Your dentist vs your gynecologist: Myths dispelled and terms explained
Who makes you the most uncomfortable? I was sitting in my dentist’s chair, getting my teeth cleaned, and thinking Is dentistry like what I do every day? I mean my workplace is not the mouth, but the necessary evil theme applies. Like in gynecology, if you don’t to see your dentist at regular intervals, you will find yourself with plaque that turns to cavities that turns to YUCK MOUTH. Be glad YUCK VAGINA isn’t a term (it is a thing, just not a term. Please do not hashtag that).
We are both needed in the world. You may not await seeing your dentist or gynecologist with excited anticipation, but without us, you can find yourself in trouble (flash to the scene in Cast Away when Tom Hank’s character had to hit his own rotten tooth out of his mouth with an old Ice Skate).
I have asked my dentist, the amazing Dr. Ozzie Smith, III, to share a blog post he wrote years ago but that is still relevant today. Take it away, Dr. Ozzie:
Dental Myth #1: I have TMJ
This is actually true, and so does everyone. The acronym TMJ stands for temporomandibular joint. This is the joint in the mandible (lower jaw) that articulates with the temporal bone in the maxilla (upper jaw). TMJ is often confused with the term TMD, which stands for temporomandibular joint disorder. Whenever someone says, “I have TMJ,” it’s the equivalent of saying “I have knee.”
Dental Myth #2: Getting a denture is a rite of passage
I see patients all the time who feel it’s only a matter of time before they have to get dentures. This is only partially true. If you do not take care of your teeth and gums, allowing them to deteriorate–then yes, a denture is in your future. However, if you take care of your teeth and gums, and address any health issues in your mouth as they arise–there is no reason that you should ever have to wear a denture later in life.
Dental Myth #3: They’re just baby teeth
Your child’s teeth, called primary teeth, serve a purpose. As your child grows, primary teeth create proper spacing and room for permanent teeth to erupt later on. Poor dental hygiene can cause these tooth to decay early. If the primary teeth start to decay, it’s not okay to pull them or let them fall out just because “they are baby teeth.” Prematurely removing a primary tooth can cause the space it was holding to begin closing–not allowing sufficient room for the permanent tooth to come in. This is why it is important to care for and keep primary teeth in the mouth for their normal life span (anywhere from 4 years to 10 years). Additionally, there are even some instances where the baby tooth is also the permanent tooth. Some people never develop a permanent successor to some of their primary teeth due to their individual genetics. In this case, their baby tooth will be their permanent tooth until they are old enough to consider other options. Should a child be diagnosed with a cavity at an early age, and that tooth or teeth are not treated, this cavity will progress and can cause larger issues like pain, infection and, in a worst case scenario,even death.
Dental Myth #4: Dentists use Novocaine
I personally have never used Novocaine; very few dentists do. Its widespread use was probably stopped more than 30 years ago. The local anesthetics that we use today are still in the -caine family, but are much more efficient and decrease the likelihood of allergic reactions.
Dental Myth #5: Bad Breath = Halitosis
Ok, so this one is actually true. Where the myth lies is in the fact that the halitosis is not the cause of the bad breath. More often than not, bad breath is the result of untreated periodontal disease. The bacteria associated with periodontal disease does have a very distinguishable odor, and if it’s allowed to fester and grow, the results can be… wait for it…breathtaking! Periodontal disease is treatable. Patients with a history of periodontal disease, AND have gone through the treatment for periodontal disease, should have their teeth cleaned initially 4 times a year, as opposed to the standard twice a year. Other causes of bad breath include: dental infections, not brushing the tongue, and sinus problems.
Bonus Myth, from my brother-in-law, Robert “Bobby” McDonald D.D.S.
Every tooth ache is an abscess requiring antibiotics or crushed pain medications: False! Tooth pain can be due to nerve inflammation or a cavity, which does not necessarily require antibiotics. Also, over-use of antibiotics leads to resistance. Can you imagine having a bacterial infection that won’t die with antibiotics? That is a thing. Don’t be that person. From the CDC:
Antibiotics and similar drugs, together called antimicrobial agents, have been used for the last 70 years to treat patients who have infectious diseases. Since the 1940s, these drugs have greatly reduced illness and death from infectious diseases. However, these drugs have been used so widely and for so long that the infectious organisms the antibiotics are designed to kill have adapted to them, making the drugs less effective.
Each year in the United States, at least 2 million people become infected with bacteria that are resistant to antibiotics and at least 23,000 people die each year as a direct result of these infections.
Crushed pain medication (like aspirin or ibuprofen) applied to the painful tooth area will cause gum damage and essentially chemical burns to the delicate mucosa of the mouth. This can be painful and take days or weeks to heal. The solution? Go see your dentist if you have tooth pain. The price of your dental work will likely be substantially less than that of your general health if you are mistreated or end up with resistance to certain antibiotics.
Special thanks to Dr. Ozzie and Dr. Bobby. I’ve seen Dr. Ozzie for years at both his Hyde Park and West Loop locations. My husband, father and children are all patients of Dr. Ozzie. I also have seen his partner Dr. Bianca Clark. She’s awesome too. Click here for more information about their practice.
Take home points: Go see your dentist. Go see your gynecologist (if you are a woman). A pregnancy shout out: Periodontal disease in pregnancy is linked to severe bacterial infections, and can even lead to preterm labor or delivery. It is extremely important to make sure your dental hygiene is checked if you are considering pregnancy, and that you definitely do not ignore tooth pain while pregnant. Don’t ask me for any more antibiotics for your painful mouth (the question is posed periodically). Not my orifice. I call “not it”. Be safe out there. Oh, and brush two minute twice per day and use floss daily. Don’t let this be your mouth…