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What toothpaste should I use? How often do I need to floss? What causes bad breath?! These are examples of questions that dentists hear all the time. They are basic FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions) that can be answered by typing ‘dental FAQs’ into any internet search engine. Furthermore, some of the answers to these basic FAQs are well-mined nuggets of conventional wisdom and general knowledge. Flossing, for example, is necessary, but folks still ask the floss question. You need to floss every day!

Eye-roll inducing indolence aside, it’s important to be well versed on dental health issues and concerns, and the very best way to become well versed is to talk to your dentist. We talked to some top local dentists about the questions they hear in their offices every day. Many of the questions they mentioned were not general at all, but focused on very specific aspects of dental health care like insurance coverage, procedure costs, pain management, the benefits of taking fluoride, and teeth whitening.

Dr. Kianna Simmons, DMD, practitioner and owner of KErin Oral Care, highlighted several case-sensitive FAQs in our discussions with her.

“This is always dependent on the individual’s insurance plan, whether or not they specifically have dental insurance, and then what tier of dental insurance they have. Insurance companies can cover certain procedures at 100%, 80%, 50%, or no coverage for certain procedures. All of this is in the patient’s insurance policy documentation.

“However, most dental practices offer patients a free of charge service of sending out a pre-estimate form to their insurance provider to get an estimate of what the insurance would pay as a benefit for the patient.”

If this is a question you’ve pondered on the way to the dentist, it’s probably time to give your insurance provider a call to find out exactly what they’ll cover your mouth with. Dental insurance is essential to modern life, as the costs associated with dental care can become prohibitive without it. Speaking of costs:

“This is a loaded question, it can vary based on procedure and number of procedures, dental materials, lab fees, etc. In most instances patients ask this in reference to how much they will have to pay out of pocket and this is variable as patient co-payments are different for the various insurance companies as well as different plans within the same insurance company.”

“Another case dependent question. Every patient is different and their tolerance for pain is different. Our bodies respond differently so one pain reliever works well for some, not well for others. The least pain producing procedures are those with the least invasive treatments (i.e. a dental exam), that are most easily accessible (i.e. front of mouth with direct line of vision) and not previously problematic (i.e. no swelling or infection present prior to treatment).”

Yeah. Take care of your mouth if you want to avoid pain. Floss!

“So at this point you can appreciate most, if not all dental questions have variable answers. Each case is different, as each patient is different. There are, of course, norms that we work with, but we manage patients individually. This is the same for ‘when can I eat?’ This is dependent on the amount and strength of the anaesthetic given and/or the procedure that has been completed (i.e. an x-ray, you can eat right away versus a soft tissue tongue or cheek biopsy, it’s better to wait until anaesthesia wears off), and of course the type of dental material used, (i.e. self-hardening dental material versus a light cured composite).”

These FAQs illustrate that dental experiences are routinely quite intimate, so questions about personal comfort, costs, and how procedures will affect a patient get asked a lot. The basic questions presented in the opening lines belong in the preface of dental care, whereas the questions emphasized by Dr. Simmons are very much a bona fide part of the full text.

Dr Lara Loesher, Secretary of the Bermuda Dental Association pointed to yet another type of FAQ; the general question about specific aspects of dentistry. These questions are not necessarily case-sensitive, but they are focused on quite specialized topics within the broad scope of Dentistry.

“Dental X-rays are very safe. The amount of radiation received in one dental X-ray is about 0.005 mSv, which is about 6 times less than the radiation you would receive from a short flight from Bermuda to New York (about 0.036 mSv).”

Now, we all know none of y’all are going to stop taking trips to New York, so let’s stop looking for excuses to not get vital procedures done. Dentists are our friends!

“Fluoride is a mineral that helps to make teeth stronger and more resistant to cavities. It also helps to reverse early cavities so that fillings are not needed. There is an appropriate dose for both adults and children, and it is best to seek advice from your dentist to understand the best amount for you and your child.

“Fluoride can be obtained in drop or tablet form for children, and in tooth-paste for children and adults. Fluoride consumed in appropriate amounts has been shown to be safe and extremely effective in reducing cavities. If too much fluoride is consumed while your child’s teeth are developing, harmless white spots can develop on the teeth. It is best to monitor your child’s fluoride consumption; ensure that only a very small amount of toothpaste is used, especially if unable to spit, and seek further individualized advice from your dentist regarding the options for fluoride.”

Fluoride can be a point of contention for parents, but the benefits of strong, healthy teeth are well worth the minimal risks that taking fluoride involves. Fluoride use can help to develop healthy dental care habits from an early age as well, which is important if you want to keep your teeth for a lifetime.

“For teeth whitening, sadly there is no one size fits all approach. Everyone’s needs are different, and it is best to obtain advice directly from your dentist. As a general rule of thumb, whitening performed using professional whitening trays and gels is the safest and most effective approach. Some over-the-counter whitening toothpastes are abrasive and remove surface stains only, which, when used in excess can cause thinning and weakening of the tooth. Speak to your dentist and they can help deter-mine which method is best for you.”

Yes, indeed, everybody wants them pearly whites these days, so dental offices are routinely inundated with questions about teeth-whitening; that makes a lot of sense. Here we return to the intimate, case-sensitive FAQ because, unless you are very wealthy and can afford those fancy, shiny veneers, you’re going to have to figure out what method works for you if you want rock star teeth.

So, in summary: get familiar with your insurance provider’s dental policy, floss daily, buy soft toothbrushes and fluoride tooth paste, whiten moderately, avoid consuming excessive sugar (cavity prevention is the best cure!), and, most importantly, ask questions! Frequently!

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