Ask the Dentist: It All Boils Down to Common Sense

Patients all over the country are making dental appointments today, for varying reasons. Some are tried and true checkups and cleanings, others are for treatment for a specific and diagnosed condition, and some are emergency appointments for a new or recurring dental ailment.

Reasons and preparations vary. Most people are aware that they ‘should’ see a dentist at least once or twice a year. If we don’t telephone them, a large percentage won’t make that call on their own accord. Most people brush and floss somewhat predictably, but there is always evidence of ‘catch up’ behaviour in certain mouths.

I compare it to automobile behaviour because most can identify with that. Your vehicle manufacturer’s oil change recommendations are usually between 5,000 and 7,000 kilometres, or twice annually. Even without the mileage, oil will deteriorate with time alone – so a vehicle sitting in a garage doesn’t get a ‘pass’ on oil changes. Some owners drive until their vehicle stops, with no regard to maintenance. They miss the small ‘warning signs’ and wait for something to officially stop them.

Dental patients have identical behaviour. We see adults who have never had a cavity and 9-year-olds with 16 of them. A patient of mine who is truly ‘Johnny on the Spot’ for every checkup is an auto mechanic. I mentioned that we never have to call him. He laughed and said he makes a living repairing cars because people don’t maintain them. How dumb would he have to be to ignore the same with his mouth? Another patient who treats his pickup truck with more care than his entire family and pets, thinks nothing to skip a dental appointment but firmly believes his right arm will fall off if he ever drives his truck more 8,000 kilometres in between synthetic oil changes!

We reap what we sow. Children who are taught responsible dental habits from literally age two and onwards, are rewarded with fewer cavities and fewer appointments in general. Patients who don’t think flossing their teeth is just too much bother are rewarded with healthier teeth. People in general who load up on the 30 packs of canned pop at the big box stores raise their offspring with similar consuming habits.

If your pants or slacks don’t fit anymore, something better change or you graduate to the next size up.

Medical patients who ignore advice from their family practitioner sometimes end up in a hospital bed because something ‘broke down’. High blood pressure, obesity, lack of exercise, circulatory problems, are all relevant when looking at your fellow patients in a hospital room all trying to get released while absorbing the doctor’s analysis that some behaviour must change or this will reoccur. Rather like common sense.

A patient who has multiple fillings, some root canals, one or more missing teeth, partial bridges, and other signs of obvious accident or neglect must modify behaviour or face more of the same. Skipped appointments with the elderly (over 65) are increasing with frequency because simply patients are either anxious or concerned with the costs.

This can be false economy. In a dental checkup our teams check for a myriad of conditions. Dentistry is part of overall health care! Gum disease and periodontitis, for example, if left unchecked can contribute to many other health problems in the rest of a body. It all easily relates back to the skipped oil changes and being stranded by the side of a road with engine problems. People with green thumbs both weed their gardens, as well as fertilize their plant’s nutrition.

If you miss the normal weather ‘signs’, just watch for the pallets of topsoil and nutrients at the door of the big box stores! At the beginning of the warm weather, some people check their bicycles over or get a ‘two wheel tune up’ at the bike store. Without it you just might end up calling someone with 4 wheels for a lift home.

Checking your furnace and heat ducts for change of filters, and other problems can prolong the life and efficiency of one’s furnace. Having your gutters cleaned may alert you to problems with roofing or downspouts, which may save both severity and money if repairs are completed earlier than later. Ditto for teeth.

My family dentist back in Winnipeg growing up said to ‘only floss the teeth you want to keep’. Nothing magical about it. Something about common sense is it sometimes isn’t that common!

Dr. Michael Dolynchuk is a General Dentist practicing in Caroline and Red Deer.

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