What Dentists REALLY Think During Your Exam

Your dentist knows more about you than you may realize. During your appointment, he or she can tell what you had for lunch, if you really floss regularly and even if you could be at risk for chronic diseases. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. 

To turn the tables, we asked dentists what they’d like you to know. Their answers may surprise you!  

We don’t expect you to answer our questions while we’re working in your mouth.

Our somewhat one-sided conversations and questions relieve awkward silence, help pass the time and distract you from our gloved fingers and instruments in your mouth. Also, our chatter can help us learn more about each other, making our dental visits more friendly.

We can tell when you don’t floss. 

Even if you meticulously floss your teeth before your checkup, we can tell if flossing isn’t a regular habit by the gum inflammation that develops in your mouth over time. Just floss once a day, including below the gumline, and your teeth and gums can be much healthier – and you won’t need to fib about your flossing habits.

We really appreciate it when you brush before your appointment.

We’re grateful when our patients show up with no plaque or food debris on their teeth. A clean field is always easier to work with. That being said, we understand that sometimes you have to squeeze a dental appointment into the middle of a workday or between running errands. Not everyone has time to brush beforehand. 

We think drinking soda is bad. Really bad.

Regular soda is full of sugar and typically quite acidic. This is a double whammy for your teeth. The sugar feeds acid-producing bacteria that cause tooth decay, and the acidity can cause tooth erosion if you sip on a soft drink frequently throughout the day. The best advice is to avoid it entirely. If you’re going to drink it, limit yourself to one small 12- to 16-ounce drink daily and finish it at one sitting instead of sipping it over the course of the day. 

Bad breath doesn’t bother us – unless it’s also bad news for your health.

Bad breath, also called halitosis, is very common. Although it’s a source of embarrassment for many patients, we’re used to encountering morning coffee breath and post-lunch garlic breath. 

Bad breath is really only a concern for us when it is a chronic issue, which can indicate that something bigger could be wrong, from an abscessed tooth to gum disease. Chronic bad breath can also be caused by a problem outside your mouth such as a sinus infection, tonsillitis or even more serious problems like diabetes, reflux disease, kidney or liver failure or other systemic problems. 

Don’t be afraid to discuss the causes and solutions for bad breath with your dentist. When you have occasional dragon breath, brushing and flossing, swishing with water or popping a breath mint should do the trick. 

It’s OK if you forget to floss once in a while.

It’s good to form routine habits, and flossing once a day helps us build a simple routine. It’s also important to remember why you brush and floss. These two simple practices remove the sticky film (plaque) that constantly forms on teeth. The longer plaque lingers, the more it releases destructive acids, as well as other enzymes and chemicals that can harm teeth and gums. 

Plaque doesn’t cause tooth decay or gum disease overnight, so if you miss a day you are not going to suddenly have a decayed tooth or develop gum disease. However, many people tend to repeatedly miss the same spots, such as between teeth and under the gumline, where your toothbrush can’t reach. If you keep missing the same area each day, the plaque in that area can have weeks – or even months – of impact before it is removed. So try to establish a good routine of daily brushing and flossing, but don’t fret too much if you miss a day. (Do make an effort to floss after eating sweets, though!) 

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