Consumer Reports' Dental Do's and Don'ts for a Healthier Smile
In the February 2012 issue of Consumer Reports magazine in an article titled “Dental Do’s and Don’ts,” researchers report that there’s both good news and bad news about personal dental care. The good news is that their surveys reveal that dental patients are overwhelmingly satisfied with their dental care to the point where it rates higher than other services and is on par with the service they get from their physician. Furthermore, few survey respondents report ever experiencing more than just mild pain or discomfort during dental procedures.
The bad news, however, is that only a third of the respondents admitted to brushing and flossing as recommended by the ADA; that the prohibitive expense of some procedures leads to delays in getting proper dental care; and, that many patients may be paying for needless cosmetic procedures. Furthermore, on a national scale, only 57% of the American public possesses dental health insurance.
To help guide consumers toward making healthy and cost-saving dental care decisions for a healthier and happier smile, Consumer Reports lists their “Dental Do’s and Don’ts” as summarized below:
Do brush and floss your teeth—the most important dental care of all is regular brushing and flossing. Not only will regular brushing and flossing 2-3 times a day prevent plaque accumulation that leads to gum disease, but research shows that it can also protect your heart and arteries as well. Plaque-causing bacteria can enter your bloodstream through your gums and cause significant damage to your blood vessels as well as lead to oral infections that can spread to the jaw and skull. Furthermore, patients with diabetes are at an increased risk of exacerbating their condition because they are also more prone to develop tooth and gum disease.
Do get a dental checkup (but not as often as you may think)—getting a checkup to have the eventual buildup of plaque and tartar professionally removed ensures good gum health; however, having your teeth cleaned twice a year does not mean that you are making up for continual poor personal dental hygiene. Research does not support the belief that multiple yearly visits can replace regular brushing and flossing.
In fact, dental experts point out that those who do go twice a year are likely doing so needlessly if they have good dental hygiene. If tartar is slow to develop in their teeth; have no signs of gum disease; and, do not easily develop cavities, then they can get by with only one exam and teeth cleaning every 12 to 18 months and save a significant amount of money.
Do chew sugarless gum—if you have an occasional or regular gum chewing habit, choose sugarless chewing gums that contain xylitol, which has a natural sugar alcohol component to it that can help prevent tooth decay.
Do deal with your dental anxiety—the best strategy for dealing with dental anxiety is through good and consistent brushing and flossing, so that your visits to the dentist are as few as possible and for only minor procedures. The biggest problem with dental anxiety is that it causes people to avoid going to the dentist for regular cleaning or evaluation of minor tooth pain until the problem develops into a major medical/dental condition.
Another way to deal with dental anxiety is to let the dental staff know ahead of time your fears and concerns of pain or unpleasantness. Not only will this alert them to being especially cautious around sensitive areas, but can also let them know that you may require options for dealing with pain not typically needed by patients undergoing similar procedures. A predetermined hand signal can alert the dentist or assistant that you need a short break during a procedure.
Don’t be a frequent snacker—frequent snacking (especially sugary foods or beverages) is not only feeding yourself, but also feeding harmful cavity-causing bacteria. There’s a reason behind the advice to brush after every meal, and if you are a snacker constant brushing is not only difficult, but can lead to over-brushing and physically wearing away of enamel.
Don’t fear pain—most fear of pain at a dentist’s office is unrealistic. According to Consumer Reports the most reported painful procedure is tooth extraction. However, what most patients do not realize is that the majority of the pain associated with a root canal occurs before treatment when the patient decides he or she needs to get to the dentist—fast!
With root canal surgery, approximately 44% stated that they experienced mild pain after surgery and only 5% said that they experienced severe pain. Treatment is actually typically pain-free because the procedure is done under a local anesthetic. An over-the-counter pain reliever is the most common and necessary solution to dealing with pain after the numbing effects of the anesthetic wears off; however, a dentist may decide that a stronger pain reliever such as codeine is needed with some patients.
Don’t have unnecessary procedures done—unnecessary procedures are the primary moneymaker in many dental practices. According to Consumer Reports, dental experts told them that some practice-management courses train dentists to push cosmetic procedures on their patients in order to increase their revenue. “Every time a patient sits down in that chair you’ve got to generate a certain amount of income,” says one expert.One of the biggest and easiest money-makers is selling teeth whitening treatments in the dental office.
On average a custom teeth whitening tray or UV light whitening procedure costs about $250. Surveys reveal, however, that in comparing patient satisfaction between in-office cosmetic whitening with over-the-counter teeth whitening products, that consumers of the over-the-counter products were more satisfied with the results. A Consumer Reports study reveals that not only do over-the-counter teeth whitening strips cost much less, but that they also work better toward whitening teeth.
Other unnecessary procedures can include things such as amalgam filling replacement, some restoration procedures, “precautionary” wisdom tooth removal, frequent bitewing x-rays and temporal mandibular joint (TMJ) surgery.
In a nutshell, Consumer Reports reveals that:
• Amalgam fillings are not proven to be linked to health problems via their mercury content. And, you have to remember that with filling replacement, extra healthy tooth is removed in order to fit in a new composite filling.
• Imperfections of the tooth surface sometimes referred to as “microcavities” may not really develop into full-fledged cavities if left untreated with drilling and filling. And, extreme close-up fiberoptic images of “micro” fractures do not necessarily indicate that a protective crown is warranted.
• Wisdom teeth only need to be removed if they are causing problems. In some people, wisdom teeth do not ever damage nearby molars.
• Annual bitewing x-rays are the norm, but if cavities are rare, 18 months or longer between x-rays is fine.
• Surgical treatment of TMJ pain has not been proven to effectively cure all TMJ problems. Time and wearing a night-guard may prove more beneficial for many patients.
For more information on how to achieve a happier and healthier smile, follow this link to a recent article about a study that shows a new way on how to brush more effectively to prevent cavities.
Image Source: Courtesy of MorgueFile
Reference: Consumer Reports