How to Get the Most Out of Your Dental Visit

A top dentist offers tips on having a productive dental visit.

Medically Reviewed by Eric Yabu, DDS on March 12, 2014
3 min read

As president of Charles River Dental in Boston, Mark A.H. Sivers, DMD, aims to make dental care as positive, painless, and downright relaxing as possible -- complete with warm neck wraps, eye pillows, and paraffin hand treatments to distract you from the business at hand.

"If you find going to the dentist a painful or scary thing, that means you need to find a new dentist," he says. Sivers shares these words of wisdom.

If your dental cleaning takes less time than a sitcom, it's not thorough enough. "A dental checkup in less than a half-hour is simply not enough time for both a cleaning and for the dentist's exam. The cleaning from the hygienist alone should take at least 30 to 45 minutes. Then there's the dentist's portion, which should not be a 30-second handshake and drive-by. He or she should check every tooth, all the gums, all the way around, as well as do an oral cancer screening."

In for something like a crown, an implant, or a cap? Ask your dentist where the hardware was made. "There are a few places dentists can buy their supplies. One group comes from places like Switzerland, Germany, and Japan, where they are made under very tightly controlled conditions by the leading technicians of the world. Then you can get materials from Mexico, China, or Thailand, where the workers are often trained on the job and the quality is questionable."

Two words: Do floss. "Tons of new products may claim to simulate flossing and believe me, the whole world is looking for a substitute, but dental floss is the gold standard. I think of it this way: Floss is like the rag used in an old-fashioned shoeshine. It bends around the shoe, enveloping it with each pass back and forth."

Improve your technique. "Unfortunately, most of us are still brushing much the same way we did as little kids -- hard, fast, and not very accurate. To thoroughly clean these tiny areas, you need to go up and down, back and forth, and in circular motions."

We asked Sivers about his own dental habits.

Do you chew gum? "Yup. I do. Not a lot, mind you, but I do. The extra saliva is good for your mouth."

Sugarless gum, right? "No, not always! The kind with xylitol artificial sweetener is popular because it sticks to bacteria and inhibits its growth, and sometimes I'll chew that. But I also chew plain old sugary gum -- any kind. The added saliva production effectively dilutes the sugar, so it's truly not that different."

If you can't brush, what do you do? "I usually just rinse thoroughly with water, although eating an apple can help, too. Other good choices when it may be hard to brush: cheese, nuts, and 100% raw cocoa."

Are you one of those people who brush their teeth after lunch? "Nope, I don't. I brush twice a day, just like we recommend to our patients. The truth is, statistically speaking, adding the extra brushing doesn't make that much of a difference."

Do you replace your toothbrush after a cold? "No, but I use a toothbrush that comes with a UV sanitizer station, so I do sanitize the head after each use. After each checkup (every 3 months) I swap out the head for a new one."

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