Among the “50 Secrets from Your Dentist” recently featured in Reader’s Digest, we find some excellent, concise statements that pound home some key points about dental health and hygiene – points that bear repeating.
- Some truly educated people think that if nothing in their mouth hurts, they’re fine. High cholesterol doesn’t hurt, either, but it’s a big problem. I honestly think that the general population doesn’t understand that their mouth is part of their body. – Danine Fresch Gray, DDS, general dentist, Arlington, Virginia
- If your hands bled when you washed them, you’d run to the doctor. But in the public’s mind, bleeding gums are okay. Unless you’re really whaling away with your brush, if your gums bleed even a little, that’s periodontal disease, period. – Ron Schefdore, DMD, general dentist, Chicago, Illinois
- The advice to see your dentist twice a year applies only if you have healthy gums. Most people don’t. – Chris Kammer, DDS, cosmetic dentist, Middleton, Wisconsin
- Many of my patients have periodontal disease affecting their back teeth, but their front teeth are fine. Evidently, they brush only what others see. – Joel Slaven, DDS, general dentist, Valencia, California
- Dentists often tell patients with advanced gum disease to floss more often. But flossing is useless at that point. Imagine trying to clean out the bottom of a shirt pocket with a piece of string tied to your fingers. – Reid Winick, DDS, holistic dentist, New York, New York
- When someone meets you for the first time, the first thing they notice is eyes. Second is teeth, and third is hair. But people spend way more money on their hair than their teeth. – Damian Dachowski, DMD, general dentist, Horsham, Pennsylvania
- Many people without insurance don’t go to a dentist until they’re in a tragic situation. They could wind up needing $20,000 worth of work. – Paul Hettinger, DMD
- Cosmetic dentistry works only on a healthy mouth – you can’t build a house on a swamp. But if you look around, you can find a dentist who will do cosmetic work without treating your gum disease first. There are a lot of incompetents and outright charlatans in my profession. – Joel Slaven, DDS
Of course, there are also some statements that are flat-out false or foolish, especially on the matter of mercury amalgam fillings:
- Amalgam [silver] fillings do release a small amount of mercury through wear and tear in the mouth. But you’d have to have about 300 fillings for the mercury level to get high enough to pose even the smallest risk. – Edmond Hewlett, DDS, prosthodontist, Los Angeles, California
- Composite [tooth-colored] fillings are popular, but a metal filling is going to be more durable, especially for bigger jobs. – Brody Hildebrand, DDS, orthodontist, Dallas, Texas
- I have amalgam fillings in my own mouth. There’s no proof that they do any harm. Convincing patients to remove their fillings for health reasons is quackery. – Michael Alkon, DMD, general dentist, Holmdel, New Jersey
If we wanted to be snarky, we might say that those fillings do appear to have muddled the good doctor’s thinking, for there is plenty of proof of the dangers of dental mercury, putting to rest bogus claims such as the “300 fillings” cliche.
But instead, we’ll tell you what, Dr. A: go take a look at something like KJ’s story, then tell him and his mother face-to-face and eye-to-eye that amalgam is perfectly safe. You let us know how that goes, okay?
Meantime, there is one comment by a pro-amalgam dentist that does make good sense:
Taking metal fillings out can release more mercury than leaving them in. – Brody Hildebrand, DDS
This is entirely true. And it’s why those who, having become informed on the issue and undergone thorough testing to make sure that their fillings are, in fact, the source of their health problems, should be certain that their dentist follows proper safety protocols in removing the amalgam fillings, precisely to minimize exposure to this potent neurotoxin. Sadly, all too many stories abound of people who had their fillings unsafely removed and thus became even sicker.
But we must also note that even accepting the claim that amalgam fillings are “more durable” than composite – which is no longer entirely true with respect to new generation composites and completely disregards the possibility of ceramic restorations – no filling lasts forever. Eventually, even an amalgam one needs to be replaced. And when it does, we hope those dentists at least follow stringent safety procedures to protect all concerned.