2013-10-11 / Community Events

Five things your dentist may not tell you

By Maj. Brandon Coleman
Tingay Dental Clinic

Most people do not spend much time worrying about their teeth. The majority of people spend less than two minutes a day on dental hygiene. October is National Dental Hygiene Month and is an appropriate time to highlight the role that dental hygiene plays in oral health. It is the cheapest, easiest, and most painfree way to keep the teeth healthy for a lifetime. The American Dental Hygiene Association’s 2013 theme is very simple: “Brush, Floss, Rinse, Chew.” Brush twice a day, floss once daily, use a mouthrinse, and chew sugar-free gum to reduce the acid levels in the mouth. In addition, here are some common myths and misconceptions.

Misconception 1

“I’m good at brushing.” Brushing is like driving – most people consider themselves above average, but oftentimes that is not the case. The dental community stresses two minutes of brushing twice a day. Look at a watch tonight and see that two minutes is seemingly a long time. Since most people brush the same way every single time, honest feedback from a dentist or hygienist is important to ensure that a person is brushing as they should. When younger, people brush to avoid caries, cavities, that typically occur at the tops of the teeth, occlusal surfaces. As people age, a person’s caries risk decreases and are more prone to gingivitis and periodontal disease. The bacteria that cause these are located where the tooth meets the gingival, gumline. So adults that are still primarily brushing the occlusal surfaces of their teeth to avoid caries are actually missing the bacteria that needs to be removed. And, yes, floss, as it is important. There is a technique to flossing as well, so consult a hygienist.

Misconception 2

“Teeth are a low priority.” Oral health is a component of Soldiers’ overall health and wellness. Dental problems commonly affect unit readiness and remarkably most are completely preventable. Unit leadership does not want to be burdened with dental problems that could have been avoided. The Army Dental Corps is rolling out its new Go First Class Campaign in order to streamline the process, cut down on wait times, and serve the Soldiers faster. By combining routine appointments, the Dental Corps aims to give Soldiers a better overall experience. But, Soldiers must do their part and be proactive about addressing problems. They must also refer back to misconception 1.

Misconception 3

“My teeth have never bothered me.” Recent studies suggest that as many of half of Americans have some form of periodontal disease. While many cases are mild, these numbers are much higher than once thought. Periodontal disease is a long-term infection that has no symptoms initially, but if not treated can result in tooth loss. Early detection is key. The dental hygienist is a critical part of the dental team and frequent routine cleanings will help prevent or control the disease process.

Misconception 4

“My teeth are infected and the infection will spread to my brain.” Patients will sometimes come to a dental appointment out of a fear that the infection in their mouth will spread throughout the body. Researchers have found little evidence to support such claims. The association between periodontal disease and diabetes is well established, however it is not so clear with other medical conditions.

Misconception 5

“ The Army dental insurance is awful.” The dental insurance provided to Service members’ dependents is similar to most other dental insurances in terms of what it covers and how much it provides. Dental insurance simply cannot cover all of your dental expenses. If it did cover 90 percent or 100 percent of everything, to include braces or implants, then premiums each month would be unaffordable. The dental insurance is a good value. In fact, insurance pays for itself after the first cleaning appointment alone. Remember that it is an investment, and insurance helps, but was never meant to cover everything. Again, working with a hygienist and preventing problems is much easier than paying for expensive treatment later.

Prevention is critical when it comes to oral health. All the above issues can be avoided with an emphasis on oral hygiene. The dental team, to include the hygienist, can help improve a person’s dental health. Most people only spend an hour a year in the dentist’s office. How people maintain their teeth the other 364 days and 23 hours of the year makes a huge difference in their overall dental health. Being proactive and preventing future problems will save money and stress in the long run. Since October is Dental Hygiene month, now may be as good a time as any to make an appointment if you are due.

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