Dentistry: Why It’s An “Essential” Service

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essential syllables defined above a star wars looking title to return to the dentist

We know it’s been a long twelve months, and there is no denying that March 2020 marked the start of an unprecedented, unbelievably tough time that presented us all with some pretty rough hardships including unpredictable work hours and volatile incomes. Businesses and schools were shut down which meant many of us had to stay at home due to closings, layoffs, and mandated ‘work from home’ orders.

We were all busy managing a new norm, providing childcare, working from home, home-schooling, and even quarantining at times. And if you weren’t stuck at home, you were likely working around the clock to handle whatever it is you handle. (And we thank you for your service!)

Make no mistake, we get it! As humans with families we’ve been busy managing the hardships over the past year, too, and how we practice dentistry has changed to adapt to the times (as it should).

Putting off dental cleanings and treatments made sense a year ago when the office was closed, but if you’re still procrastinating, we’d like to remind you why dentistry is an essential service and encourage you to resume your regular cleanings and any necessary treatments.

adjective; “It is essential to maintain healthy teeth and gums if you actually want to keep your teeth.”

noun; “Dental cleanings are an essential to overall good health”

Procrastination: Yesterday You Said, “Tomorrow”

Procrastination and delaying gratification are not the same thing. You might be a procrastinator if you’ve uttered the words; “Oh, it’s just a cleaning, I’ll put if off for a few months and it won’t really matter.” Or, “The dentist said it wasn’t an emergency right now, so I’ll wait.

Let’s face it, the majority of people are not fans of going to the dental office, so it’s always nice to have a ready-made excuse to put a procedure on the back burner. But don’t confuse waiting to go the dentist with waiting to spend your tax return on an all inclusive tropical vacation with bottomless umbrella drinks.

COVID Cavities: Why Forgoing your Dental Appointment is Bad

You’ve no doubt watched the press briefings where experts lecture us that it’s the people with underlying health conditions who are at a much higher risk of fatality if they contract COVID-19.

Patients with COPD (a chronic obstructive pulmonary disease characterized by chronic airflow limitation that isn’t fully reversible) are one of those demographics. COPD is actually the third leading cause of death in the U.S., affecting more than 24 million people. Unfortunately, poor oral hygiene, dental problems and COPD means any diseased teeth provide a huge reservoir of pathogenic bacteria, which creates an increase in respiratory symptoms.

Diabetes is another high stakes health gamble if you happen to catch COVID-19. Periodontitis has actually been identified as the sixth classification of diabetes. This is why it is imperative to maintain good routine home care and follow up with all periodontal treatment. Your provider can address any severely inflamed gum tissue and mitigate bone loss, which prevents tooth loss. Diabetes + Periodontitis + COVID-19 = you can probably do the math and it doesn’t include a nicely seared porterhouse steak.

Pandemic Problems: Pickers, Pokers & Scrapers, Oh My!

People have become very self-sufficient during the pandemic. Pinterest, Instagram, and TikTok views have surged during the pandemic because everyone has been at home baking bread, giving the family haircuts, tiling the kitchen backsplash, and dusting off the sewing machine to make masks.

However, while brushing and flossing at home is definitely recommended (and dentist approved), there are some things that you really can’t (or shouldn’t) do at home – even if you watched a two-minute YouTube video and Amazon Prime-d yourself a few tools.

While it might seem like Karey, Bianca, Ciara and Chelsea are doing “just” a cleaning, each one of those sharp instruments they use (both above and below the gum line), have a different function based on the specific tooth (and surface). It takes special training, strength, and motor coordination not to inflict what would be the equivalent of a thousand paper cuts all over your gums.

And a quick word about attempting to extract any tooth that isn’t already loose and/or attached to one of your own children; don’t! Finally, if you think you can DIY a root canal, you might need a different kind of assistance than what a dental office can provide.

Tooth Selfies: Choose Your Own Diagnosis

Every year it seems like there is some amazing new upgrade or design feature added to cellphones. And while Instagram and SnapChat can filter all kinds of fun sparkles onto your smile, there is currently no X-ray app to download to see what is going on inside your teeth (or below the gum line and in your jaw).

Even if there were such an app, I am here to tell you that there is an entire course dedicated to reading and diagnosing X-rays in dental school. I know I wouldn’t feel comfortable interpreting an EKG just because I went to dental school and watched a few episodes of Grey’s Anatomy. There really is no way to DIY (Diagnose It Yourself) x-rays. You have to go to the dentist to “see” what’s happening below the surface and identify small issues while they’re still small issues.

Believe me, I recently diagnosed my dog with a root canal (PSA; always listen to your vet when they tell you not to give your pet anything hard enough that you wouldn’t want it thrown at your kneecap, Kongs; good, Soup bones; bad). This is a perfect example of when to ‘stay in your lane.’

Return to the Dentist

If you put off dental treatment in 2020, you are not alone. Given the challenging logistics, both financially and in terms of scheduling, it makes sense. It’s hard to coordinate a cleaning to remove your calculus when you are also trying to teach your child calculus!

Regrettably, this also meant that many dental benefits went unused, even though they are deducted every pay period; and, unlike your cell phone, there is no such thing as “roll over” dental insurance dollars.

Unfortunately, dental problems typically do not go away over time. Delaying dental treatment, even preventative, can increase the risk of infection, inflammation and may ultimately result in more costly restorative procedures (or worse, an oral surgery appointment).

Whether or not you’ve made any resolutions for this year, we hope that you are able to make a commitment to put your dental health back on track. 

If you have any questions regarding your dental benefits, would like to schedule an appointment, have a tooth that’s been bothering you, or need to see what may be outstanding on your current treatment plan, just give us a call at 207-782-5308.

We look forward to welcoming you (back) into our office, and we wish everyone a safe and healthy 2021!

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