For most people, dental visits are as routine as a trip to the supermarket, but this is not the case for everyone. Some can become so overwhelmed, anxious, or nervous about seeing the dentist that they might put off their visit, even for a serious dental condition.
This kind of anxiety, often rooted in early childhood, shouldn't be dismissed or ignored. If it prevents you or someone you love from receiving needed dental care, it could disrupt your oral health—not to mention your overall well-being for years to come.
In recognition of Mental Health Awareness Month this May, here are 4 things you can do to prevent dental anxiety from robbing you of the dental care you or a loved one needs.
The right dentist. The partnership between dentist and patient may be the most important element in addressing dental anxiety. It's important to find a provider that accepts and understands your anxiety, and who won't dismiss it with trite aphorisms like, "Your fear is all in your head." Finding a dentist who listens and who will work with you in allaying your concerns is often the first step toward overcoming dental anxiety.
Facing anxiety. It's common for people to try to ignore their inner turmoil and focus instead on "getting their teeth fixed." But as sensible as that sounds, it's not really effective. It's better instead to acknowledge and be forthright about your feelings of nervousness and apprehension. With it out in the open, you and your dentist can then include managing your anxiety as a part of your overall treatment plan.
Sedation therapy. It often takes time to overcome deep-seated phobias like dental anxiety. In the meantime, though, your teeth and gums may still need care. Your dentist can help relieve your anxiety, albeit temporarily, using one or more sedation therapy techniques to help you relax during your visit. These therapies may include an oral sedative taken just before your appointment or gas or IV sedation that helps you relax completely during a treatment session.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. Psychotherapists have long used CBT to help patients overcome mental and emotional problems like depression, eating disorders, or phobias. CBT helps people change deep-seated patterns of thinking or behavior regarding a troublesome issue by confronting it and seeking to understand the "why" behind the patterns. Recently, a review of dental patients who underwent CBT for dental anxiety showed a number of positive results.
Overcoming dental anxiety can be a long journey requiring patience, courage, and understanding, but it can be done! With the techniques and methods dentists now have to address it, anxiety over dental treatment no longer need interfere with a person's ability to receive the dental care they need.
If you would like more information about dental anxiety and what to do about it, please contact us or schedule a consultation. To learn more, read the Dear Doctor magazine article “Overcoming Dental Fear & Anxiety.”
You can't rid your body of the trillions of bacteria that inhabit it—nor would you want to. Many of the thousands of species taking up residence in and around you are beneficial to you.
That includes the bacteria in your mouth living together in an invisible community known as a "microbiome." Our immune systems gradually learn to discern between those that mean us well and those that don't, and for the most part leave the former alone.
But although harmful bacteria are in the minority, they can still cause devastating infections like tooth decay and gum disease. Fortunately, we've identified their "base of operations"— a thin film of leftover food particles, that when joined with bacteria is referred to as dental plaque. Plaque buildup serves as the primary food source for harmful bacteria.
We can prevent disease by depriving bacteria of this food source—by brushing and flossing daily to remove plaque buildup. Oral hygiene, along with regular dental care, is the best way to reduce harmful oral bacteria and our risk for disease.
Without these measures disease can develop and advance quickly, damaging the teeth, gums and supporting bone. And in cases of advanced gum disease, dentists often turn to antibiotics to reduce bring rampant bacteria under control.
But we've learned the hard way that overused antibiotic therapy can cause more harm than good. For one, it can create resistance within the bacteria we're targeting that often render the antibiotics we're using impotent.
Furthermore, antibiotics can't always discern "good" bacteria from "bad." Beneficial strains may be destroyed in the process, leaving the rich bacterial "microbiome" in our mouths a wasteland. And as we're learning, our health could be worse for the loss.
To avoid this, we're beginning to use treatment applications that narrowly target malevolent bacteria while avoiding more benevolent strains. One helpful advance in this matter was the development of the Human Oral Microbiome Database HOMD, part of which has enabled us to precisely identify the individual bacteria that cause certain diseases. This has made it easier to target them with specific antibiotic drugs.
We still have much to learn about the microscopic world within our mouths. As we do, we can better cooperate with those "inhabitants" that help us maintain our health while fighting those that cause us harm.
If you would like more information on oral bacteria, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more about this topic by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “New Research Shows Bacteria Essential to Health.”
When you smoke, you're setting yourself up for problems with your health. That includes your teeth and gums—tobacco has been linked to greater susceptibility to both tooth decay and periodontal (gum) disease.
Smoking in particular can have a number of adverse effects on your mouth. Smoke can burn and form a thickened layer of the mouth's inner membranes called a keratosis. This in turn can damage the salivary glands enough to decrease saliva production, making for a drier mouth more hospitable to harmful bacteria.
Nicotine, the active chemical ingredient in tobacco, can cause the mouth's blood vessels to constrict. This causes less blood flow, thus a slower flow of nutrients and antigens to teeth and gums to ward off infection. Taken together, smokers are more likely than non-smokers to suffer from dental disease.
The impact doesn't end there. The conditions in the mouth created by smoking make it more difficult for the person to successfully obtain dental implants, one of the more popular tooth replacement methods.
Implants generally enjoy a high success rate due to their most unique feature, a titanium metal post that's imbedded into the jawbone. During the weeks after surgery, bone cells grow and accumulate on the implant's titanium surface to create a lasting hold.
But the previously mentioned effects of smoking can interfere with the integration between implant and bone. Because of restricted blood flow, the tissues around the implant are slower to heal. And the greater risk for dental disease, particularly gum infections, could cause an implant to eventually fail.
Of the rare number of implants that fail, twice as many occur in smokers. By removing smoking as a factor, you stand a much better chance for implant success. If you're considering implants and you smoke, you'll fare much better if you quit smoking altogether.
If you can't, at least stop smoking a week before implant surgery and for a couple of weeks after to increase your mouth's healing factor. Be sure you also keep up daily brushing and flossing and regular dental visits.
Smoking can increase the disease factor for your teeth and gums. Quitting the habit can make it easier to restore your oral health.
If you would like more information on the impact of smoking to oral health, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more about this topic by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “Dental Implants & Smoking.”
In one respect, celebrities are no different from the rest of us—quite a few famous people love to collect things. Marie Osmond collects dolls (as well as Johnny Depp, reportedly); Leonardo DiCaprio, vintage toys. And, of course, Jay Leno has his famous fleet of cars. But Victoria Beckham's collection is unusually "familial"—she's kept all of her four children's "baby" teeth after they've fallen out.
Best known as Posh Spice of the 1990s group Spice Girls and now a fashion designer and TV personality, Beckham told People Magazine that she has an "entire bucket" of her kids' primary teeth. And, she recently added to it when her nine-year old daughter lost another tooth earlier this year.
You may or may not want to keep your child's baby teeth, but you'll certainly have the opportunity. Children start losing their first set of teeth around age 6 or 7 through early puberty. During the process, each tooth's roots and gum attachment weakens to the point that the tooth becomes noticeably loose. Not long after, it gives way and falls out.
Although a baby tooth doesn't normally need any help with this, children (and sometimes parents) are often eager to accelerate the process. A loose tooth can be annoying—plus there's often a financial incentive via the "Tooth Fairy!"
First off, there's not much harm in a child wiggling a loose tooth—it may even help it come out. It's also possible to help the tooth safely detach sooner by taking a small piece of tissue, folding it over the tooth and giving it a gentle downward squeeze. If it's loose enough, it should pop out.
If it doesn't, don't resort to more forcible measures like the proverbial string and a door—just wait a day or two before trying the gentle squeeze method again. Once the tooth comes out, the empty socket may bleed a bit or not at all. If heavy bleeding does occur, have the child bite down on a piece of clean gauze or a wet tea bag until it stops. You may also have them eat softer foods for a few days to avoid a resumption of bleeding.
Beyond that, there's little else to do but place it under your child's pillow for the Tooth Fairy. And if after their "exchange" with that famous member of the Fae Folk you find yourself in possession of the erstwhile tooth, consider taking a cue from Victoria Beckham and add it to your own collection of family memories.
Health insurance is an important part of life, helping to even out the high costs of medical treatment. Without it, many of us would find it extremely difficult to financially weather physical illness or injury.
But many also view health insurance as frustratingly complicated, including policies that cover dental care. Regarding the latter, people often view it as medical insurance's identical twin—which it's not. While insurance for clinical services and hospitalization manages cost in a comprehensive manner, the majority of dental plans function more like a discount coupon.
The great majority of dental policies today are paid for by employers as a salary benefit to their employees. There can still be differences in policies and it's important to know what kind of plan your workplace has provided you. Here's a rundown of the three basic types of dental insurance plans.
Fee-for-Service. This is the most common dental plan in which the employee is able to choose their dentist and the insurance company pays the dentist for services rendered. Each individual policy outlines the treatments covered, as well as the percentage of payment.
Direct reimbursement. With this approach, the employer pays employees' dental bills directly out of company funds. Even so, an insurance company is often still involved, but as a paid administrator for the employer, reimbursing the dental provider on behalf of the company.
Managed care. An insurance company may also create a network of dental providers that all agree to a set schedule of fees for services rendered. These dental health maintenance organizations (DHMOs) or preferred provider organizations (PPOs) can reduce patients' out-of-pocket expenses. But covered patients can only use dentists within the DHMO or PPO network to receive benefits.
You can, of course, purchase dental insurance as an individual rather than receive it as an employee benefit. If so, you'll need to weigh what you pay out for the policy and what you receive in benefits with what you would pay out-of-pocket without it to see if you're truly realizing any savings.
Either way, understanding a dental insurance plan can be a challenge for the average person. Fortunately, most dental offices are well experienced with these plans. Your dentist's staff can be a valuable resource for helping you get the most out of your insurance benefits.
If you would like more information on the financial side of dental care, please contact our office. You can also learn more about this topic by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “Dental Insurance 101.”
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