Although having regular dentist appointments is one of the best ways to keep your smile healthy and vibrant, it’s not enough to just go to the dentist. You can (and should!) take your oral health into your own hands by actually discussing it with your dentist. Ask questions, be informed, and help your dentist understand your concerns and expectations regarding your dental health. So, here are the ten dental questions you should ask at your next dentist appointment.
#1: How is My Overall Dental Health?
When you go in for a routine checkup, your dentist will examine the overall health of your mouth, teeth, and gums. Make sure to ask if there are any issues or if everything looks the way it should. If you have noticed any signs of oral health problems since your last dental visit, make sure to mention them and ensure that your dentist fully addresses your concerns.
#2: What is My Level of Risk for Gum Disease?
Gum disease is a serious infection that damages the gums and teeth. You should make sure that your dentist not only assesses your risk of gum disease but also instructs you on what you need to do to prevent it. It’s also a good idea to learn about the signs of gum disease so you can check on your own between dental visits, because the earlier you catch gum disease, the easier it is to remedy.
#3: Am I Grinding My Teeth?
Many people who clench or grind their teeth don’t realize that they’re doing it, oftentimes because it occurs while they’re sleeping. They may wake up with headaches or their jaws may click or be sore in the morning, but they may not immediately connect it with possible teeth grinding. A dentist is more likely to spot the signs of teeth grinding (also known as bruxism) before you realize it is happening. So if you are concerned, make sure your dentist knows to double check for signs of teeth grinding.
#4. What Can I Do to Improve My Oral Health?
Depending on your current oral health, genetic predispositions, and other factors, you may need to do more for your oral health than what the general guidelines suggest. By asking your dentist this question, you can get more customized recommendations for how you should take care of your teeth and gums to maintain and improve the health of your whole mouth. They might tell you if you are getting too much or not enough fluoride or if you need to get better about flossing.
#5. What Kind of Tools Should I Be Using to Improve My Oral Health?
There are wide varieties of toothbrushes, flossing tools, and other oral healthcare products that can help improve the way you take care of your mouth. For example, you may use string floss, floss holders, interdental brushes (a thin, round or cone-shaped brush head on a small piece of wire), or a water flosser to clean between your teeth. The tool you choose may depend on your teeth spacing, your mobility, and your gum sensitivity. But if you need help choosing or finding the type that’s best for you, your dentist can help.
At the same time, you may be using a manual toothbrush, but your dentist may recommend switching to an electric or even a smart toothbrush if your brushing skills need some help. Feel free to ask them about new dental technologies you have seen or read about. Your dentist can tell you if they are actually worth trying or if they are just a waste of money and time.
#6: Can You Do Anything to Help Me Improve My Oral Health?
Dentists have many different tools and options that you may not be able to get over-the-counter at any drugstore. For example, most dentists can create a custom mouth guard to stop you from grinding your teeth at night or to protect your teeth during athletics. Similarly, many dentists offer treatments for chronic conditions such as bad breath (also known as halitosis). Talk to your dentist about any issues you are experiencing and ask for their suggestions and possible treatment options.
#7: Are There Any Signs of General Health Problems in My Mouth?
Oral hygiene has been proven to affect overall health, and signs of general health problems have been known to show in the mouth as well. For example, symptoms of eating disorders and Celiac Disease are frequently seen first by dentists in the teeth and mouth. So, your dentist may notice things that could indicate overall health issues that you should discuss with your primary care physician.
#8: Do You Have Any Questions for My Primary Care Physician?
The medications you take, the foods you eat, health conditions, and other changes in your general health can affect your oral health as well. Your dentist should know if you are taking any new medications, if your primary care doctor has made a new diagnosis, or if you have any allergies that could affect your oral health or could cause complications in other dental procedures, such as any that require sedation.
#9: Do I Need a Different Dental Exam Schedule?
Typically, it is recommended that you visit the dentist every six months. However, not everyone is the same. This is just the average recommendation. You should ask your dentist if your oral health needs require more or less frequent check-ups.
#10: Should I Get Screened for Oral Cancer?
Oral cancer is usually associated with smokers and heavy drinkers, but the reality is that oral cancer can affect anyone. Risk factors range from tobacco and alcohol use to genetics, excessive sun exposure, or HPV. In fact, over a quarter of people with oral cancer don’t smoke or drink excessively. That said, the high death rate associated with oral cancer is not because of it is difficult to treat, but rather because most cases are diagnosed in the late stages, when the cancer has spread and is more aggressive. Early stage oral cancer is treatable and survivable in many cases. This is why you should certainly ask your dentist if he or she advises that you get screened for oral cancer, depending on your risk factors and what they see when they examine your mouth.
Ready to Ask Your Dental Questions? Come on in for a Visit!
At the Covington Center for Family Dentistry, our knowledgeable, experienced dental professionals are more than willing to answer any and all of your oral health and dental questions. To schedule a dentist appointment, give us a call at (678) 306-6000 or contact us online.