Going to the dentist can be dreadful. While there are few people who genuinely enjoy their dental experiences, the general consensus is that dentists are to be feared and/or hated. But what many patients fail to recognize is that being the dentist is no walk in the park either.
They have seen (and smelled) it all, from something as minor as really bad breath to the utterly repulsive — maggots in the mouth, anyone? — and have lived to tell the tales of their oral horror stories. Read on to see the kind of stuff that dentists have had to deal with, as well as some insider knowledge you should know before your next visit.
Please Stop Talking
Okay, first things first – why do dentists always insist on sparking up a conversation with you when their hands are in your mouth? Like, what’s the point if it’s obviously difficult to answer? Some dentists might say it’s because they’re bored or they’re just doing it to mess with you, but we’ve taken to Reddit, where we’ve found AMA’s (Ask Me Anything) held by actual dentists.
Dr. Kevin Ho, who is licensed in Canada and Australia, suggests that dentists may start talking to you because they feel awkward being so close to you but not saying anything. Another dentist, whose screen name is “JayDogSqueezy” (and will now be referred to as Dr. JDS) says that most dentists want to appear personable. Any serious dentist, however, will ditch the small talk and focus on working on your mouth. Some may even put on a movie or television for you to focus on while they work.
Dentist Tip #1: Sterility Is Key
According to Prevention.com, you should be aware of your dentist’s cleanliness. The first thing to consider is how clean and organized the office is. That should be your first indication of how much your dentist cares about being clean.
Another thing to consider is their use of gloves. Your dentist shouldn’t touch other things, especially other patients, then proceed to touch your mouth with the same pair of gloves on. Make sure that they put on a fresh pair of gloves right before they get to work on your mouth. Also ask how they clean their instruments. They should be properly sterilized and autoclaved. Your best bet would be to check if the instruments they’re about to use on you come out of a sealed bag or not.
Dentist Tip #2: Their Technology
If your dentist is still using film x-rays, they might need to get with the times. Digital x-rays not only take more accurate scans, but they are also safer and more beneficial to the patient since there is less radiation exposure.
If you’re getting stuff added to your mouth — such as implants, crowns, or orthodontics — you should see where they order these supplies from. If these are manufactured anywhere other than the USA, then you might have a problem. You should get a dentist who cares about the quality of their work and what they’re putting into your mouth, rather than a dentist who outsources their materials for a cheaper price.
Why Is The Dentist So Expensive?
One of the main reasons that people avoid the dentist is because it can be quite costly, especially when your insurance plan fails to cover everything. Dr. Ho says it’s because the dental manufacturers charge pretty steep prices for their materials and many dentists are not willing to stoop to something cheaper, simply because lesser products are no good. In addition to material costs, Dr. JDS says that “it costs about $450 and hour to keep an office running,” when you have to pay the staff and the bills.
But one dental assistant from cafemom.com admits that there is still a huge amount of profit to the dentist after all the material and office costs. She says that for new dentists, their prices are so high because they’re trying to pay off their student loans. Once that is paid off, then the dentist pockets the money, which is why a lot of dentists appear to be ballin’. Go figure.
Don’t Be Creepy
There’s a running joke on the internet in which many people wonder what would happen if they just started licking their dentist’s fingers while their dentist’s hands are in their mouths. One dentist on Reddit has actually had this happen to him, recounting the story of an older patient who was deliberately licking the dentist’s finger while he was doing a filling.
The patient explained that “it felt good to him,” and after finishing the filling the dentist “told him it would be best to seek dental care somewhere else in the future.” So if you were wondering what would happen if you wanted to creep your dentist out that way, now you have an idea.
Dentist Tip #3: Beware Of Money-Hungry Dentists
Admittedly, there are some dentists who really are just in it for the money. In addition to the extremely high overhead costs, they will find other ways to reel you into their practice to get access to your wallet.
One way that they do this is by overtly advertising their business through various platforms. They might have deals on Groupon or have numerous advertisements out there with seemingly good deals. If a dentist seems to be overdoing it, that might mean that they’re fishing for patients since nobody likes to go to them. We bet you can’t guess other ways in which dentists try to scam you..
Selling Additional Products
In addition to over-selling themselves, some dentists will try to upsell you on extra products. Prevention.com asked Dr. Jonathan Schwartz, a dentist based in New York, about dentist red flags and he says that “If a dentist sells vitamins or other dietary supplements, claiming that it will help your oral hygiene, that would suggest that he’s just trying to sell things to make money.”
So don’t fall for any gimmicks next time you find yourself in the dentist’s chair. A good dentist should be focused on your oral health and most generally just suggest brushing and flossing regularly to maintain it.
Dentist Tip #4: Really Can’t Afford A Good Dentist?
One dental assistant suggests trying to take your business to a dental school. Because the dental work is performed by a dentist-in-training, the services are much more affordable since the school is held accountable for anything that might go wrong.
But the idea that something might go wrong shouldn’t steer you away from these places. The fact that the future dentist is in training, means that their work is overseen by an actual dentist and according to the dental assistant who provided this insider tip, the trainee needs to have been in their schooling for at least six years before they are allowed to work on actual patients. Good luck!
Don’t Use Fake Nails For Teeth!
This might seem like a no-brainer, but this is actually a common practice among cosplayers who need fangs or other particular teeth shapes to complete their look. While it makes sense that you’d want to do this for a temporary costume, there are actually some people who use fake nails for their everyday look!
One dentist on Reddit recounted the story of a patient who superglued stick-on french manicure nails on the tips of her teeth to get the perfect smile! The patient confessed that she had been doing this for years and wanted the dentist to use dental-grade glue to stick the nails permanently to her teeth. The dentist actually wanted to take off the nails and clean the woman’s teeth, since she had accumulated layers of glue, plaque, and food, but instead, the woman got mad and accused the dentist of only wanting her money! Yikes!
A Lawsuit Waiting To Happen
One dentist-in-training contributed their worst patient experience to Reddit, recounting the time she had a dad and his eight-year-old son. The dad had already started making her uncomfortable with his derogatory comments towards female dentists, even after declining a male student in her place.
While the student was performing a check-up on the son, who all of a sudden bit her finger so hard she started bleeding! She pulled her hand away and the dad started yelling at her and threatened to sue, saying “serves you right you little [expletive], trying to give my son AIDS.” Thankfully the student’s instructor handled the situation and the man and his son were escorted out of the building.
Dentist Tip #5: Dentists Who Don’t Care
Prevention.com also warns of dentists who don’t ask for or require your previous dental records when you’re a new patient. A new dentist should ask for your previous records before they know you’re coming in for your first appointment because they are essential in tracking your x-ray history and any oral developmental issues you’ve had in the past.
You also wouldn’t want the new dentist to perform any new x-rays on you if you’ve recently had them done at your previous dentist, because that is additional radiation exposure that you definitely do not need. So make sure your new dentist asks for your records and if they don’t, you might want to recommend them yourself.
Dentist Tip #6: Prideless Dentists
Make sure your dentist proudly displays their previous work and accomplishments in their office. If they don’t display any before and after work, you can certainly request to see anything they have on file that they’re willing to show. If the dentist is being weirdly private about their work, you have to wonder what they might be trying to hide.
If there is a particular procedure you’re planning to get done, you would want to see how your dentist has performed said procedure on previous patients. This will reassure you that not only can they do an excellent job, but also that they know what they’re doing.
The Secret For Oral Hygiene
There really is no huge, unknown secret. Just brush and floss regularly like your dentist recommends! Previously mentioned Dr. JDS has admitted that he doesn’t floss as often as he should, saying that “not everybody needs to floss every day… If you have a very low decay rate, and no evidence of gum disease, flossing is not critical. If you do get lots of cavities and/or have bleeding gums or loss of bone around your teeth,” then you should probably floss more often.
He also suggests rinsing with mouthwash when you brush your teeth, and that you should floss while there’s still a little toothpaste in your mouth so that it gets between your teeth and into your gum pockets. The more you know..
Shut Your Mouth Before A Bug Flies In
On a Reddit thread asking the dentists of Reddit “what was the dirtiest mouth they’ve ever had to clean,” you won’t believe some of the stories people have had to endure. One person, who was a dentist in the Navy, was in Kenya when they were told to set up clinics for the locals.
The Naval dentist recalled a middle-aged woman who came and complained of a swelling pain in her upper right jaw, which was caused by an abscessed tooth. Abscessed teeth occur when pockets of pus develop in a tooth that is infected. The dentist promptly numbed the woman in preparation to pull out her tooth, but when he did, maggots fell out of the socket!
On the same thread, another person graced Reddit readers with a terrible experience from their time in dental school. As a part of the person’s residency, they had to do a hospital rotation and they were asked to examine a man who was recovering from unconsciousness due to the man’s use of heroin, which causes dry mouth.
They found a strange, thick white crust covering his mouth and tongue. It did not turn out to be any sort of bacteria or fungus, but it fact, it was “sinus drainage into his mouth that had dried and he essentially [had] a quarter inch thick layer of booger covering his mouth and throat.” Gross!
Dentist Tip #7: Oral Cancer
You want to make sure that your dentist regularly examines your mouth for any signs of oral cancer. If they don’t perform a routine oral cancer screening, ask them to. Prevention.com writes that “oral cancers linked to the human papilloma virus (HPV) have increased threefold over the past two decades, according to the American Association for Cancer Research.”
So even if you think it’s rare, you still want to make sure you get checked for any early signs, just like you would for any other routine cancer screenings. The graphic above shows you just exactly how a screening is performed.
Dental Tip #8: Unnecessary Procedures
If your dentist recommends a bunch of seemingly excessive procedures, you might want to get a second opinion on that. You will especially want to be wary of this when changing to a new dentist. Many dentists might be trying to scam you by suggesting these things just so they can find something to work on.
They may also suggest that you get services done just because your insurance will cover it, but don’t fall for it. Just because it’s covered and you wouldn’t have to pay, doesn’t mean it is extra beneficial to your overall oral health. Just like the saying goes – if it ain’t broke, why fix it?
Are Whitening Products Actually Useful?
Dr. Ho says they do actually work, but only to an extent. What whitens the teeth is hydrogen peroxide. According to Dr. Ho, the hydrogen peroxide “helps break down large stain molecules to less visible ones. This ingredient needs to stay on the tooth for a long period of time to take effect.”
White strips have a limited amount of hydrogen peroxide, which is why they do work for a time, but aren’t always as thorough as getting professional whitening done would be. This is why whitening mouth rinses aren’t effective either. Dr. Ho also warns of overusing whitening toothpaste because you are scrubbing the product on your teeth, so it can actually be quite damaging!
A Story To Make You Cringe
Another Reddit contributor who worked at a dental clinic was getting trained on how to perform cleanings. Their instructor told them this story: One of their patients had a calculus bridge behind her top front teeth. A calculus bridge occurs when copious amounts of plaque accumulates and hardens so much over several teeth, that it can only be removed professionally.
When the dentist was removing the bridge, one piece fell off to reveal maggots underneath! You must be pretty neglectful of your oral hygiene to end up having a family of maggots hiding in your mouth. We’re sure you’re probably already brushing your teeth for the tenth time today after hearing this last story. Don’t worry, we are too.