In his fascinating narrative, The Excruciating History of Dentistry: Toothsome Tales & Oral Oddities from Babylon to Braces, the American author James Wynbrandt conveys terrifying accounts of death and disfigurement dispensed by the earliest practitioners of the craft. Yet the same could be said of medical treatments of the ancient and pre-industrial ages in general. So why are dentists unable to live down the agony and dread associated with their profession when other clinicians have done so with some success. The perpetuation of myths accounts for a large degree of wariness toward them.
Myth #1: Dentists Failed Out of–or Were Rejected by– Medical Schools
Many physicians and dentists applied to both dental and medical schools. This should surprise no one. Dentistry is, in fact, a branch of medicine. The separate educational institutions–not to mention professional networks, payment processing and insurance–lead many to believe that dentistry is a different animal. Nevertheless, dentists perform surgery, administer anesthesia and write prescriptions just as their separated colleagues do in other medical fields. More to the point, few dental schools would accept a student with a record of failure in medical school.
Myth #2: Dental Education Is Not as Demanding as Medical Education
In terms of clinical rotations and, later, residencies, prospective dentists are spared some of the punishing hours worked by physicians-in-training. However, when it comes to scientific knowledge, clinical diagnosis and patient care, dentists are required to excel in these areas.
Myth #3: Dentists Are Only In It for the Money
Such cynicism could be applied to any number of well-compensated professionals — physicians, lawyers, engineers etc. Whatever the motivation, mosts dentists go over and above requirements to assure the welfare of their patients.
Myth #4: Dentists Are Insensitive to Patient Suffering
This is simply a matter of perception. In reality, dentists take every measure to provide comfort and peace to patients. As noted above, dentistry is a medical art, and what happens in the mouth has a direct bearing on other functions of the body. With this in mind, dental practitioners must take great care when administering novacaine, anesthesia or other desensitizing agents. The mouth is crowded with nerve endings; sometimes discomfort can accompany even the gentlest treatments.
Myth #5: I Only Need the Dentist If My Teeth Hurt
This should go without saying: regular check-ups and cleaning will stave off infections, chips and cracks that lead to painful toothaches. Waiting for decay to cause unbearable suffering is unwise, even dangerous.
Myth #6: Orthodontists Are Just Cosmetic Dentists
Left untreated, malocclusions–or misalignment of teeth–can lead to a malformed jaw, missing teeth, gaps and crowding among teeth. Each of these consequences has larger health implications. Of course, many orthodontic patients do want a nicer smile. But straight teeth are also a boon to good health.
Myth #7: Dentists Can’t Cure Deteriorating Teeth Due to Aging
Enamel wears away with age and gums recede as well. Like the rest of the body (and sometimes the mind), the oral cavity undergoes some degeneration as the years pass by. This is all the more reason for regular dental evaluations, cleanings and other treatments. Dentists can crown or cap broken teeth; provide bridges where teeth once were; fit patients for dentures; and screen for oral cancers. Age is no excuse for seniors to stop seeing the dentist.
Myth #8: I Don’t Eat Sweets So No Dentist Is Necessary
Most people understand the damage sugar can do on teeth and dentists counsel patients to minimize sugar consumption. Yet simple carbohydrates found in a wide variety of foods break down into simple sugars once inside the mouth. From that state, they are just as detrimental as candy or cookies. Moreover, bacteria that work ill on teeth can be breathed in through the mouth. While restricting sugar is smart, it is not a fail- safe strategy against tooth decay.
Myth #9: The Best Dentists Are in the Big Cities
Good dentists go where the patients are and can be found in urban, suburban and rural areas. A Cockburn dentist waits to serve you and your family.