Heading to the dentist for a cleaning (or worse, extensive work!) isn't first on anyone's list, but taking care of your teeth is an important part of maintaining your health. Check out these essential questions, provided by celebrity dentist Dr. Bill Dorfman, that you should ask your dentist before sitting down in the chair.
Be on the lookout for:
· Observe how clean & sterile the office is – covered surfaces (including patient chairs, light handles and other equipment that is touched) is one indication of a clean office
· Look around for modern equipment…in particular, the X-rays. Most people will be surprised to hear that only half of dental practices have upgraded to digital X-rays. The other half still use analog X-rays with the highest level of radiation exposure. More and more dentist, are opting for a new device called Tru-Align that attaches directly on to the end of your X-ray for the lowest possible exposure.
· Look at the dentist’s education and credentials and more importantly proof of their continued education.
5. Should I be concerned about my amalgam (silver) fillings?
Many people are concerned about the having mercury in their mouth. Dental amalgams may release low levels of mercury vapor that can be inhaled through the lungs. High levels of mercury vapor exposure are associated with adverse effects in the brain and the kidneys. Today, there is a great alternative made of acrylic resin, which blend in with teeth and require minimal removal of healthy tooth structure for placement. Today, many women opt to replace older amalgam fillings with tooth-colored fillings for long-term health & safety.
4. How do I know my child and/or I won’t be exposed to germs/disease from another patient?
After the incident with the Tulsa, Oklahoma dentist, patients should make sure their dentist’s office properly sterilizes their tools and autoclaves. Offices that follow regulations do regular (meaning weekly) spore testing – You may need to ask your dental team, how they sterilize their equipment and how often it is checked. In addition to spore testing, take a look around the office – does it look clean and sterilized? Is the equipment covered, laying on a clean sheet or in direct contact with the countertop? Often times, in more sterile environments, you will see the dental chair, handles of the overhead light and other items covered by removable clear plastic layer, so that they can easily be changed out and germs are not transferred from patient to patient.
3. What effect does radiation exposure & amalgam have on me as a woman & mother?
With increasing links between thyroid cancer in women & dental radiation, it’s better to opt on the side of caution and reduce exposure whenever possible. Whether on your cell phone or in the dentist chair, ionized radiation can be dangerous. With young children, regular dental visits are imperative for a healthy oral future, but once again exposing children to radiation when their young minds are developing can also be hazardous. Ensuring that your dentist and staff maintain a Safe X-Ray Practice is essential. You may see dental assistants wearing a dosimeter, which measures the level of radiation exposure to ensure it is at a minimum. Additionally, a new device called, Tru-Align(www.patientfirstdentist.com), not only eliminates scatter radiation to the head & neck, but also reduces exposure by 60-90% for maximum protection.
2. How do I know if every X-ray my child and/or I get is necessary?
Dentists should be following the American Dental Association’s (ADA) ALARA Principle -Radiation As Low As Reasonably Achievable- which is to only be giving X-rays whenever diagnostically necessary. If you are planning on getting pregnant, set aside time to get a full set of X-rays taken and ensure optimum oral health, as poor oral hygiene can cause premature delivery and other complications. Both for children & adults, routine visits to the dentist are important, but always communicate with your dentist and ask, does my child (or I) really need this X-ray and if so, how can make sure it’s the lowest possible exposure.
1. What can I do to reduce exposure to unnecessary radiation for myself & my child?
Your dentist should be using every means possible to reduce exposure to radiation. There is now a new device that patients can request be used called, Tru-Align (www.healthfirst.com/tru-align.html) that attaches to existing X-ray units and not only reduces exposure by 60-90% (in addition to digital X-rays), but also eliminates the scatter radiation to the head & neck. Feel free to speak up and make sure your X-ray apron also has a thyroid collar to ensure additional safety.