No one’s smile is perfect, but embarrassment or fear of being judged by their dentist keeps millions of people from seeking the dental care they need for good oral health. However, this anxiety is largely unwarranted; most dentists have entered their profession because they are passionate about helping people achieve better health and their most beautiful smile. They see patients from all walks of life with all stages of dental conditions, so, chances are, whatever you’re nervous about isn’t new to them.
Here’s what your dentist really thinks when…
You hide your smile:
“I can help!”
From orthodontic care like traditional braces and clear aligner treatments to cosmetic procedures, there are myriad options for making the smile you have the smile you want. Even dentists are no strangers to being self-conscious of crooked or misaligned teeth; many of them experienced the same problems in their youth and needed orthodontic treatment themselves.
“It’s heartbreaking to see someone laugh or smile really big, then instantly cover their mouth with their hand,” says Dr. Jacob Abbott of Dental Depot’s DFW-McKinney location. “Everyone has the opportunity to improve their smile no matter what their age.”
What you can do: If you aren’t happy with your smile, talk to your dentist about what bothers you. Many irregularities like gapped or unevenly spaced teeth can be fixed in a matter of months with clear aligners like Invisalign, while more complex issues can be dramatically improved with longer Invisalign treatment or even clear braces.
When consulting with patients, Dr. Abbott likes to use the iTero Element 3D Intraoral scanner to help patients discuss their smile in a safe and private environment, then see what that smile could look like with intervention.
Your gums bleed during a cleaning:
“Let’s check your gum health.”
Bleeding gums are common during cleanings, but instead of reprimanding you for them, your dentist is more likely to take a closer look at your gum health. Gums that bleed are an early sign of periodontitis, or gum disease. Gum disease progresses slowly and gradually over time and is very treatable or even reversible with early care, so the sooner your dentist can catch it, the better chances you have of halting the damage.
What you can do: If you have noticed your gums bleed, don’t be embarrassed. Instead, use it as a chance to start taking action. Be upfront with your dentist or dental hygienist about your current oral hygiene routine. Tell them about your concerns, ask what you can be doing differently, and ask for tips to make your routine better and easier to follow.
“Good gum health takes regular maintenance and effort from both the patient and the clinician,” says Dr. Abbott, “but it’s like climbing a mountain–we just have to take it one step at a time.”
You haven’t been in for a long time–or ever:
“I’m glad you’re here!”
The first question you’re likely to hear isn’t, “Where have you been?”; it’s “What would you like to discuss today, and what are your goals?” If you haven’t had much of a say in your dental care before, you may not know what you want to discuss, and that’s okay–your dentist isn’t going to scold you.
“I see my role as more of a guidance counselor to get you back to good health,” says Dr. Abbott. “And, if needed, I can provide advice on how to maintain your oral health throughout your life. It’s not my job to decide what you do with your teeth, but it is my job to discuss, counsel, and educate you to help you make the best decisions to stay healthy.”
Good dental health is a marathon, not a sprint, and, according to Dr. Abbott, the hardest step is the first one coming through the door.
“Visiting the dentist can be intimidating and uncomfortable for a lot of people, so just coming in for an appointment is a big deal. It shows you want to take better care of your oral health, and dentists understand that.”
What you can do: Be honest and open with your dentist. When you schedule your appointment, ask the receptionist to make a note that it’s been awhile since you’ve been in for a cleaning or a checkup. This helps inform both the dentist and the dental hygienist before you even arrive, and relieves any pressure or anxiety you may feel before going in because you don’t have anything to hide. When you arrive for your appointment, it’s okay to be honest and voice any discomfort or embarrassment; it’s nothing new for your dentist or your hygienist, and good providers will reassure you rather than reprimand you.
You have a lot of things to discuss or questions to ask:
Whether it’s a big list or a small list, being ready to discuss your treatment gives you ownership in your dental health and gives you and your dentist a great place to start for improving it.
For Dr. Abbott, this marks a transition in the doctor-patient relationship from “The dentist told me I need to do this,” to “I had a great discussion with my dentist and I’ve decided to make these changes to improve my oral health.”
“You deserve to be in control of your oral health,” says Dr. Abbott, “and that includes understanding certain conditions or why something is being recommended.”
Your mouth is your own to care for, and most dentists want to make sure you’re making solid, educated decisions about how you care for it so you can enjoy a lifetime of good health. When you seek open conversations with your dentist, ask questions, and understand the what and why of a recommended treatment option, it’s easier to make better choices for your unique situation.
What you can do: Think about what you’d like to discuss with the dentist. Write it down, or let your dentist know ahead of time so they know how to direct the conversation and can allocate the appropriate amount of time for your appointment.
You’re embarrassed about your previous dental work:
“You’ve done a good job addressing your dental needs.”
Maintaining good dental health is a process and takes more than just brushing and flossing. Restorative procedures and treatments like fillings, crowns, and implants are an important part of keeping your teeth and mouth healthy for a lifetime of constant use. Even though oral hygiene is largely designed to try and avoid the need for restorations, sometimes they’re simply necessary and nothing to be ashamed of.
For dentists like Dr. Abbott, restorations and previous dental work just means you are being proactive in taking care of problems when they arise. Dental issues almost never resolve on their own, and leaving them untreated for too long leads to even bigger health concerns–untreated cavities lead to root canals or even extraction, missing teeth lead to misaligned bites and jaw atrophy, crooked teeth can lead to TMJ pain. By fixing these things, you are preserving your oral health for a lifetime.
What you can do: Inform your dentist of any previous dental restorations or work. Rather than surprise them, this information will help your dentist know what to check, such as the condition of crowns or fillings, and what to be on the lookout for; multiple restorations may just mean your teeth are more susceptible to decay or damage, and there are a lot of preventative measures your dentist can take to help preserve your oral health longer before needing more restorations.
Compassionate Dental Care from Dental Depot
No matter what has kept you from seeking dental care or what you’re worried your dentist is thinking, the compassionate and caring providers at Dental Depot of DFW are here to calm your fears and address your concerns. We believe everyone deserves quality dental care no matter what condition their oral health is in, and we make it easy, convenient, and affordable to get the services you need. Schedule an appointment today for a healthier, happier smile.
Dr. Jacob Abbott is a graduate of BYU-Idaho and Texas A&M College of Dentistry. Dr. Abbott, a native of Flower Mound, is excited to be involved as a general dentist in his local community.
During his undergraduate education, Dr. Abbott had the opportunity to serve a volunteer humanitarian mission in the wonderful country of Thailand from ’07-’09. Even though he is a little rusty, he can speak, read, and write in Thai and of course enjoys Thai food as long as it’s not too spicy (but don’t ask him to cook it).