Three things you didn’t know about your dentist
1. We’re looking at more than just your teeth.
A significant portion of our dental school education is spent on head/neck anatomy and pathology (diseases). Each time you come to see us we’re looking for anything out of the ordinary in our field of view, which includes all of the tissues in and around the mouth. Some of the more common conditions we see are cold sores and canker sores, but over the years I’ve found cancer, such as squamous cell carcinoma in the mouth and basal cell carcinoma on the face, thyroid disorders, and non-dental infections. On X-rays we can identify cysts and other abnormal growths in the jaw, and I will occasionally see plaques forming in the carotid artery in the neck. By seeing your dentist twice a year, these medical conditions can be discovered early and referred for treatment in a timely fashion, greatly increasing the chances of a successful resolution.
2. Yes, even we get cavities.
Contrary to popular opinion, we weren’t born with a mirror and a drill in our hands. Some of us didn’t even know we wanted to be a dentist until well into adulthood. That left all of our formative years to collect fillings and crowns that we still carry with us today. Eventually those fillings and crowns will need to be repaired or replaced, sometimes starting with the formation of a cavity around them.
As of this writing the World Cup Soccer tournament is wrapping up, and for the sake of a timely analogy, fighting the bacteria in your mouth is a lot like a game of soccer. You can play an entire game of good defense and not give up a goal, then have just one lapse and the opponent scores on you. Bacteria in your mouth can sit there for years, even decades, just waiting for that opportunity to score. Often that opportunity comes in the form of an old filling or crown breaking down, which is all the bacteria needs to start a cavity. Oh, that reminds me: soccer players should wear mouthguards.
3. We really do want you to have a healthy mouth.
The patients who regularly need new crowns or fillings can certainly keep our chairs full, but what gives us the most satisfaction is bringing someone to a state of health and helping them stay there. There will never be a shortage of cavities, chipped teeth, and toothaches to keep us busy, so we’re not really worried about running out of things to do. Helping someone achieve a healthy, pain-free mouth and the confidence to smile again is the best part of what we do. Talk to your dentist about what you’d like to achieve and he/she should be excited to help you get there. Remember: we’re on the same team.