Monday, July 23, 2012

The Evolution of A Dentist: The Carly Chronicles, Chapter 1

            Do you ever wonder why people pick certain professions? Did they always want to be a plumber, a writer, an architect, or a dentist? Over the 25 years of being a dentist, I have been asked many times why did I become a dentist. Now it is quite clear to me why I enjoy being a dentist, but I wonder what I would have said if you would have asked me that before entering dental school. 

            I started this blog in an attempt to change the public’s perception of dentistry and dentists to a more positive light. In an effort to change that persona of the negativity associated with The Dentist, I would like for you to meet someone.  A bright, attractive young lady named Carly, who is about to enter Harvard Dental School in August, 2012. I have known Carly for many years, and I think our recent conversation will help you understand dentists as people.  Our goal is to continue this blog over her dental school experience. Maybe by the end of these chronicles, you will look at dentists in a different way, and may even consider a future in dentistry yourself.

            M: Can you remember the moment or time when you definitely decided you would pursue a career in dentistry? Was there an "Aha" moment for you? If so, please tell me about it.

C: I never had one single “Aha” moment. Deciding to become a dentist was more of a process for me. In high school I volunteered as an EMT, and in college I studied jewelry design and metalsmithing. As an EMT, I loved helping people and was fascinated by medicine and the human body. Being an artist developed my dexterity and attention to detail, and I loved working with my hands. Despite my love of art, I felt qualms about pursuing it as a career. I was doing it to please myself and didn’t feel that my work was beneficial for anyone else or the community. At some point during college, Dr. Lehmann suggested that dentistry would be an excellent career, especially with my metalsmithing skills. Although I didn’t pursue it at the time, her advice percolated in the back of my mind.

After college, I worked as an estate buyer in a jewelry store. I enjoyed it, but I couldn’t help improve peoples’ lives in the way I wanted. I thought of my experiences as an EMT and my conversations with Dr. Lehmann. I knew I wanted an intellectually challenging career that would let me give back to the people I work with and to my community. Dentistry will allow me to combine medicine and my artistic skills to make a positive difference in my patients’ health and give the best care possible.

            M: What is it you are looking the most forward to about being a dentist?

C: I’m attracted to dentistry, because I know I can make a difference in people’s lives. I am looking forward to building relationships with my patients while working to make their lives better. I will also be constantly learning new things and educating myself and my patients.

               M:  What are you looking forward to about dental school?

               C: For the past three years, I’ve been preparing and applying for dental school. I’ve been working so hard towards this, that it seems a little surreal to finally be about to begin. Now I’ll get to work even harder for the next four years! I’m excited about everything I’m going to learn and being able to work with my hands again. I think the human body is fascinating and I’m looking forward to learning about medicine. I’m also looking forward to being surrounded by people with similar interests and goals.

               M: Is there anything that you are anxious about concerning dental school? ( the material, having to dissect a cadaver, having to learn how to give an injection? anything)

C: Because I don’t have a strong science background, I’m a little worried that I’ll have to struggle to keep up with the material. I loved the science classes I have taken, but I haven’t had any advanced courses beyond the basic prerequisites for dental school. Most of the other students in my class are coming straight from undergrad and were biology majors. I have been spending a lot of time this summer studying and reviewing, so I’ll be prepared when classes start in August.

I am also a bit anxious about giving injections, because I don’t want to cause anyone pain. I know that my fellow students and I will practice on each other. By the time I start working with patients, I’ll be a lot more comfortable. Now that I think about it, maybe I should be more anxious about having someone else practice on me.

            M: What kind of reaction are you getting from people when you tell them you are going to dental school?

C: I usually get a positive reaction when people hear I’m going to dental school. Often, people will share stories about their own experiences with dentists. This has been a great way for me to get ideas for how I can better help my own future patients.


            I am very excited for Carly as she begins this experience. I hope she finds as much fulfillment from dentistry as I do. I know she will make lifelong friends while in dental school. Stay tuned for the future installments of The Carly Chronicles.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

2th brushing – There’s an APP for that!!!

     The single most important thing you can do on your own, to minimize your time in the dental chair, to make your visits easier, is brush your teeth! Now I have heard from many, many people over the years how much they dislike a dental visit, yet, they don’t take care of their teeth,  which leaves the clean-up duty to the dentist and/or dental hygienist and adds to their dental problems. There are additional things you could (and should) do such as flossing, rinsing, water pik usage, rubber tipping, but today I am devoting this writing purely to brushing.

Do you think that you know the best way to brush your teeth? From what I see coming through my hygienist’s chair, the answer for most people would be “no”. There are 3 simple points about brushing I am going to go over: 1) Amount of time you should spend brushing; 2) Different types of toothbrushes; 3) Toothpastes. Easy, right? I have even added some extras at the end to make this whole topic a little more interesting.

I surveyed about 25 people at random. Some were patients, some were not. I asked them to time themselves brushing their teeth. Now you have to figure that just because they were being timed, maybe these people took a little longer than usual. Maybe they were a little more careful than usual. Well, the first thing you should know, before I tell you the answers I got, is in order to do a great job cleaning a full adult mouth of teeth, it should take you about TWO MINUTES. Just two minutes, twice a day. Two minutes is about as long as 4 television commercials. That’s shorter than your favorite song. That’s only 28 minutes a week. Come on! You can at least do 4 minutes a day.  Well, the answers I got ranged from 20 seconds (yikes!!) to 4 minutes or more. Incredible!  There was a trend.  The faster brushers were using manual, regular toothbrushes. The longer brushers were using electric powered toothbrushes, most of which come with a built in timer, that keeps the brush going for 2 minutes.  You just keep brushing until it stops. Dental studies have shown that most people brush for about 30 seconds.

So here are a few tips to get you to improve your brushing. Maybe you want to try a brush with a timer in it. The longer you brush, the more likely you are to do a better job. Even if you use a manual brush, be prepared to have to stop and spit a few times.  I think most people think that when they have to stop and spit, they are done.  Also be prepared to brush, rinse and repeat! Repasting your brushing is totally acceptable, and may be necessary. Make sure you do the inside surfaces as well as the outside surfaces of the teeth; the most commonly forgotten place is the inside of the lower front teeth. Gentle, circular motion is the best, with the bristles of the brush angled towards the gumline.

ALWAYS use a soft bristled brush. Hard bristles can damage your gums, and cause recession. If you use an electric brush, the sonic action ones seem to get the best results.  An electric powered brush just has more bristle action that you cannot provide manually. Personally, I use a manual brush in the morning, and a powered brush at night.

Paste. There are so many to choose from, how do you pick the right one?  Well, no matter your age, you want a paste with fluoride.  Everyone can benefit from fluoride, from the developing child’s teeth to the adults with edges around fillings or receeding gums, there are many benefits to fluoride. If you have sensitive teeth, the sensitive formula pastes work well, if they are used consistently.  It takes about 2 weeks for them to take effect.  Conversely, if you have sensitive teeth, you shouldn’t be using a tartar control toothpaste.  The ingredient that prevents the tartar can actually make your teeth more sensitive. One ingredient that is helpful in keeping teeth their cleanest is baking soda.  Contrary to popular opinion, it is not abrasive in the amounts found in over the counter toothpastes. Some of my patients who exhibit the cleanest teeth tell me that they put the regular toothpaste on their brush and then dip it in straight baking soda.  This isn’t the best taste, but it sure works.  One man just told me that he brushes with paste and baking soda, and then holds hydrogen peroxide in his mouth for up to 10 full minutes to keep his teeth white.

               With all this being said, some of you may still not spend those 2  minutes twice a day brushing, so here is something that can help you – an APP! Yes, someone out there came up with a Toothbrush Timer App, and it wasn’t even me. 

I have over 60 apps on my iPhone, and my favorite one is the Toothbrush Timer. It has many features, but the thing it helps the user do is actually time how long you brush, which we now know should be a full 2 minutes.  It has a cartoon type picture of an open mouth, and it shows you where you should be brushing at what time and when to change areas.

There are extras like entering when your last dental visit was, when you are due for one, and when to think about changing your toothbrush (which is when the bristles start to bend or fray). Definitely check out this APP. It is free, and fun!

               One final note: for all of you who participated in my survey about toothbrushing, I promised I would give away to one of you a powered toothbrush.  The winner is Michael, of Greenwich, CT!  He actually also had the shortest reported brushing time, so this should help him spend some more time brushing!

               So grab your brush, paste up, and get to it! Remember to brush, rinse, repeat, and 2 minutes “2th brushing” can make your next dental visit a whole lot easier!