Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Pen to the 10 - 10 Things I'd like to Ask a Dental Hygienist

I am afraid of the dentist.  No, really, I am.  Growing up I had a stress induced migraine at every experience I had at the dentist's office.  I'm not exaggerating.  I can remember more than one occasion where the dentist had to rush to my room to check my teeth as I was getting nauseous from the pain.  Really.  I don't know if I was afraid of the pain of the inevitable filling, or if I felt like a failure because, regardless of my brushing and flossing I always had cavities.  Always. 
I have some friends who are hygienists, so you guys, these are for you ;)
  • 1.  Do you really prefer one kind of toothpaste over the other?  Lots of commercials tell me you like theirs best. 
  • 2.  Why do you always talk to me while your hands, both of them, are in my mouth?
  • 3.  Are my teeth... normal?  Please tell me you've seen worse than mine!
  • 4.  Why do you insist on talking in 'dental' language?  I'd love it if you'd just say, "Yeah, that there tooth looks like it has a hole in it.  That's gonna be a doozy to fix."
  • 5.  Why, at the teeth cleaning appointment, do you tell me to cut back on the sweets because they are causing cavities, but then when I get the cavity filled you tell me to eat a milk shake?  I'm confused. 
  • 6.  What grosses you out most about your job?  I mean really, how does plaque on teeth, bleeding gums and bodily fluids not completely gross you out?
  • 7.  What is one thing you'd love to tell people, but wouldn't be 'socially acceptable' to say?  Come on, don't hold back.  This is your chance.  
  • 8.  It doesn't really make a difference if we brush our teeth relentlessly minutes before we come in to see you, does it? 
  • 9.  Can I tell you if that bright light is in my eyes?  Or better yet, maybe I'll wear my sunglasses.  Maybe I'll be invisible that way. 
  • 10.  Besides brushing and flossing after I eat everything ever, and getting regular teeth cleanings, what ELSE can I do to prevent my teeth from 'gettin' them there holes in 'em?' 


  1. Why do I feel like this blog was written just for me!!!?? Ok here is my two cents...

    1. Do I prefer one toothpaste over another? Personally, yes. For a patient - honestly, no. I'm just happy you are making the effort to brush your teeth. Technically, a toothpaste acts as an abrasive to get more junk off your teeth and as a way to deliver fluoride. Plus it makes your mouth feel and smell clean. You technically don't have to have toothpaste to get your teeth clean. Now with that being said, if a patient asked me that question, I would tell them that the toothpaste needs to have fluoride in it and most do. If they don't have fluoride, they are going to advertise that on the package for those who like the all natural products. I will tell them my favorite to use personally - which is Colgate Total. It contains an anti-microbial called Triclosan that is gonna kill some of those germies and it just makes my mouth feel good for longer. If they ask me about a certain paste and I have used it, I will tell them my opinion.

    2. Why do we talk to you with our hands in your mouth? - We are bored. Our job is very monotonous and we are just passing time. A good hygienist will take their hands out of your mouth for you to answer. All ya gotta do is raise your hand and we will get out :)

    3. Well, I can't say for sure if they are normal because I haven't looked at them. From all outward appearances, yes, they look normal. From Liz's screening the other night, it sounds as if you have a normal amount of buildup for a person who hasn't had their teeth cleaned in a few years. Believe me, if I could see something that wasn't normal, I'd be all up in your face wanting to see it!

    4. lolol...I guess it is kind of like when you get two international people together and they talk in their language to each other in front of others who speak only english - it is just natural. I know I was doing that with Liz & Karmen the other night. Between a dentist and their employee, things are written in the chart in that language. When we explain stuff to you, we really need to take it down to your level - some people are better at that than others. We would.should probably say something like "you have a large cavity in that tooth and it may be a difficult filling" or "that tooth has a lot of decay and the filling is going to be pretty big" to sound professional.

    5. The reason for telling you to get a milkshake is mainly because you are numb and we don't want you to chew your cheek or tongue to death. A milkshake is a universally acceptable food most people will be ok with eating and it doesn't involve chewing. We could say, eat some yogurt but not everyone likes yogurt. I honestly can't think of a food that you can eat that is halfway filling that doesn't have to be chewed. That is all that is about. And ACTUALLY, a milkshake isn't all that bad for you from a dental perspective. The milk in the milkshake helps to cancel out the acid that is produced when the germs in your mouth eat sugar. That acid is what causes cavities. Dairy "neutralizes" the acid. Was that too "dental" of a description there? lol I will talk about acid more in number 10.

  2. 6. What grosses me out about my job....

    The grosses thing was cleaning someone's teeth right after they ate nacho cheese Doritos. I would tell you who it was because you know the person, but that would be a HIPPA violation.

    Big chunks of food in someone's chicken that has been between the teeth for weeks and it really stinks when you get it out.

    Snot in someone's nose when I'm cleaning their teeth

    Smoker's breath

    The cold clammy feel of very eldery people's cheeks.

    Body odor

    Vomit....especially recognizeable vomit. I haven't eaten a egg & cheese Toaster Strudel in 10 years because of this.

    When people swallow every 10 seconds and make that "glup" sound.

    Full dentures.

    I'm sure there is more......

    7. Ahhhhh...
    If you would get your teeth cleaned more often, this wouldn't be so difficult.

    You can't have this crown done yet you can afford that Escalde out there in the parking lot??

    While a person who either hasn't had their teeth cleaned in a while or just has bad homecare is in my chair and their cleaning is a particular bloody one, I think "You have no idea how you look right now!"

    Don't look into my eyes while I'm cleaning your teeth - it freaks me out.

    Quit being a baby....especially about grown men.

    I'm sure I have more in my mind but I haven't worked private practice in a while...I'm a bit rusty :)

    8. You aren't fooling us! We can tell from the appearance of your gums whether you are really brushing that well on a regular basis or not. Then if you brush super hard and rough up your gums with the brush, we can tell that too.

    It is funny with the little kids I work with - the students will ask them how many times a day they brush their teeth and they will say "10 times a day" and how long do your brush for and they say "20 minutes"...little liars....

  3. 8. You aren't fooling us! We can tell from the appearance of your gums whether you are really brushing that well on a regular basis or not. Then if you brush super hard and rough up your gums with the brush, we can tell that too.

    It is funny with the little kids I work with - the students will ask them how many times a day they brush their teeth and they will say "10 times a day" and how long do your brush for and they say "20 minutes"...little liars....

    9. Yes, please do tell us the light is in your eyes. It can be angled to aim where we need it but not be in your eyes. Some offices have sunglasses as their eye protection for the patients. I like that - it helps with the staring me in the eyes thing. If I can't see your eyes, I don't know that you are staring at me.

    10. Ok here is a little lesson that a lot of people don't know. I addressed it a little earlier....

    Cavity causing germs live in your plaque. They like to eat sugar. When they eat sugar, they make acid. Acid in your mouth over time causes cavities. SO....

    Plaque with Germs + Sugar = Acid
    Acid + Happy Tooth = Sad Tooth

    To help your teeth you need to knock out some part of that equation. You knock out the Plaque & Germs part by brushing and flossing. However, the plaque and germs start to form a layer on your teeth soon after you brush. You can knock out the sugar part by not eating sugary foods or after eating those foods, rinsing with water (dairy is best but not always accessible), or brushing even if it is without toothpaste. That is also going to stop acid from forming.

    However, a biggie is acid in your drinks - specifically soda. In regular soda you have the sugar plus the acid that gives you that bite that we like so much. Look on the back of a soda can and see how many acids are in there. The worst is the Mt. Dew - ish sodas. They contain citric acid and another acid (I'd have to look). Citric acid is also in all those sour candies so those are worse for your teeth than regular candy (which still isn't all that good). So, cutting down on soda is a good thing for your teeth.

    Also, it is a good thing if those who are close to you have regular dental care themselves. The germs that cause cavities & gum problems can spread from person to person via spit. So, if you have cavities and are kissing B or Aaron you could be spreading those germs to them and vice versa.

    Xylitol gum is great! Xylitol is an anti-cavity agent. It's gonna kill those cavity germs in your mouth so chew some everyday!

    How is that deary??? ;) You know your reply is a bit long when you have to split it into 3 comments!