Today I Saw My One in a Thousand Patient

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A-mazing. Simply amazing. That is what I thought when I took a look at one of my patient’s mouth today. It wasn’t something I expected to happen after interviewing the patient.

You see amongst many other things I always ask the patient if he uses fluoride toothpaste. This patient didn’t. And the reason for not using fluoride was a fear of the side effects and the fact that he has never had decay. He was 36 years old. I was sceptical of course. I was certain what I was going to find. If you have read my post Anti-Patients you know what it is. If you haven’t and you are about to click the link, do scroll down to the paragraph Anti-Fuoride when you get there.

So today I was certain that I was going to find decay. At least the early stages of it. And I was prepared to go through the routine of informing the patient about the consequences of not using the fluoride toothpaste.

But. A big but. The teeth were in immaculate condition. No plaque, only tiny amount of tartar and definitely no decay. No matter how hard I tried to find even the smallest evidence of it – of the patient being fool not to use fluoride.  But he was no fool. Far from it. He had good eating and oral hygiene habits and he attended the dentist regularly. That made him very wise.

Both me and the patient had the same question in our minds. Why isn’t there a toothpaste which contains only calcium for the patients like this one. They don’t need fluoride. Would calcium be enough? But then again, do they need toothpaste at all?

 

 

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Told You So, Part II

The Telegraph: Going to the dentist every six months is unnecessary, says UK’s top dentist

Ha! So it is and I was very pleased that somebody more influential than I was able to get the topic in the broadsheet paper. In case you haven’t read my blog post about the same subject, please click here.

Repost with Forewords: Alcohol – The Feared Subject

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Acute pancreatitis is life threatening illness

Today I went to see a man who for my children is very dear despite his dependency to alcohol. They never defined him as an addict and never thought anything but the best of him. This man is their grandfather who fell gravely ill several months ago with acute pancreatitis caused by lifelong abuse of alcohol.

Having spent over five months in hospital of which he spent four in an intensive care (2 months in coma), he was finally at home. But he was a shadow of a man he used to be.

This man used to be proud. He was a kind and pleasant (when sober) man. He was very skilled and was ready to help others when needed. He loved kids and knew what would make them happy.

Today when I went to see him he was lying in bed barely recognisable weighing just 50 kg. He had tubes coming out of his stomach leading into a bag that was filling up with brownish secretion from his organs that were riddled with a spreading necrosis. He was unable to obtain any food or drink inside, taking several medications many times a day, dependent of his wife who was looking after him. His voice was like he was speaking from the grave.

It was the saddest sight I have ever seen. There was no need or desire to say I told you so. No gloating over being right all these years about his future. It was just simple sadness over a kind man, father, husband, grandfather who would have had so much more to give to so many but instead now was bed-bound waiting the imminent death. Slow death that took away all pride and dignity and which every day reminded him why he is where he is now. Alcohol.

But even more sad than seeing him now is the fact that he never got the help he would have needed for his drinking which started at his twenties. No-one intervened when there was still a chance to turn the tables. Instead of this a troubled sensitive soul was taken over by the numbing comfort of an alcohol that took a firmer hold of him as the years went by. He faced many misfortunes in his life and he dealt with them by alcohol. He had happy times and he dealt with them by alcohol. Before he reached his fifties everything he did, everywhere he went the alcohol came along.

He was told by all the close relatives that he cannot continue drinking like this. He was told he has a problem with the alcohol. One day he admitted he does, the other he declined. He never seeked help. And no-one could force him. Instead he came a master in finding excuses to visit his hidden bottle. Taking the garbage out, checking something from the garage, fetching firewood for the fireplace. Everyone who was witnessing this knew that he went for his hidden bottle. This too was heartbreaking to watch.

When he finally fell ill and the house needed to be emptied of all the alcohol there was altogether 30 litres of strong spirit.

This man’s story is not unique. There are plenty of similar fates in the world.

The longer the alcoholic carries on drinking the harder it is to intervene. I mean that the intervention we can do at the dental practice has less impact than it would have in the early days of an addiction. That is why the early intervention is very important and us dental professionals have a very easy and natural way to intervene.

Please read one of my earliest post below and hopefully it will bring you courage to ask about patients’ alcohol consumption.


About 60 year-old man came to see me one morning and complained that every once in a while a layer of skin comes off inside his mouth and no-one has been able to tell why. He was concerned and felt…

Source: Alcohol – The feared subject

Ever Seen a Patient with an Implant? Read This!

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Today I saw a patient who had had an implant done to replace upper right first molar. The implant treatment was finished a year ago in another practice.

Since then the patient had seen hygienist twice in my practice. The implant crown itself looked immaculate but the gum was very red and puffy and it bled heavily after probing.

I knew what to ask next and I even knew the patient’s reply to this.

“Were you told how to clean the implant at home?”

“No I wasn’t” replied the patient with is-it-supposed-to-be-cleaned-expression on his face.

This happens too often. Almost every time I see a patient who has recently had an implant done.

Note for all the dental professionals who make the implant treatment’s final stages and do not give oral hygiene instructions (OHI) for the patient:

You should always tell and show how the patient can clean these costly pieces of metal and porcelain. It is your responsibility as a dental professional and the paying patient’s right!

Can you give me any other excuse for not giving OHI than the fact that you are too busy making money and forgetting the basics? I believe you cannot.

And you hygienists who see patients with implants:

  1. Always check how the patient is cleaning them. More so if the gum around the implant is either bleeding or there is plaque around it
  2. Advice if necessary and show in their mouth how it is done
  3. Check if the patient understood your instructions by asking them to show they can do it. Teach them if they struggle
  4. Check on a follow-up visit that the gum has healed. If not, refer to a dentist

Why Is It So Important?

With the implants it is vital that there is no bleeding in the surrounding gum. They will get an implant’s equivalent to gingivitis – peri-implant mucositis which can lead to the peri-implantitis (same as periodontitis with teeth) very rapidly. The worst case scenario is that the implant will lose it’s integration to the bone which could have been easily prevented.

The patient I saw today left home with instructions on how to look after his implant. And I will see him for a follow-up visit to make sure the gum has healed (can you see the shining halo around my head?).

Honestly, it’s not that hard to do your job properly so shape up please!


Here‘s further reading on the subject.

Superiority of the Philips Sonicare Toothbrush

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Philips Sonicare forever!

I used to be brainwashed by one of the biggest electric toothbrush manufacturers and thought that there is no better toothbrush than these round-headed ones. I was so stuck in this illusion that I didn’t even give another toothbrush a chance to be better.

But then I moved to another country where two of the biggest toothbrush brands were almost equally popular compared to my country of origin where this manufacturer with round-headed toothbrush was and is dominating the markets.

In my new country of residence I was offered a free trial of the Philips Sonicare. I was amused by the looks of it (it was the old model) and thought it wouldn’t be a very good toothbrush. I almost declined the free trial because I was so convinced about the superiority of this round-headed toothbrush.

But then I gave it a go. It was ticklish as hell at first but thankfully my colleague dentist had warned me about it. I carried on using it for the full two minutes. Once I was done I got my moment of awakening.  My teeth had never felt better. So smooth, so clean.

Patient Case

I was treating a lady – lets call her Sue – at her early twenties for severe gum disease. She had already had periodontist treatment and understood the severity of the situation considering her young age. Sue was very motivated to look after her teeth and did everything she was advised to do.

Sue had a surface retained glass fibre reinforced periodontal splints (everStick®PERIO) on her lower and upper teeth. She was using Tepe interdental brushes of various sizes twice a day and an electric toothbrush – the round head one. She changed the brush heads every month (even though she was informed it was necessary every 3 months). Her brushing technique was checked many times and it was perfect.

But every time I saw Sue for the 4-monthly scale and polish she had supragingival (visible) calculus on her lower front teeth. Lots of it. And she started to be very distressed about it because she was doing all the right things to prevent it. I tried to ease her worry and told that the supragingival calculus was not a problem gum wise as long as it was removed regularly. And in her case the gum didn’t even get inflamed by the presence of supragingival calculus. But it did not calm her mind. She didn’t like the looks of it as it was clearly visible for anyone when she smiled.

I had no idea what to advice more than I already had. She had all the right tools – interdental brushes and a latest model of an electric toothbrush. She used them often enough and with a correct technique.

Then I thought about Philips Sonicare I was using. I suggested to Sue that she could change her toothbrush. I expressed my frustration over the fact that she had spent quite a lot of money for the current toothbrush but this was all I could think of that might help her. I showed her the correct technique of the Sonicare just in case she followed my advice.

Next time Sue came in she had a wide smile on her face when she entered my surgery. She said the calculus had not built up at all! Sue had gone straight to the shop after the last visit and bought the Philips Sonicare toothbrush. She was very happy and thankful for the advice I had given.

This was even more of an eye opener for me than my own first experience with Philips Sonicare.

Why Is It Better?

The name says it all. It’s because of the sonic vibration. When used correctly the sonic vibration can reach beyond the bristles as the sonic vibration travels through the liquids in mouth.

People who think Sonicare is not a good toothbrush have not used it with a correct technique.

Conclusion

In my country where I live and work now the Philips Sonicare toothbrush is not very widely used or recommended by the dental professionals. I am considered as odd one out when I tell I use one. And even stranger it seems that I recommend it to some of my patients. Almost as if I didn’t know my business.

In the dental show case I didn’t even find a representative of Philips Sonicare from any stands. And I cannot find any contact details for a rep to invite her to my practice or to express my views over their marketing strategy. You see the marketing is very poor compared to their competitor who has given trial models to my practise with disposable brush heads so that the patient can be shown the correct technique etc. They give out free electric toothbrushes to the professionals (I have written about it on my previous post) and visit practices regularly to promote their products.

But thankfully the Philips Sonicare toothbrush is available in the shops. And I am doing a small-scale marketing for them. My hope is that they would take more aggressive approach to the almost non-existing marketing. I could even go to the next show case as their representative just to annoy the rep of their competitor who told me that the Philips Sonicare is as effective as manual toothbrush (you can read about it here).

It would definitely make my work easier when convincing the patients about the superiority of the Philips Sonicare toothbrush. And perhaps my colleagues will start to recommend it too.

Here are couple of models of Philips Sonicare electric toothbrush:

Basic model with 31000 brushstrokes per minute (don’t buy anything lower than 31000)

The flagship model with 31000 brushstrokes per minute

 

New Natural Remedy (Fluoride-Free) for Decay

Dental Revelations

Just kidding. Just wanted to have your attention.

Today I am going to write about fluoride. And the reason for doing this is that I keep on running into articles and websites promoting fluoride-free toothpastes (and water). Not only they recommend non-fluoride toothpastes but also they tell that the fluoride is toxic or poison when entering body.

It is rather entertaining to read these articles but sooner or later the amusement turns into annoyance. Especially after comments like this

I love the look on dental hygienist’s faces when I refuse the fluoride treatments or toothpaste for me and my kids

When the adults practice their anti-fluoride beliefs on their kids it is simply heart breaking. I have seen kids whose milk teeth were so badly decayed that most of them had to be removed. I have seen kids in pain because of the decay. Why would you want to put your kid through such experiences? They wouldn’t thank you if they knew what caused their bad teeth as an adult. But they will never find out the truth because they have been told that it runs in the family to have weak teeth… yeah right. There is no such thing as weak teeth that are hereditary. It’s all about oral hygiene habits and lifestyle habits. What could be called hereditary is the bacteria in mouth that you might get from your parents as a baby. If the parents neglect their teeth (poor oral hygiene and lifestyle habits) there is great amount of cavity causing bacteria in the mouth and if that bacteria is transferred to the baby there are big chances the child will struggle with decaying. And this means this child needs fluoride. And if the parents do not offer it… pain, screaming in fear at the dentist, sedation/general anaesthesia, fillings, extractions, malposition of the permanent teeth because of the loss of the milk teeth… So unnecessary!

To be honest, I can understand the worry over the fluoridated water to some extent. After all it goes into your body.

But the fluoride toothpaste! You are not meant to swallow it, are you? With young kids you can’t prevent them swallowing the toothpaste but that’s why you use only very tiny amount of it.

But you adults, come on! The local effect of the fluoride is important in prevention of decay. You brush for 2 minutes (hopefully) and that’s the time the fluoride stays in your mouth. Then you spit it out and rinse with water (I don’t but that’s why I glow in the dark…ha-ha). No fluoride has entered your body.

But still some people mix all sorts of things with “healing properties” to be used as a toothpaste. Herbs, clay, coconut oil etc. I just read an article about coconut oil that was recommended by Dr. Somebody to be used instead of fluoride toothpaste. And as if the article wasn’t full of baloney but the comments at the end of the article were even more so.

…I laugh when dentists tell their patients not to brush for an hour….. why leave the acidity on your teeth to do damage for an hour – five times a day – seven days a week etc…. it adds up!

This person refers to a previous comment where somebody said he vigorously rinses his mouth with water after eating anything (which is fine). I’m sure all the professionals know what will happen to the teeth if one brushes every day after every meal – five times a day – seven days a week etc.

Erosion or to be precise it is abrasion that will happen to the teeth and that is irreversible damage which will lead to hypersensitivity of the teeth and make the teeth more prone to decaying.

Facts Simplified

There are minerals in the enamel of the tooth (hydroxyapatite). Minerals like calcium are lost everyday from the enamel because of the acids the bacteria produce from the carbohydrates in the diet.

The saliva tries to minimise the loss of minerals by neutralising the acids (remineralisation) but saliva can’t do magic if the host’s lifestyle is giving it too much to handle. Snacking (eating more frequently than 5-6 times a day), drinking acidic or sugary drinks in daily basis between the meals, eating sweets the wrong way (yes, there is a right way of eating them), adding sugar to the tea/coffee (even milk contains sugar) and consuming them between the meals. All these habits produce too much acid for the saliva to handle and it is not able to return all the lost minerals back to the enamel.

Loosing too much minerals from the enamel means decaying.

So to prevent that you need to find a way to compensate the lost minerals. The most important one is the calcium. And when combined with fluoride it repairs the enamel with very strong fluorapatite that is hard for the acids to break. It is much stronger material than hydroxyapatite that the enamel is originally made of. Some professionals even say that area of the enamel that has been replaced by fluorapatite won’t ever get decay.

But even if you do use fluoride in some form you will get decay if you have poor oral hygiene and your eating habits are harmful to the teeth. The fluoride will only slow down the decaying process.

There are exceptions of course. There are individuals who neglect their teeth and never get a decay. They might not use fluoride toothpaste or they might not brush at all. I will emphasise that they are exceptions. Average Joe will get decay I’m afraid. I have already written about this on my previous post. I wrote that it is very rare for people to have good enough oral hygiene habits. It is about one in thousand patients who do not need my interference in looking after their teeth. So most of us need minerals (calcium and fluoride) to protect the teeth from our laziness and unhealthy lifestyle.

Fluoride we cannot get through our diet unless you eat fish with the bones but even then there is no localised effect on teeth. So we need it from somewhere else. And the fluoridated water is simply not enough as it passes through the mouth and does not provide long enough localised effect (so don’t use that as an excuse). That’s why we use the toothpaste.

Right Way of Eating Sweets (Thought You Might Want to Know)

You can eat sweets without getting decay. Us dental professionals are a living proof of that. You see we looooove to eat sweets but rarely get decay. I will tell you how we do it.

  1. If you buy pack of sweets eat them in one go and have xylitol chewing gum, slice of cheese or fluoride tablet once you are finished. If you eat one sweet every 10 minutes for the next two hours you will have an acid attack in you mouth for approx. 2 hours and 30 minutes. Or even worse example. If you take one sweet every 30 minutes for the full working day it means you have had an acid attack the whole time you were working. Acid attack means losing minerals. And I have already told you earlier what happens if you loose too much minerals which you certainly will do if you have 7-8 hour-long constant acid attack.
  2. Eat sweets as dessert. You get acid attack already because of eating and you can avoid getting an extra acid attack by eating the sweet in one go after a meal. Have xylitol chewing gum, slice of cheese or fluoride tablet once you are finished
  3. Whenever possible and if you stomach can take it, buy sweets that are sweetened by xylitol. Now people often blame the xylitol for the laxative effect of sugar-free sweets. But it is often not the xylitol that causes the upset stomach. It is the maltitol syrup. So seek products that are sweetened 100% by xylitol.

 

Please note: This post is directed to healthy adults. People whose saliva flow is impaired through illness or medication need more intensive fluoride treatment on their teeth.

Cold Sore Is Herpes – Cancel Your Dental Appointment Because Your Dentist Won’t!

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A patient came in for a long appointment to have a bridge done. This appointment was to include filing down the teeth to abutments which meant that the high speed drill was to be used. A lot.

High speed drills have water cooling system and this means there are aerosols in the air when the drill is used. And the aerosols carry pathogens from the patients mouth as far as two metres (about 6,6 feet) from it’s origin.

The nurse noticed that the patient had a large cold sore on a lip. Dentist appeared as if he had not noticed it and asked the patient to sit down in the patient chair. Chair was tilted back and when the dentist put his fingers inside the patient’s mouth the nurse discreetly pointed out the cold sore. The dentist carried on with the treatment and said nothing about the cold sore.

The nurse was worried. Very worried. And she had all the right to be. She knew the cold sore virus – herpes simplex – can easily spread to her eyes and hands, dentist’s eyes and hands, patient’s eyes and mouth via the aerosols produced by the high speed drill.

Herpes simplex virus in the eye can result in blindness. Herpes infection on hands (herpetic whitlow) of a dentist/hygienist/nurse might force a career change as one cannot do any treatment on patients when the herpetic whitlow is active.

But the nurse didn’t have any other option but to continue with the treatment as the dentist is considered to be the one who is more educated in the matters of health and carries the responsibility of the treatment. This means the dentist makes the decisions behalf of the nurse and the patient whether to continue with the treatment or not.

Now it might be a good idea to read one of my previous post about integrity of dentists so you understand the motives behind the dentist’s decision in this story.

So on they went with the high speed drill. For an hour and a half.

Less than a week later the nurse developed a bad head ache and the next day she had sores in the mouth. Two days later she had temperature of 40 degrees and the mouth, gums and lips were full of painful sores. The GP diagnosed a primary herpes and prescribed anti-viral medicine. She was off work for a week.

When the patient with the cold sore was seen the next time in the surgery he had small blisters near the operated site.

Cold Sore Aka Herpes Simplex 

Before the anti-viral medication was developed the primary herpes used to be an infection that was often lethal. The doctors treating the patients with primary herpes could only cross their fingers and hope the patient will make through it. Many didn’t.

It can still be lethal but we have medication to treat it.

Most of the people get the primary herpes as a child and it often is asymptomatic. If contracted as an adult the primary herpes can have more difficult symptoms.

The primary herpes can be followed by secondary herpes (recurrent infection) – most commonly as a cold sore on a lip. The most frightening one of the recurrent infection of herpes simplex virus is encephalitis.

Guidelines for Treating Patient’s with Cold Sore

I used my friend Google and she quickly found me several sites that were unanimous about what us dental professionals should do if we see a patient with a cold sore.

Do not do any treatment that can be postponed!

To convince you I copy-pasted guidelines from couple of sites.

Elective dental treatment should be deferred for patients with active lesions as aerosolization of the virus may occur during dental procedures, placing both the patient and oral health care provider at risk for possible infection or re-infection.

Elective treatment should be postponed until the lesion has healed completely. Though the patient may be comfortable after you have applied a topical medication, there is still the risk of spreading the disease to the health-care provider.

Because herpes is transmittable to patients from dental health-care professionals who have active lesions, there is a risk of spreading this disease. The guidelines from the CDC are clear. Each of us has to keep patient safety and staff safety a priority.

Conclusion

The guidelines are clear. The medical facts are clear. Why do dentists still treat patients with cold sores and risk the health of the nurse and the patient, let alone their own health? They if anyone should know how serious risk it is to treat a patient with a cold sore.

So why?

I’m afraid you might know what’s coming (especially if you read my post Morals in Dentistry). Yes, the only reason for this kind of selfish and negligent behaviour from a dentist is GREED. And perhaps small amount of twisted enjoyment of having power – being almighty in this little world that has two people the dentist can make decisions for.

When the patient walks in the surgery with a cold sore it is simply just not acceptable to reschedule the appointment even though everyone’s health is at risk. No,no. Profit overrules the reason. Shame you who just recognised yourself.

I know there are also hygienists who see the patients with a cold sore. But this is because they don’t either know better or because they are not practice owners. Refusing to see a patient with a cold sore is not considered to be in the best interest of the practice. Plus what can you do if the patient with a cold sore just saw a dentist for a filling and is scheduled to see you for a scaling. How can you say no when the dentist said yes?

It requires lot of self confidence and experience to be able to stand up for you right to decide for your own health. Something the nurses do not have a chance to do. It proves once again how the dentist-nurse relationship is nowhere near about equality as co-workers. Not even in the matters of personal health.

I reschedule the appointment if the patient has a cold sore. And the next appointment won’t be sooner than a fortnight. I also use the opportunity to inform patient about the herpes simplex and ask patient to cancel the appointment next time when he gets a cold sore before the dental appointment.

And seriously (for all the dental professionals):

Applying Zovirax and placing a plaster on top of the cold sore before doing the treatment is just simply bonkers.


Here’s some further reading about the guidelines of seeing a patient with a cold sore.