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Many of us fear going to the dentist—the drills and consequential pain that we may experience after the appointment can make any of us quake at the thought of a dental visit. However, it is important to have regular checkups and cleaning. In fact, according to the American Academy of Periodontology, a preventative checkup could save your life. For example, periodontal disease, a chronic inflammation of the gums, has been linked to other serious health risks such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease and even Alzheimer’s disease.

That being said, many people know very little about their dentist. Just as it is important to have regular dental checkups, it is just as important to have a well-qualified and well-equipped dentist to provide first-class dental care. Currently there are 165,000 dentists nationwide and according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the yearly earning of dentists averaged around $147,010 in 2007. Obviously, this country spends a great deal on dental care. But how much do you actually know about your dentist? Here are the top 10 secrets that your dentist doesn’t want you to know:

#1: Your dentist isn’t as educated as you think—dentistry has changed a lot since your dentist graduated from dental school. It is almost vital that a dentist have 100 hours or more of updated dental education EACH YEAR. Dental techniques and advances in materials used in fillings, bonding and root canals are just a few areas in the dental world that are said to change at an “almost daily” rate.

#2: Your dentist doesn’t have the latest technology—digital x-ray and ultrasonic cleaning are just two of the most important and advanced technological creations of today. It would cost your dentist about $2000 to update their equipment to provide you with the best possible care. There is not excuse not to have the latest technology.

#3: Your dentist may be using mercury—simply said, mercury is toxic. However, some dentist still put it in the mouths of their patients. In fact, the American Dental Association and the FDA have no problem with mercury fillings. Scary? Make sure to ask what’s being put in your mouth.

#4: The lab may be more important than your dentist—dental labs create crowns, bridges, orthodontic appliances and dentures. Unfortunately, to cut costs and increase profits, some dentists use foreign labs or cut-rate domestics labs that may use tin, aluminum or even lead to create your mouthpieces. Be particularly wary if your dentist uses a lab in China or Mexico, where the practice of using these cheap metals is very common.

#5: There’s more to good dentistry than just filling cavities—a good dentist checks for more than just tooth decay. A good dentist should also be concerned with sleep apnea, TMJ (jaw-related pain from grinding), periodontal disease, oral cancer, diabetes and hypertension.

#6: You are probably using the wrong specialist for dental implants—periodontists are usually the best option for replacement of your original tooth with an artificial implant. Many people assume an oral surgeon is best qualified to perform these types of procedures. This is usually an incorrect assumption.

#7 Bad dental advice about dentures can be fatal—dentures need to be replaced at least once every seven years. Poor fit or worn out dentures can cause sleep apnea, stroke, or even death.

#8: Your dentist may not know enough about sleep apnea—sleep apnea literally means that a person stops breathing during the night, sometimes several times. It is a blockage of the airway during sleep that can be treated with Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP). CPAP involves blowing pressurized room air through the airway at high enough pressure to keep the airway open. Your dentist should know about the latest techniques to treat sleep apnea.

#9: Not all cosmetic dentists have the skills to improve your smile—has your cosmetic dentist had post-graduate training? What kind of veneers do they use? Have them show you proof of their work! A cosmetic dentist should be able to show you at least 10 photographs of “before” and “after”.

#10: You may not need that root canal, even though your dentist suggests it—dentists receive kickbacks when they refer you to an endodontist, who will most likely perform a root canal. Why? Because it’s an expensive (and sometimes) unnecessary procedure! Sometimes an extraction and an implant is a better option.

Please keep up your bi-annual cleanings and check-ups. But be prepared with the right questions to ask your dentist to protect yourself and to receive the best possible dental care.

22 Comments

  1. Gravatar for Mike Bryant

    Very interesting information, and a number of things I hadn't thought about. Thanks for the post.

  2. Gravatar for Tom Moore

    Who's study did this come from? If the percentage of lab work going offshore is true that means there is about about 2 billion dollars a year going out of the country. At that pace if only 1% have the problems touted in this article that would be 20 million bucks worth and that would be a millions of patients that may have been harmed. Where is that big line of patients that have been harmed. You would think at least 20 thousand so would be in a complaint mode or litigating the harm done to them.Where are they?

  3. Gravatar for Howard

    Did you know that your dentist is likely using a liquid chemical containing hydrogen which is, of course, a highly explosive and incredibly dangerous gas? This very same chemical can be fatal when inhaled in sufficient quantities.

    And did anyone mention anything to me? No, I had to ask.

  4. Gravatar for Tom Moore

    Was that hydrogen bound up with oxygen a known fire accelerant making it even more dangerous? I think the liquid form is known as the universal solvent. That’s scary stuff.

  5. Gravatar for Remy

    There are some dentists who want you to know about sleep apnea. Because there is a solution to treat this sleep disorder that only dentists can do. So, what's the point to hide this information?

    I read that sleep apnea can be treated with dental devices, and can eliminate snoring, too.

    Source: sleep-apnea-guide.com/alternatives-to-cpap.html

  6. Gravatar for Howard

    While dentists can certainly note signs and symptoms that are indicative of apnea, only an M.D. can legally make the actual apnea diagnosis.

  7. Gravatar for Howard

    David, if you're going to copy-and-paste from other sources (http://www.dailyfinance.com/2009/08/27/secrets-your-dentist-doesnt-want-you-to-know/), at least do so completely.

    Making it sound as if a digital x-ray system is $2,000, saying referring dentists get kickbacks, and that mainstream science has left questions about the safety of amalgam fillings does no one a favor.

  8. Gravatar for Devon Glass

    This is in response to Tom Moore's post about the study and why he has not heard of thousand's of people who have had complications. I would answer by first saying the information the article is based upon is here, http://tinyurl.com/lanjnb. The article spells out all the concerns raised in your comment, but to add something more, I would say the reason you may not have heard much is that many people may not be experiencing any complications at this time, or they may have secondary complications that are not directly related to the imported material. As of 2008, the United States imports over 2.1 TRILLION dollars worth of goods, of which 20 million is 0.0000095 percent. This is not a significant amount, so it's likely not something people would report much about. Additionally, it's not just America raising concerns, see this article from Australia here http://tinyurl.com/ml9f26. Finally, the United States has a population of over 300 million, making 20,000 people a very small percent of the total. You hear more about medical malpractice because every year about 200,000 people die from mistakes. If someone has a mouth piece that is made of improper materials, it can be replaced with the proper materials and there is likely to be little harm. In the end, the article is about educating people so they can be aware of what's out there so they don't become a victim of dental malpractice.

  9. Gravatar for anthony

    I am a dentist. I have little issue with most of what is said, but #10 is ridiculous. No kickbacks. And now, most general dentists do their own root canals-going back to one of your other points-being a highly trained general dentist, I can do most things just as well as a specialist.

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