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Published: March 22, 2021

Step 1: The Best Preventative Dentistry

One of the most important elements of a good dental care plan is preventative dentistry. When I sit down with a patient for the first time, my first question is always the same. “What can I do for you?” As I listen to the patient describe their current problem, or their dental history I am always shocked at how confident they are in their understanding of the situation. I always listen very carefully, because I feel it is extremely important to know where you are coming from and where you are at if I am going to help. I try to express to patients that where they are does not dictate where they can be. The vast majority of patients are unsatisfied with their previous dental experience (thus their attendance in a new office) and do not (always) acknowledge their own part in this frustrating circumstance.

I get told all the time (by my staff) I can’t spend all day talking with the patient but I am eager to address and discover what they want and how others have failed to meet their expectations.  I firmly believe there is no way to meet a patient’s expectations if you do not spend some time finding out what they are. Teeth problems can happen in an instant via trauma but the problems that most people face are avoidable. In the business we call it preventative dentistry. I think it is less expensive to live “preventative dentistry” than to go through life patching problems like pain, decay or esthetic concerns. These problems are best addressed first in childhood. Teaching great hygiene habits to children and watching and mentoring them daily and nightly (brush twice and floss once/day and see your dentist every 6 months. On top of this positioning the teeth (braces, Invisalign) and correcting any positional problems as early as possible can save crucial tooth structure throughout life and has been shown to cut down on decay and periodontal disease (bone loss around teeth).

Brush, floss, and clean teeth regularly.

I want to say here that I am a consumer as well. I don’t know much about how cars work so when mine has problems I have to take it in. I had an experience about 2 years ago where I went to have my oil changed and the technician was like “your belts look really worn” I was like “can you glue my crown back on?” just kidding I was like “I'm here for an oil change I'll deal with the belt later.” About a week later I was driving south on the 99 returning home to LA when my car just stopped accelerating and died on the freeway. All I wanted to do was get home, and I couldn’t because that belt that was recommended be changed did not get changed. I waited until it broke. I called AAA and I had not renewed my membership so I had to buy one. I was grateful they let me purchase one being as I was stranded on the side of the road in need. They were great. They towed me to Bakersfield and I left my car at pep boys for the night. It was dark when I had an uber take me to the train station so I could ride a bus back to LA so I could work again at 7am. Moral of the story: Don’t wait for your shit to break. I went back to jiffy lube and told the same technician my story and asked him to look at my car top to bottom and let me know what he thought. He recommended some other things and I may have spent 500 bucks but I had learned my lesson.

Elements of Preventative Dentistry

Teeth are one part of what I watch, care for, and evaluate. They are connected to your bone, so the bone around your teeth is important too. If your teeth are not clean, the buildup destroys the bone. The gums become inflamed and the bone runs away and your teeth fall out or have to be extracted when you are 25, 40 or 90 depending on how severe your case is. When it comes to preventative dentistry, it doesn’t matter if “you think” your teeth are clean. It doesn’t really even matter if you floss everyday if you are not getting the build up off. If the build up is there the bone will disappear and your teeth will suffer. If you bleed when you brush or floss you need to come see me. If you are flossing then all you need to do is get your teeth cleaned and then have the hygienist or me show you how to floss properly. Waterpiks do not replace flossing but they help and I recommend them all the time, especially for patients who endure crowding and have fixed bridges. This process of losing your supporting bone is called periodontal disease. Ignore it at the peril of your teeth. Since your teeth are connected to nerves and blood vessels there are all sorts of systemic complications related to not dealing with periodontal disease on a systemic level (but I can’t cover everything right now). I'm just trying to let you know where I'm coming from when you come in and ask me to just glue your crown back on or do a filling.

It is a lot cheaper to prevent than it is to treat. As I have gained experience in dentistry my knowledge of teeth and the body has grown immensely but not remotely close to my understanding of patients and what they want. They want an easy, inexpensive solution to a complex problem. They want this to be accomplished without opening their mouths very wide, without drilling, and no shot. There is no way to accomplish this, but the best solution for the disparity is preventative dentistry. Practice great oral hygiene at home. Position the teeth correctly when you are young. Visit your dentist regularly. Sound familiar? These are the easiest, simplest ways to avoid the dentist, the drill and the shot.

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