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Conversations With Our Dental Patients

Edited 2021

I know most you don’t receive the AARP Bulletin (stop laughing, your day is coming!), but I just read an article I can’t completely agree with based on my years of experience.

It’s entitled “WHAT THE EXPERTS DON’T TELL YOU.” The first section of the article is written by Dental Hygienist Barbara Tritz; she writes: “Ninety percent of people floss wrong.” To that I respond: TRUE!! For those who do floss, many patients do it incorrectly. 

Her section of the article was incredible, and I can tell she’s an outstanding employee. She not simply telling patients: “you need to floss,” she’s telling them why and showing them how to care for their mouth.

The next section of the article is “You probably don’t need annual x-rays.” This article was written by a Dentist in California, and I cannot agree on his recommendation. 

He states that older people have plaque that is thicker and stickier and more difficult to remove. True enough, so I say hopefully they’re flossing, and flossing correctly. However, in researching Statistic Brain, they report that only 50.5% of U.S. population flosses daily. I find this percentage high as I regularly document “patient reports daily flossing; however oral condition would suggest otherwise.” 

The older generation in the United States did not receive the benefit of fluoridated water, have a mouth full of old, defective alloy restorations, present with dry mouth (don’t get me started) and need to have annual radiographs to detect early decay.

I do understand we have other ways to detect caries, as the Dentist reported, but not all Dental Healthcare Facilities have access to these tools. X-rays are cheaper than crowns, bridges, partials, and dentures. Radiation? We expose ourselves to more radiation from the sun than the fast film and digital radiology used today.

If a Dentist or Dental Hygienist has seen a patient for several years and they’ve proven to have a low decay risk, 18-24 months will work well for that patient. I would caution however it is my belief that missing a lesion that cannot be seen clinically could end up costing the patient money and the Dentist an enormous amount of unnecessary stress and anxiety. To that end I would say document, document, document.

So, what kind of Dental Healthcare Professional are you? Do you simply tell your patients “You need to floss more”? Or are you showing them how to floss or suggesting alternatives? Every patient is different, and it is our responsibility as Dental Employees to make our Dental Practice the best by tailoring our suggestions to our patients individually.

 

 

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“You treat a disease, you win, you lose.
You treat a person, I guarantee you,
you’ll win, no matter what the outcome.”
- Patch Adams