The Empowered Dental Patient
In my career I have encountered all types of people who needed dental work. I think most dentists really enjoy the interaction with their patients when presenting treatments. I am referring to the type of person who asks questions and understands what service is being provided and why.
In dentistry as well as medicine there are always treatment options. They may range from doing nothing to complete reconstructions. All alternatives have consequences. It is up to you with the advice of your dentist to weed through the consequences to determine the best course of action.
First, let’s look at periodic cleanings. I am not sure exactly where the “see your dentist every 6 months” originated. It could have been from a toothpaste commercial. Regardless, every person presents with different dental problems that may require dental cleanings every 12 weeks or once a year. This should be discussed with your hygienist and dentist and consequences should be weighed when arriving at a treatment option.
Second, let’s review x-ray frequency. I recommend some of my “high cavities” patients have check-up x-rays every six months. Depending on risk of decay or examination of recently placed dental work I will advise check-up x-rays every year. Complete x-rays should be acquired every 3-5 years. Once a person has demonstrated a good maintenance record and stable dental health radiographs can be less frequent and more regular.
Third, I want to consider the missing tooth. Believe it or not back teeth are important too. A missing molar can lead to other teeth drifting into the unoccupied space resulting in an unstable set of teeth. With continued drifting the bite can collapse and place more pressure against the front teeth. These in turn will spread and start showing gaps where no gaps existed. For this reason I will recommend replacement of missing teeth. Replacement alternatives include doing nothing, placing a removable bridge, placement of a fixed bridge, and placing an implant. Each treatment option carries a different prognosis and cost and should be discussed with your dentist.
Last, we should not look only at treatment options, but also the length of treatment. I have completed extensive treatment in just a few appointments within a month’s time. Likewise, I have provided similar treatments over the course of many years. Tailoring treatment sequence and duration should be openly discussed when making financial arrangements.
All treatments have inherent life expectancies. As a kid I thought a filling would last forever. Although they last a long time fillings do eventually cease becoming a good restorative solution and should be replaced. In fact most dental work later in life is usually replacement of previous dental work.
Feel free to ask questions and get involved with your dentist. Expectations are easily met when we know exactly what to expect.