NOTE: While these tips are designed for dental patients, dentists should also be aware of them to see, learn and be prepared for these points from their patients perspective.
Many dread a trip to the dentist but there are important things you need to do, and not do, in advance to have a successful visit. Communicating with your dentist before the visit is often critical.
If you have experienced a serious health condition such as a surgery or been diagnosed with a chronic condition, you need to tell your dentist before you come for your appointment, says Martin Hogan, DDS, division director of dentistry at Loyola University Medical Center. Depending on the illness, you may need to be premedicated with antibiotics to prevent infection.
Hogan says many patients wait until they are in the dentist chair to inform dental staff of major medical developments. Pretreatment one hour before the appointment with an antibiotic is recommended for patients with certain health conditions, he says. The appointment must be rescheduled if that hasn't happened, resulting in a wasted trip.
Taking prescribed antibiotics one hour before the dental appointment helps reduce bacteria from entering the bloodstream caused by specific dental procedures, such as cleaning and drilling. Board-certified dentists are in constant communication with our physician colleagues regarding patients and their needs, says Hogan, who treats many cancer, diabetic and heart patients at the academic medical center. Dentists are constantly working with the American Heart Association and the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgery to fine tune these guidelines for best patient safety practices.
More commonly, patients aggressively step up dental hygiene when a dentist appointment nears. Sometimes we will see the gum tissue slightly irritated and when asking patients about this, they mention that they have been flossing extra hard the past few days in anticipation of their dental visit, says Hogan. Other times we may see the gum tissue slightly dried out, which often is caused by excessive use of alcohol-containing mouth rinses.
Hogan says gum tissue can also recede due to over-aggressive tooth brushing. Breakdown of gum tissue occurs from months and years of rigorous tooth brushing, says Hogan. Hard brushing a few days leading to a visit to the dentist should not cause permanent damage.
Before a visit to the dentist, just maintaining your normal routine is recommended. Just stick with good oral hygiene and home care on a regular basis and your teeth should be fine, says Hogan, who has been practicing dentistry for five years. Good oral hygiene means brushing 2-3 times per day, and flossing once a day. Mouth rinses and mouthwash help reduce plaque and can aid in keeping gum tissue healthy, says Hogan, who sees patients of all ages. Using mouthwash is a good habit, together with brushing and flossing.
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