a tip, regular dental attenders often pay less and have a much more pleasant experience as most of the treatment done are preventive or more conservative in nature. Almost all patients who attend for dental checkups, even the regular attenders, will need some form of dental treatment. The difference between the regular attenders and those who avoid it like the plague, lies in the complexity of the dental treatment that is needed. In general, the longer the delay, the more complex (which roughly translates to more pain and money) the treatment will be. So perhaps it’s no wonder why the floodgates of ‘what ifs’ burst open, possibly along with a huge tide of irrational fears or phobia when a visit to the dentist is looming.
An issue that baffles many people is that why does one still suffer from gum disease or tooth decay if he or she brushes twice daily and visits the dentist regularly. The reason for this phenomenon is multi-factorial. Is your daily brushing regime, a proper 2-minute routine with the correct brushing technique? Are you flossing each and every space between your teeth? When was the last time you replaced your toothbrush? Are you suffering from any medical conditions such as diabetes? Are you experiencing any hormonal changes, e.g. pregnancy? Is there a familial history of gum disease? Are there hidden sugars in your diet? Are your existing dental restorations in good order?
In short, the root causes for dental diseases may be peculiar to an individual. Exploring these causative factors together with your dentist will enable him or her to chart the most effective way forward for you. Talk to your dentist about preventive care. Practices that have your long-term dental health in mind will often have affordable dental plans that is designed to provide you with holistic, regular and timely dental care.
Dental treatment need not be expensive, but neglect is! It’s never too late, so help us to help you to keep your teeth for life.