“My Dentist Will Judge Me” and Other Dentistry Myths Worth Dropping
Myth One: “Dental work is unavoidably painful.”
If the idea of sharp dental instruments or buzzing drills has you avoiding the dentist’s chair, there’s good news. While this used to be a fact, technology has done a great job of making it a myth. Many dentists now use essentially painless dental lasers—such as Biolase® and Waterlase™—to successfully treat many common dental conditions. Dental lasers can be used for both hard- and soft-tissue procedures, including cavity preparation, biopsies, gum disease treatment, and cosmetic gum lifts. Because they are gentler and less invasive than traditional treatments, dental lasers even make it possible for many procedures to be comfortably performed with little-to-no anesthesia!
And if visiting the dentist still fills you with overwhelming anxiety, there’s hope for making your dental visits a more comfortable experience. Many dentists now specialize in sedation dentistry, which offers safe and gentle sedation techniques to patients who are struggling with anxiety or fear.
Thanks to advances in dental technology and techniques, going to the dentist can be a positive and enjoyable experience. Start by choosing a dentist who offers the technology and services you need to effectively address your unique concerns and needs.
Myth Two: “I can’t go to the dentist if I’m pregnant.”
While extensive oral surgery and nonessential dental treatments are not suggested for pregnant women, routine dental exams are actually strongly recommended. Pregnancy elevates your hormones (estrogen and progesterone), which can increase blood flow to your gums and trigger inflammation.
In addition to causing your gums to swell and bleed with brushing and flossing, this hormone-induced gum inflammation (known as pregnancy gingivitis) can also make your mouth more sensitive to the oral bacteria that causes cavities and gum disease (periodontitis). Periodontitis can cause a host of systemic health concerns and is of particular concern to pregnant women. Studies indicate that the presence of periodontitis can lead to premature labor and low-birth-weight babies.
Preventing and treating oral complications, such as tooth decay and gum disease, are essential for pregnant women. If you’re pregnant, it’s best to schedule your dental visit before your third trimester, when lying on your back for extended periods is not recommended. And to support your and your baby’s best health, contact your dentist ASAP if you experience any oral health concerns during your pregnancy.
Myth Three: “Orthodontic treatments are vain and unnecessary.”
Straighter teeth do more than elevate your smile’s appearance (though they definitely do that, too). Orthodontic treatments address malocclusion (bad bite), which is caused when your jaws don’t properly meet or when your teeth are misaligned, protruded, crowded, or crooked. Malocclusion can negatively affect chewing and speaking, abnormally wear down tooth enamel, decrease your overall oral health, and cause jaw and facial pain.
In addition to being less prone to wear and injury, properly aligned teeth are also easier to keep clean, making you less prone to experiencing tooth decay and gum disease.
Orthodontic treatments are used to improve your smile’s health, longevity, and appearance. Advances in orthodontic techniques make it possible for you to efficiently and discreetly straighten your teeth at any age. Ask your dentist about options for straightening your teeth.
Myth Four: “It’s no big deal if my gums bleed with brushing and flossing.”
Your gums (gingivae) are the connective tissue that snuggly hug your teeth in place. Healthy gums are firm, pink, lightly textured, and generally resilient to pain, temperature, and pressure. Signs that your gums are not at their best health include redness, swelling, sensitivity, bad breath, and—you guessed it—bleeding with brushing and flossing.
Gum health can be compromised by poor oral hygiene, pregnancy, tobacco use, and certain medications and health conditions. Untreated gum issues can advance to periodontal disease, which is the leading cause of adult tooth loss. In addition to negatively impacting your oral health, numerous studies demonstrate an association between gum disease and serious health complications, including stroke, heart disease, cancer, and diabetes.
Your gums are irreplaceable structures that contribute to your oral and overall health. While gum bleeding may occur when you first change your oral hygiene tools or techniques, consistent gum bleeding is reason to see your dentist. Periodontal disease is the least invasive and most invasive when diagnosed in its early stages. Schedule an appointment with your dentist if your gums are causing you any concern.
Myth Five: “Snoring doesn’t affect my oral health.”
Snoring does more than cause you—or your partner—to have a rough night’s sleep, daytime drowsiness, and morning headaches (which is already a lot to deal with). Snoring means breathing through the mouth instead of the nose, which causes inadequate salivary flow and a dry mouth (known as xerostomia). Saliva acts as a cleansing and buffering agent in your mouth, staving off bad breath (halitosis) and the oral bacterias that cause mouth sores, infections, tooth decay, and gum disease. When your mouth is not properly coated and moistened by saliva, you become more likely to experience unpleasant oral health symptoms and disease.
Snoring can also be a sign of sleep apnea, a condition that causes brief halts in breathing while you sleep. Sleep apnea is a risk factor for serious health complications, including stroke and heart disease.
Snoring has a negative impact on your oral and overall health. Your dentist can help you reduce or eliminate snoring completely with a discreet, portable, and custom-made dental appliance.
Myth Six: “My dentist will judge me if I have stained, decayed, or damaged teeth.”
Our confidence and self-esteem can take a hit when we feel dissatisfied with the appearance of our teeth. We may be especially hard on ourselves if our teeth are stained or damaged due to neglect or lifestyle choices. We may feel guilty and embarrassed, making it challenging to receive the essential care we need or the cosmetic treatments we desire to reclaim the health and appearance of our teeth.
As your primary oral healthcare professional, your dentist is there to help you experience your best oral and overall health. You can trust that there is nothing your dentist hasn’t seen and that she or he is available to non-judgmentally help you address your unique concerns, goals, and needs.
Your dentist believes you deserve good oral health and compassionate dental care—no matter what.
Myth Seven: “Dentists only specialize in teeth.”
First, it is true that “dentist” does essentially mean “ tooth professional” (from dent, the French word for tooth, and ist, a French suffix that indicates profession). And though they are undoubtedly your number-one tooth specialists, dentists can also help you effectively address multiple aspects of your oral health and overall sense of wellbeing.
From oral cancer screenings to addressing neuromuscular facial disorders—such as temporomandibular joint disorder (TMD)—your dentist can help you prevent and treat a wide range of concerns related to your teeth, gums, mouth, jaw, head, neck, and even breathing! Many restorative and cosmetic dental treatments also enhance your quality of life and sense of self-esteem, which can in turn improve your mental health, social life, and productivity.
Your dentist comprehensively considers your oral and overall health from multiple angles, including disease prevention and intervention, daily function, quality of life, and aesthetic satisfaction. If you have any concerns related to your oral health, function, comfort, or appearance, ask your dentist how they can help!