Lying (To Your Hygienist) Through Your Teeth?
You know that awkward moment right before your routine dental cleaning when your dental hygienist asks you “How are you doing with your brushing and flossing”? What should you say? How quickly and in what tone are you responding? Is it that she really needs your help to figure out how good you’ve been taking care of your teeth? Or, is it a “do you know why I pulled you over” kind of question that the police officers asks, just to gauge your honesty before he puts together the list of violations to stick you with? Here is what she actually knows:
She can tell how often you’ve been brushing at home, even if you scrub the heck out of your teeth before walking in for your visit.
The health of your gums is the litmus test for how good your long term hygiene has been. When plaque sits on your teeth, as early at 48 hours later, the gums become irritated and inflamed. That inflammation is called gingivitis. Its been linked to so many health problems like premature births in young mothers, cardiovascular disease in middle aged people, and Alzheimer’s disease in the elderly.
Asking a question in response to her question isn’t going to make her forget that she wants to talk about your hygiene at home.
You can bet that your dentist and hygienist ask nearly all their patients, everyday, about how they’re doing with their hygiene at home. That question serves as just a friendly reminder that dental check ups are important, but they are not a replacement for proper daily hygiene practice. To respond by saying “should I use mouthwash” or “what’s the best toothpaste” isn’t really going to make them forget their question. They get that all the time. If you’ve been struggling to keep up with your hygiene, the honest answer might lead to her suggesting ways to help you overcome whatever obstacle has kept you from staying on top of your oral health. After all, she probably deals with dozens of others patients that have similar hurdles. After all, Pinterest isn’t the only way to find cool ideas to make your life better.
Everyone knows the right answer.
Your hygienist and dentist are well aware that you know brushing twice, for two minutes, and flossing nightly is “the right answer”. So a stuttering “yes I am brushing and flossing” response is the worse approach. Your dental professional isn’t there to judge or preach. By saying you are brushing when your mouth screams plaque, it may be adding insult to injury. Cavities are a disease of modernity. The busy, American family lifestyle often pushes diet and oral hygiene down our list of priorities. Your dental professional understands that. Let them be on your team. You might benefit from fluoride treatment, more frequent professional cleanings, or even a deep cleaning to help you catch up.
So there is no doubt that here in the U.S., honesty and open communication is the most useful approach when it comes to oral health provider and patient relationship. For some reason, according to CNET, researchers at National Taiwan University have invented a wearable tooth sensor that “stops you from lying to your dentist”. What’s next?