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INFO FOR NEW MOMS

June 10, 2019

Filed under: Uncategorized — Dr. J. Peter St. Clair, DMD @ 12:00 pm

The key to a child’s good dental health begins before his or her teeth become visible. Here are some answers to some of the most frequently asked dental health questions relating to pregnancy, infants, toddlers and children.

1. Does being pregnant affect my oral health? Yes… hormonal changes exaggerate the way gum tissues react to the irritants in plaque. Thorough brushing and flossing of your teeth twice daily to remove the plaque and eating a balanced diet will help to keep your gums healthy.

2. Should I visit my dentist during my pregnancy? Yes… you should continue regular dental visits. However, it is very important to let your dentist know that you are pregnant. You may be asked to be seen more frequently.

3. Are x-rays safe during pregnancy? Yes… x-rays are safe during pregnancy and are a vital tool used in helping to detect dental and other oral health problems. Only the x-rays that are necessary for treatment will be taken. You will be asked to wear a lead apron for extra protection.

4. When will my infant begin to get teeth? Tooth eruption varies from infant to infant. However, most infants will start to get teeth around six to 12 months of age.

5. When should I begin to brush my infant’s teeth? Starting at birth, clean your infant’s gums with a soft infant toothbrush, cotton gauze, or cloth and cool water. For infants under two years of age, parents should consult their child’s dentist before introducing a fluoride toothpaste.

6. How much fluoridated toothpaste should I use when brushing my child’s teeth? Beginning at 2 years of age, a pea-sized amount of fluoridated toothpaste should be used during brushing. Children should be encouraged to spit, not swallow, toothpaste, and the amount of toothpaste used can be increased after five or six years of age when the child can reliably do this.

7. When should I take my baby in for his/her first dental visit? This varies among practitioners. Consult your family dentist. In the meantime, look into the child’s mouth on a regular basis to make sure you don’t see anything unusual.

8. How can I prevent my infant from getting early decay, know as early childhood caries or baby bottle tooth decay? When placing your infant down to sleep (nap or nighttime), place only water in the bottle. Sugary liquids like formula, breast milk, juice and soda can pool around the infant’s teeth and cause decay. Don’t forget to clean or brush your infant’s gums/teeth twice daily to remove food and plaque.

9. What else can I do to keep my child’s teeth healthy? Children are not born with the bacteria that cause decay. They are exposed to these bacteria from their caregivers, especially their mothers. By keeping your teeth healthy and free from decay, you can help reduce your child’s exposure to these bacteria and reduce the chances of early decay.

10. What can I do to help my baby through teething? Many babies like a teething ring, cool spoon, or cold wet washcloth. Some parents/care providers rub their infant’s gums with a clean finger.

Dr. St. Clair maintains a private dental practice in Rowley and Newburyport dedicated to health-centered family dentistry. If there are certain topics you would like to see written about or questions you have please email them to him at jpstclair@stclairdmd.com. You can view all previously written columns at www.jpeterstclairdentistry.com/blog.

THE LINK – PART 3/3

June 3, 2019

Filed under: Uncategorized — Dr. J. Peter St. Clair, DMD @ 1:10 pm

If you missed Part 1 and/or 2 of this series, you can find it at www.thetowncommon.com.

I have been writing the past couple weeks about the growing evidence that links oral and systemic disease, and the need for more collaboration between dentists and physicians. All of this, of course, is in the best interest of the patient.

The discussion has been primarily about gum disease and its relationship with systemic disease. The body is a complex system – and everything is connected. In addition to the need for dentists and MD’s to collaborate more on the oral/systemic connection, we also need to collaborate better about our patient’s sleep problems. 

Since I have taken an interest in screening for, and treating some sleep problems, it amazes me how many people have issues with their sleep. It amazes me even more when I learn that many of these people have never even had a conversation with their doctor about sleep. However, according to experts in sleep medicine, there is room for expansion of knowledge amongst dentists and many physicians about the various types of sleep issues.

Periodontal issues and sleep are just two areas where more information should be shared between dentists and physicians. We have to be open to the fact that everything is connected and needs to be taken into consideration when we are trying to diagnose, monitor, or solve our patient’s problems.

For example, I had a patient in last week who has been a patient of mine for about 7 years. I noticed in the patient’s notes that bruxism/grinding had been discussed at most hygiene appointments in the past, due to the noticeable wear patterns on the patient’s teeth. There was also a quote in the notes several times stating that the patient would never wear a dental appliance at night.

As I did my exam I kept thinking to myself that there must be more to the story behind this patient’s dental issues. It happened to be around our lunch break, so I asked the patient if she had a few minutes for us to talk. She seemed interested in what I had to say. I photographed her teeth to compare them with photos taken 7 years ago. We talked for an hour.

Aside from learning that the patient was on 7 medications for the past SEVEN years and had never reported any of them to us, I also learned that the reason she was also resistant to wearing something to protect her teeth at night was because she had sleep issues. She felt there was no way she could handle the extra stuff in her mouth. I also learned that both of her parents are treated for sleep apnea.

So, here are some bullet highlights from the past 3 weeks:

  1. Periodontal (gum) disease is bad. Just because it doesn’t hurt doesn’t mean you don’t have a problem. If you care about your general health, you must take care of your mouth.
  2. Delaying care of dental problems always leads to more treatment and more cost.
  3. Don’t leave information out when discussing your health with your doctors. Everything is important.
  4. For better patient care, doctors and dentists should have more collaboration.
  5. Time is the most precious gift a health care provider can give their patients.

Dr. St. Clair maintains a private dental practice in Rowley and Newburyport dedicated to health-centered family dentistry. If there are certain topics you would like to see written about or questions you have please email them to him at jpstclair@stclairdmd.com. You can view all previously written columns at www.jpeterstclairdentistry.com/blog.

Fact or Fiction: Is Gum Disease Linked With Heart Problems?

May 29, 2019

Filed under: Uncategorized — Dr. J. Peter St. Clair, DMD @ 8:42 pm
Heart and pulse

According to a study in the Journal of Dental Research, nearly half of all adults in the United States have some form of gum disease, also known as periodontal disease. If you’re in this group, chances are you’re already concerned with the swelling, bleeding, and threat of tooth loss that comes with the condition. But could it be a sign of worse to come? There are many studies that show a strong connection between heart disease and gum disease; here’s what you need to know about this link and the risks involved.

(more…)

THE LINK – PART 2/3

May 28, 2019

Filed under: Uncategorized — Dr. J. Peter St. Clair, DMD @ 2:35 pm

If you missed Part 1 of this series, you can find it at www.thetowncommon.com.

I ended last week with a statement that I have used numerous times before – just because it doesn’t hurt doesn’t mean there isn’t a problem. We keep learning more and more about the link between the mouth and the rest of the body. It is essential that dentists and physicians do a better job at co-managing patients, and learn more about the relationship between oral and systemic disease.

It is clear that if you want to take better care of yourself, you need to take better care of your mouth. Familial history is very important. If you know of any family history of dental problems, you are at higher risk. Higher risk individuals need to be treated differently and may need a more aggressive preventive protocol to help ward off progression of disease. In addition, an otherwise healthy person who presents with a sudden increase in gum inflammation should possibly be evaluated by their physician to rule out any systemic causes if there is not a simple explanation for the change.

The connection between oral health and systemic health is well-established and ever-evolving. One thing we know for certain – we are living longer, but with more chronic diseases and medication than ever before. It is exciting that there are so many things on the horizon when it comes to detection, prevention, and treatment.

Among the tools being researched to help determine the particular disease path that a person is on are salivary biomarkers. Although not routinely available yet, this precision approach to the prevention and treatment of periodontal disease accounts for variability in a person’s genes, environment, and lifestyle. Because it is more personalized to the individual, it results in more accurate treatment planning as well as improved outcomes for the patient.

Considering the aging population, periodontal (gum) disease has the potential to become the most prevalent dental disease in the near future. It is more important than ever for dentists to take the time to develop and incorporate a comprehensive periodontal examination and treatment protocol for adults.

As with most diseases, delaying the treatment of periodontal disease until the advanced stages results in treatment that is more expensive, more complex, and less predictable. Most early to moderate stage disease can be treated in a general dental office if the inflammation is easy to control and the patient doesn’t have numerous systemic issues. Otherwise, it may be in the patient’s best interest to be referred to a like-minded periodontist.

When half of the US population is still affected with periodontal disease, despite decades of research and treatments, something is still missing. That missing key is a more collaborative approach involving, dentists, periodontists and physicians.

….and remember, just because it doesn’t hurt doesn’t mean there isn’t a problem. To be continued.

Dr. St. Clair maintains a private dental practice in Rowley and Newburyport dedicated to health-centered family dentistry. If there are certain topics you would like to see written about or questions you have please email them to him at jpstclair@stclairdmd.com. You can view all previously written columns at www.jpeterstclairdentistry.com/blog.

THE LINK – PART 1/3

May 20, 2019

Filed under: Uncategorized — Dr. J. Peter St. Clair, DMD @ 12:54 pm

The connection between oral health and systemic health is well-established and ever-evolving. One thing we know for certain; we are living longer, but with more chronic diseases and medication than ever before.

The latest statistics are alarming. Forty-seven percent of US adults who are age 30 or older – an estimated 64.7 million Americans – have either mild gum disease (8.7%), moderate gum disease (30%) or severe gum disease (8.5%). As the population ages, the prevalence rises with 70% of individuals over the age of 65 exhibiting some level of gum disease. And, since we are on statistics, by 2030, it is estimated that the number of people over 70 years of age will have doubled from 35 million to 71 million.

So, as we age, our risk of developing disease increases. Interestingly, there is also a direct correlation between the regions of the US with the greatest concentration of gum disease and those that have a high incidence of cardiovascular disease and diabetes. Although a direct cause-and-effect link is still in the process of being established between gum disease (periodontitis) and other systemic diseases, inflammation is often a common denominator. And it is always important to remember that the mouth is the gateway to the rest of the body.

We used to think that if people didn’t brush their teeth well, or didn’t visit a dentist often, they would automatically get gum disease. However, there are patients who have poor home care who never develop gum disease, and there are also patients who have great home care, visit a dentist regularly, and continue to experience breakdown from gum disease – albeit at a slower rate than they would if they had poor habits.

We now know that managing gum disease and other chronic inflammatory diseases like cardiovascular disease, diabetes, respiratory disease and arthritis are more patient specific based on an individual’s “inflammatory mediators”. These are molecules released by immune cells and are largely responsible for individual responses to disease susceptibility and progression. This is why probiotics are likely to play a significant role in treatment of chronic inflammation in the future.

As we wait for research development for different ways to combat chronic inflammation, it is without dispute that people should do all they can to minimize inflammation in the mouth. The mouth is very accessible and with proper training, coaching and monitoring, a healthy mouth is better for your whole body.

Although some may say that the associations between gum and systemic diseases are statistical by nature, not causal, the data is fairly strong that there is a link between gum disease and cardiovascular disease – such as heart infarction and stroke.  This supports diagnosing and treating oral infections, including lifelong professional maintenance and good home care.

Remember – just because it doesn’t hurt doesn’t mean there isn’t a problem. More next week.

Dr. St. Clair maintains a private dental practice in Rowley and Newburyport dedicated to health-centered family dentistry. If there are certain topics you would like to see written about or questions you have please email them to him at jpstclair@stclairdmd.com. You can view all previously written columns at www.jpeterstclairdentistry.com/blog.

BAD INFO

May 13, 2019

Filed under: Uncategorized — Dr. J. Peter St. Clair, DMD @ 3:44 pm

In an online report I recently read by Men’s Health Magazine, they listed 9 “healthy” habits that they claim are a waste of time. Three of them had to do with oral health. Let’s take a look.

The first on the waste of time list was to see your dentist twice per year. I have seen this reported somewhere else in the media recently. According to Men’s Health, close to 30 studies have apparently found no conclusive evidence supporting a need to see a dentist every 6 months. They went on to say, “If your teeth and gums are healthy, once per year is enough to catch developing problems.”

I absolutely agree. There are definitely people who only need to see a dentist/hygienist once per year. Most dentists use a classification system to rate a patient’s periodontal (gum) health. Type I patients are the ones that only need to see a dentist once per year. They are healthy, they have good homecare habits and are low risk for disease. In the average dental practice, I would say this is about 10-15% of the population.

Type II patients are those with gingivitis and should be seen twice per year. This group makes up about 50% of the typical dental patient population. Many of these patients could move into the Type I group if they had better homecare habits and technique.

Type III & IV patients are the remaining 30-35% of the population who should be seen every 3 or 4 months, and in some cases even more frequently. Because of genetics and/or bad habits, this group has active disease and is at high-risk for problems.

Let’s also not forget the other 50% of the population who don’t even visit a dentist once per year. While I think there are people who can be healthy and see a dentist once per year, it is irresponsible to make it seem that it pertains to everyone. The only one who can determine how healthy you are is your dentist. It should be up to you and the dentist you trust.

The #7 waste of time reported was to use a hard toothbrush. According to the report, a soft one cleans your teeth just as well and is less damaging to your teeth and gums. This is old news and is true.

The next one shocked me. The #8 waste of time – brushing and flossing twice per day. According to Men’s Health, everyone only needs to visit the dentist once per year and brush and floss one time per day. They recommend brushing for at least 2 minutes before you go to bed and flossing one time per day. They also mentioned that people who did not floss frequently (whatever that means) are 3 times more likely to develop stomach cancer. I am assuming the author is relating lack of flossing to getting periodontal (gum) disease. More recent research is showing that, “Risk factors for precancerous lesions and gastric cancer are being identified, one of which may be periodontal disease”. Although lack of flossing does not automatically cause gum disease, poor oral health is clearly a risk factor for other health problems.

Here’s the bottom line:

  1. Establish a relationship with a dentist you are comfortable with and trust. Determine with that person how frequently you should be seen.
  2. Use a good quality soft electric toothbrush. Get instructions on proper use from your hygienist.
  3. Brush at least twice per day, preferably at least 30 minutes after meals. Floss at night before you brush.

It is as simple as that.

Dr. St. Clair maintains a private dental practice in Rowley and Newburyport dedicated to health-centered family dentistry. If there are certain topics you would like to see written about or questions you have please email them to him at jpstclair@stclairdmd.com. You can view all previously written columns at www.jpeterstclairdentistry.com/blog.

BACK TO THE BASICS

May 6, 2019

Filed under: Uncategorized — Dr. J. Peter St. Clair, DMD @ 6:59 pm

Every once in a while someone will say, “There must be a lot less cavities today than there were years ago because of improved home care, fluoride, etc., right?” The answer is, yes there are, but there is still way too much decay. Poor diet and home care are the two most common culprits leading to decay.  When and what you eat and drink is important. Improvement in home care means changing what is being done now, and requires discipline.

Yesterday, I went into one of my hygienist’s rooms to check her patient, a 13-year-old boy, and asked the hygienist how his home care was, because his gums were bright red. She said to me, “Jack, why don’t you tell the doctor how often you told me you brush your teeth.” The boy answered, “About once a week.” ONCE A WEEK?!?! Add to the that he is in braces too, which makes it even more important to keep the teeth clean.

It’s important sometimes to step back and review the basics, so here they are. At a minimum, you should brush with a fluoride toothpaste at least twice a day for two minutes. A good electric toothbrush is preferable to a manual toothbrush. When I say “good”, I mean one that sits on charger, and not one that takes AA batteries. There are two major brands out there. I prefer the one that starts with an “O”.

It amazes me how many people don’t floss their teeth. I have heard every excuse in the book; “My fingers are too big”, “I don’t have the time”, “It’s too hard”, “My dog ate the floss”. Just like anything else, it is always hard to start a new ritual. There are so many different kinds of floss and gadgets to help floss that there is something out there for everyone. And if you can’t seem to make it work, use a water pik.

Bacteria, which accumulates on and between the teeth, forms that white film called plaque. Plaque contains billions of colonized bacteria. The right kind of bacteria, along with the wrong king of diet and the wrong genetics can produce cavities. Plaque that is not removed with thorough daily brushing and flossing can harden and turn into calculus (tartar). These colonized bacteria can then lead to tissue inflammation (gingivitis), the early stage of periodontal (gum) disease.

Brushing your teeth helps get rid of most of the plaque, except for the stuff that accumulates between the teeth. That is what floss is for. I know it sounds gross but if you want to know what your breath smells like, floss a few teeth and then smell the floss. That should turn you into an avid flosser.

The routine should be, floss, brush, rinse. The whole event should be around five minutes. Believe me, you have five minutes. Flossing first allows the fluoride from the toothpaste to contact a cleaner tooth surface between the teeth. I prefer a non-alcohol based rinse as alcohol is drying and creates a better environment for bacteria to thrive.

One important thing about flossing; proper flossing is not popping the floss between the teeth and shooting it right back up. The proper way to floss is to get the floss between the contact of the teeth, slide the floss gently under the gum tissue around one tooth, “shoe-shine” the side of the tooth, gently move the floss over the papilla (the little piece of gum between the teeth), “shoe-shine“ the side of the other tooth and then bring the floss up. At your next dental visit, ask your hygienist to evaluate your flossing skills to make sure you are doing it correctly.

You have the 5 minutes twice a day.

Dr. St. Clair maintains a private dental practice in Rowley and Newburyport dedicated to health-centered family dentistry. If there are certain topics you would like to see written about or questions you have please email them to him at jpstclair@stclairdmd.com. You can view all previously written columns at www.jpeterstclairdentistry.com/blog.

BREATHING IS IMPORTANT – PART 2

April 29, 2019

Filed under: Uncategorized — Dr. J. Peter St. Clair, DMD @ 1:50 pm

Last week I introduced Part 1 of “Breathing is Important”. For this week’s column to make the most sense, I would encourage you to read that column first. It can be found at www.thetowncommon.com.

In case you don’t have a chance to read it, here is a brief recap: I have been involved in treating patients with sleep apnea for a few years. These are patients who have been diagnosed with sleep apnea by a physician, but were unable or unwilling to use a CPAP machine. The next line of defense to treat this progressive disease is a dental appliance which prevents the lower jaw from falling back during sleep. Despite all my education on this topic, I grew frustrated. Not only was I not treating as many patients as I wanted, I also had way too many patients, who I knew had issues, but would have a “normal” sleep study. I decided I needed more education.

Relatively speaking, the research in this area of medicine is early in its development. There is clear evidence that sleep disordered breathing affects more people in more ways than was thought in the past. As the research continues, more people will be able to be helped to breath and sleep better.

Although there are many people with obstructive sleep apnea who need treatment, with either CPAP or a dental appliance, there are many more people who have the same signs and symptoms as people with apnea and poor sleep, but they “pass” a sleep study. Problems related to the airway, in most cases, start very early in development, and progress throughout life to finally show up in a sleep study as apnea when a person is older.

This is not a sleep problem; it is a breathing problem based on anatomy. It is an evolutionary/developmental problem. Dentists have an extremely important role to play in helping to identify these issues in all phases of life, especially in children, where most of these problems begin. Identifying them early can allow intervention through orthodontics and other non-invasive therapy, and completely change the course of development, leading to a life of better breathing and better health.

For adults, because they have stopped growing, and have signs and symptoms related to breathing issues but would otherwise “pass” a sleep study, there is help available. Identifying those people, controlling the problems causing these issues, and offering ways to a more permanent resolution, is where medicine and dentistry must grow together.

Sleep apnea is the end stage of this breathing disorder. Treatment for those with sleep apnea is typically either the “gold standard” of CPAP, wearing a mask on your face for the rest of your life, or wearing a dental appliance in your mouth for the rest of your life (although it may not work forever), or major surgery to fix the anatomy that is causing this progressive disease. The goal is to not get to the end stage of this disease.

As I learn and share more about this topic in the future, you will be amazed at some of the things that are related to breathing issues, such as ADHD, developmental issues, memory problems, TMJ pain, poor quality sleep, snoring, and a host of other things. While research in this area is ongoing, there is plenty of scientific evidence already out there to support this information. Breath well.

Dr. St. Clair maintains a private dental practice in Rowley and Newburyport dedicated to health-centered family dentistry. If there are certain topics you would like to see written about or questions you have please email them to him at jpstclair@stclairdmd.com. You can view all previously written columns at www.jpeterstclairdentistry.com/blog.

BREATHING IS IMPORTANT – PART 1

April 22, 2019

Filed under: Uncategorized — Dr. J. Peter St. Clair, DMD @ 12:55 pm

About seven years ago I took a weekend course at Tufts University School of Dental Medicine entitled “Sleep Dentistry”. This was not a course in putting patients to sleep for their dental work. This particular course was an introduction to treating people who had been diagnosed with sleep apnea (a sleep breathing disorder) by a medical doctor, and could not (or would not even consider) the use of the dreaded CPAP machine.

CPAP, which stands for Continuous Positive Airway Pressure, is a facial mask which blows air through the nose to create an “air stent” to basically hold the airway open during sleep. Patients with sleep apnea have been diagnosed with a progressive disease in which breathing is decreased at least 90% for more than 10 seconds multiple times an hour. Most people know someone who has been diagnosed with this disease and either uses a CPAP machine, or cannot use it.

The “sleep dentistry” part of the equation is that for those who have been diagnosed with sleep apnea and cannot use the CPAP machine, the next line of defense is a dental device. This is worn at night to hold the lower jaw slightly forward and not allow the jaw to fall back during sleep. Holding the lower jaw (mandible) forward helps to prevent the tongue from falling back in the mouth during sleep and obstructing the airway.

I was excited about this course I had taken at Tufts, and thought that I was going to start treating all these people I heard about who were not able to tolerate or didn’t want to use CPAP. The problem I found was that sleep apnea needed a medical diagnosis, which meant that patients had to have already had a sleep study with a physician, have failure in the use of CPAP, and then somehow find their way to my office. I was frustrated. I wasn’t treating that many patients, but knew (or at least thought), I must need more education.

So, I enrolled in a mini-residency program at Tufts for 8 months. This was a much more intensive program with heavy emphasis on the science behind the disease, which included more reading of scientific papers than I had ever done. The program was great and I felt I had now “figured it out”. That was 2 years ago.

I was much more knowledgeable about things to look for in patients, and was referring many patients to physicians to be evaluated. Some patients would end up having a sleep study, be diagnosed with sleep apnea, go on CPAP, and then come back to my office and say, literally, “you changed my life.” There is no greater feeling than that. Even though I didn’t get to treat them with my fancy dental appliance, they were being treated for a disease that was slowly (or not so slowly) killing them.

There were also those patients who had the sleep study, were diagnosed with sleep apnea, were not able to (or didn’t want to) use CPAP and were referred back to me for dental appliance therapy. Great!!! However, I quickly became frustrated again. Far too many patients, with classic symptoms such as snoring and daytime fatigue, were returning to me, saying they had a sleep study that showed they did not have apnea. Now what?

 I’m a dentist, not a physician. Sleep problems are medical problems. And, although I knew that many of these patients may have sleep issues that were out of my control as a dentist (there are over 100 sleep disorders), many of these patients had dental signs such as wear on their teeth, grinding and/or clenching problems, TMJ pain, and other anatomic issues that I had learned about that were likely related to breathing problems. So, what did I do? I decided I needed more education.

…….continued next week

Dr. St. Clair maintains a private dental practice in Rowley and Newburyport dedicated to health-centered family dentistry. If there are certain topics you would like to see written about or questions you have please email them to him at jpstclair@stclairdmd.com. You can view all previously written columns at www.jpeterstclairdentistry.com/blog.

5 REASONS PEOPLE AVOID THE DENTIST

April 16, 2019

Filed under: Uncategorized — Dr. J. Peter St. Clair, DMD @ 3:31 pm

There are five major reasons that people do not get the necessary dental care they need. They are money, time, lack of concern, fear and trust. Let’s take a quick look at each one and see if any of them fit you, or anyone you know. I’ll also discuss what dentists often try to do to overcome these obstacles for patients.

Although you may think that money would be the number one reason people avoid ideal dental treatment, it is not. Even in tougher economic times, money, although a significant barrier for many, is still not the number one issue for most. Yes, dental care in some cases can be a significant investment. With insurance companies unwilling to raise the bar, as I have talked about in numerous columns, patients often get stuck with large dental bills.

Unfortunately, as of now, we have to face these facts, and it does not mean avoiding the dentist. Many dentists offer payment plans through third party carriers, or within their offices so patients can pay for treatment over an extended period of time. Ask your dentist if they have such an option. The point here is to get a plan. Once a plan is established, your dentist can work with you to prioritize and sequence your treatment. This way, if you need to spread your treatment over a period of time to make it affordable, you can pick away at a well thought out plan.

Time is an excuse. We all use time as an excuse for many of the things in our lives we want to avoid or procrastinate about. The reality is, however, if we place something high enough in our value system there is always time for it. In order to move something higher up in our value system, we must be educated and come to realize that this particular thing is of benefit to us. This brings us to the most common reason people avoid ideal dental care.

Lack of concern about dental health is prevalent with a huge percentage of the population for a few reasons. Absence of pain is one. Other than a toothache and need for a root canal, there few things that actually cause pain. For example, take periodontal (gum) disease. About 75% of the population has some form of this disease, but only 50% of the population go to the dentist. Why? No pain. This doesn’t mean it is healthy and there are not potential problems down the road, like loss of teeth or other medically-related problems. It is up to the dentist to educate patients on these types of issues, but people have to actually go to the dentist to get this information.

Some people have fear of going to the dentist….and for good reason, due to bad past experiences or bad information. However, dentistry today should be a comfortable experience most of the time. For those who are still fearful, there are different medications dentists can use to ease the experience.

The last barrier to ideal treatment is trust. For a patient to move forward with treatment, it is essential the patient both likes and trusts the dentist. Although I am sure that the skills of your dentist are important to you, I am willing to bet that you would not stay with a dentist who you did not like or trust. Find someone you can connect with and build a strong doctor-patient relationship.

If there are other reasons you avoid optimal dental care, e-mail me and I will be glad to offer some suggestions.

Dr. St. Clair maintains a private dental practice in Rowley and Newburyport dedicated to health-centered family dentistry. If there are certain topics you would like to see written about or questions you have please email them to him at jpstclair@stclairdmd.com. You can view all previously written columns at www.jpeterstclairdentistry.com/blog.

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