Ease dental patient anxiety with these body language tips

It’s not uncommon to come across patients who don’t want to be sitting in your dental chair. Many patients have some level of anxiety when it comes to visiting the dentist, even if the procedure is as simple as a cleaning. In order to provide the best care for your patients, it’s important to understand their body language, as Dr. Rose M. Vrabel explains in this article. But, did you know that your body language as a dental hygienist matters too? This article will explore how your body language helps to shape a patient’s dental experience.

Intro to Body Language

Body language is comprised of all of the nonverbal signals we use to interact every day. This can include gestures, facial expressions, posture, and proxemics (personal space). Research suggests that body language accounts for 50% to 70% of all communication, which can be critical in shaping a patient’s experience at the dentist.

As a hygienist, you will naturally make patients uncomfortable by invading their personal space. This is at no-fault of your own; it’s just part of the job! Since this break from the proxemics norm may cause some discomfort, you should take extra measures to try to make your patients at ease.

Tips for Hygienists

There are several nonverbal forms of communications that you can practice to help induce feelings of trust, professionalism, and comfort for your patients. Take a look at a few of our top suggestions:

  • Exude confidence with your posture and gestures — When you appear to be confident in your role, it can help to put patients’ nerves at ease. Practice standing tall and straight, no slumping! Good posture not only conveys professionalism, but it’s also better for your back in the long run! Make your arm movements meaningful and avoid fidgeting, as that can communicate anxiety on your part.
  • Adjust facial expressions to increase patient comfort — A genuine smile can really go a long way when it comes to nonverbal communication. A smile tells your patients that they can relax and feel comfortable with you. Make an effort to keep your facial expressions in check as you’re working a patient’s teeth, if you notice a problem and furrow your brows, it could alert the patient and cause unnecessary anxiety. Additionally, be sure to maintain eye contact with your patients when they’re speaking to you. It can be easy to get distracted by the task at hand, but by making eye contact, you communicate that you respect the patient and what they have to say.
  • Relax — Whether you’re new on the job or conducting a procedure that you’re not entirely comfortable with, your body may tense up without you even realizing it. In these situations, you will need to take extra caution when interacting with a patient, as they can sense your stress and discomfort. Take a minute to focus on your breathing and relax your muscles. It’s such a small signal, but it can make a big difference in your patient’s experience.

Now that you know all about how to effectively communicate nonverbally with your patients, it’s time to put it into practice! Remember to always exude confidence with your posture and gestures, adjust your facial expressions to increase patient comfort, and relax. By following these tips, you will help to make your patients feel more comfortable during their dental appointment.






The White Teeth Monopoly

Should dentists alone be allowed to decide who whitens your teeth? That is the question in an antitrust case before the Supreme Court that could clarify whether antitrust laws apply to professional licensing bodies, which are often packed with people in the industry.

The case, North Carolina State Board of Dental Examiners v. Federal Trade Commission, involves the state board’s attempt to squelch competition and keep prices high by telling salons, spas and other businesses to stop offering teeth whitening services because they are not licensed dentists. The board consists mainly of dentists elected by their state-licensed colleagues. But no other body in North Carolina, including the courts or the State Legislature, had previously determined that only dentists could whiten teeth.

The F.T.C. challenged the board and told it to stop sending out cease-and-desist letters to teeth whitening businesses. The board appealed, arguing that as a state agency it had immunity from federal antitrust laws. The United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit, in Richmond, Va., ruled in favor of the F.T.C.

Many state governments give doctors, dentists, lawyers and other professionals limited authority to regulate the way their occupation is practiced. But the Supreme Court has ruled on other occasions that state officials must actively supervise those professional regulatory bodies if they are to be immune from antitrust law. In this case, the board’s cease-and-desist letters were not reviewed or approved by North Carolina.

The dental board argued, as did other professional groups and associations in their briefs to the court, that subjecting it to antitrust laws would weaken its authority and discourage professionals from serving on regulatory bodies. During this week’s arguments, even Justice Stephen Breyer wondered whether a ruling in favor of the F.T.C. could create a situation where bureaucrats, not neurologists, would decide who could conduct brain surgery.

Those concerns are misplaced. Each antitrust case is different, and a ruling for the F.T.C. in this case will not paralyze professional regulatory bodies. The dental board clearly overstepped its authority and the law. If the board was concerned about the safety of consumers, it could have tried to make the case in court that teeth whitening can be performed only by a licensed dentist — perhaps by suing the teeth whitening services and convincing a judge that the services were violating North Carolina law. Alternatively, as the F.T.C. said, it could have issued rules regulating teeth whitening. These rules would become effective if they were approved by a commission appointed by the North Carolina Legislature.

Either way, the board could not unilaterally tell the teeth whiteners to stop their business. States have the right to regulate competition in the public interest. But they cannot blindly outsource that responsibility to professionals who stand to benefit from such restrictions.



Health Beat: What your teeth are trying to tell you

Your teeth and gums themselves can’t talk, but they could be trying to tell you something very important about your health. Jennifer Harvey has taken a detour from the dentist for years, and what happened is diseased, decayed teeth. “My gums were just bleeding all the time,” Harvey recalled.

Dr. Larry Lieberman, a dentist in Palm Harbor, Florida, said more than 800,000 visits a year to the emergency room are because of teeth troubles. “It’s very difficult to handle all the emergencies,” Lieberman said. And those emergencies could be more than just in your mouth. Did you know white, yellow or brown spots and grooves on the tooth surface could be a sign of celiac disease? Pain in your top teeth could be a sign of a sinus infection.

Canker sales are a tell-tale sign of allergies you may not know you have. If your mouth tastes like you’ve been licking an aluminum can, it could be trying to tell you you need more zinc. Swollen white nodes toward the back of your tongue could indicate HPV, and a bluish color on your tongue may be a sign of oral cancer. Harvey’s problems turned out to be gum disease.

Now, she’s upped her dental game, brushing and flossing twice daily. She stays away from chewy foods and orange juice. Soda is totally out. “If you put a tooth in soda, you’re going to see it dissolves within several days,” Lieberman said. Now that her teeth are better, Harvey doesn’t mind a day with the dentist. “It’s so much easier to come here now,” she said. Lieberman advises his patients to take CoQ10. He said it helps teeth and all cells of the body work better.

Read more from WFMZ.com at: http://www.wfmz.com/lifestyle/Health-Beat/health-beat-what-your-teeth-are-trying-to-tell-you/29282470

Tips for optimal oral health

The American Dental Hygienists’ Association(1) defines optimal oral health as “a standard of health of the oral and related tissues which enable an individual to eat, speak, and socialize without active disease, discomfort, or embarrassment, and which contribute to general well-being and overall total health.” Kristy Menage Bernie, RDH, a Colgate Enamel Health brand ambassador, has shared a few oral health tips to share with your patients to ensure a white, bright, and healthy smile.

Bacteria and cavities can have an impact on your overall health; so encourage your patients to do what they can in between dentist visits to ensure a healthy, beautiful smile!

Tips to share with patients

  1.  pH matters in the mouth! Foods and liquids that are acid based can rob your smile of the minerals that maintain smooth, healthy teeth. Sour candies, soda pop, even citrus fruits can lower the pH of the saliva and create an environment that bacteria love! Your best defense is minimizing consumption of acidic foods and brushing at least twice a day with fluoride toothpaste. Acids can also erode the surfaces of teeth, making them look dull. Be kind to your smile and adjust your pH!
  2. Keep it smooth! Everyday life takes a toll on us. Our teeth are no exception. When our enamel isn’t properly maintained, it becomes rough and more susceptible to damage. But your hygienist has the secret to keeping your smile beautiful. By polishing your teeth, he or she can go beyond cleaning to help replenish natural calcium and smooth out your enamel, making germs less likely to stick. And, now you can help maintain the work your hygienist does in between visits everyday with Colgate Enamel Health toothpaste.
  3. Approximately 90% of bad breath is caused by bacteria residing in the mouth!(2) Especially the tongue! Bacteria accumulate on the surface of the tongue and then those bacteria produce smelly gasses, or volatile sulfur compounds, from proteins in the food we eat. Be sure to clean your tongue at least once a day to freshen your breath! There are many toothbrushes now that have a cheek and tongue cleaner built in that can be picked up at your local drug store.
  4.  Strengthen your teeth with every brush! Fluoride treatments have long been given at your dental appointment to help prevent cavities. Toothpastes can now help you achieve those results at home. The fluoride in the toothpaste helps replenish natural calcium back into weakened enamel to strengthen teeth in between dental appointments.

“Remember, enamel is the hardest substance known to man, and yet acidic, sugary, or gooey foods provide a feast for the smallest of bacteria, which cause the enamel to loose precious minerals and can lead to tooth decay and dull looking teeth. Protecting enamel on a daily basis is easy! Be sure to use toothpastes that will replenish minerals and keep bacteria at bay,” Menage Bernie said.



Is Exercise Bad for Your Teeth?


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Vigorous exercise is good for almost all of the body — except perhaps the teeth, according to a surprising new study of athletes. The study, published in The Scandinavian Journal of Medicine & Science in Sports, found that heavy training may contribute to dental problems in unexpected ways.

There have been hints in the past that athletes could have a heightened risk for cavities and other oral issues. In a study published last year in The British Journal of Sports Medicine, dentists who examined 278 athletes at the 2012 Summer Olympics in London reported that a majority displayed “poor oral health,” including high levels of tooth decay, often in conjunction with gum disease and erosion of the tooth enamel. The athletes came from the United States and Europe as well as less-developed parts of the world, and most had access to good-quality dentistry, although many had not visited a dentist in the last year.

The study didn’t examine why the athletes were at such high risk of dental problems, although many of us might assume that sugary sports drinks and bars would be a primary cause. Other studies, however, have found little if any link between consuming sports drinks and developing cavities.

So to better understand what is going on inside the mouths of athletes, researchers with the dental school at University Hospital Heidelberg in Germany and other institutions recruited 35 competitive triathletes and 35 age- and gender-matched healthy adults who were not athletes.

All of the volunteers visited the hospital’s dental lab for a full oral examination, including collection of their saliva after they had been sitting quietly. They also completed questionnaires about their diets, including consumption of sports drinks and other beverages, their normal oral hygiene routines, and their exercise habits, if any.

Fifteen of the athletes also completed an increasingly strenuous run of about 35 minutes on an outdoor track, during which their saliva was collected several times.

Then the researchers compared the groups’ teeth and spit, which turned out to be different in telling ways.

Compared with the control group, the athletes showed significantly greater erosion of their tooth enamel. They also tended to have more cavities, with the risk increasing as an athlete’s training time grew. Over all, the more hours that an athlete spent working out, the more likely he or she was to have cavities.

The researchers found no correlation, however, between consuming sports drinks or any other elements of the athletes’ diets and their oral health.

They also found no differences in the amount or chemical make-up of their volunteers’ saliva after the athletes and the non-athletes had been at rest.

But that situation changed when the athletes worked out. During their experimental runs, the amount of saliva that they produced progressively lessened, meaning that their mouths became drier, regardless of whether they consumed water or other beverages during the workout. The saliva’s chemical composition also shifted, growing more alkaline as the workout continued. Excess alkalinity in saliva is thought to contribute to the development of tartar plaques on teeth and other problems.

The extent of the changes in the athletes’ saliva during a workout were something of a surprise, said Dr. Cornelia Frese, a senior dentist at University Hospital Heidelberg, who led the study.

“We had thought sports drinks and nutrition might have the most detrimental influence on dental decay,” she said, “but we saw no direct link” between them. Instead, it was the changes in saliva during exercise that differentiated the athletes’ mouths from those of the control group. Since saliva “has a very protective function” for teeth, Dr. Frese said, having less of it or a chemically different version during exercise could be problematic.

But, she cautions, this study was small, short-term and in many ways unrepresentative of the oral risks most of us would likely face from exercise. “The athletes participating in our study had a mean weekly training time of nine hours,” she said. They were, in technical parlance, hard-core.

“All we can say” based on the data from this group, she said, “is that prolonged endurance training might be a risk factor for oral health.” Whether less frequent or intense exercise would likewise affect oral health is uncertain but unlikely, Dr. Frese said.

Still there are a few precautions that anyone who exercises and has concerns about their oral health might want to take, she said. Drinking water during workouts could be a start, although the connection between hydration and oral health is not scientifically established, Dr. Frese said. More generally, brush and floss, as you know you should. And if you’re a serious endurance athlete, consider visiting a dentist with a specialty in sports dentistry, she said. The goal is to ensure that your teeth remain in as good shape as the rest of you.


Dental tips for your very best smile

Regular visits to a dentist are an important way to keep a bright, white and vibrant smile. However, there are things that each person can do on their own to help maintain and improve their smile. Dr. Everardo Ramirez is an expert dentist based in Kitchener, Ontario. He offers the following tips to help people put forward a dazzling smile:

•    Use a soft to medium bristle toothbrush

•    Position the brush at a 45 degree angle where your gums and teeth meet. Gently move the brush in a circular motion several times using small, gentle strokes brushing the outside surfaces of your teeth.

•    Never brush too hard

•    To clean the inside surfaces of the upper and lower front teeth, hold the brush vertically. Make several gentle back-and-forth strokes over each tooth.

•    Don’t forget to gently brush the surrounding gum tissue.

•    Flossing is extremely important to prevent periodontal disease.

•    Rinse once completed with water or mouth wash

New high tech tooth brushes are on the market to help patients with their dental care. Automatic tooth brushes are safe and effective.  Oral irrigators will rinse your mouth thoroughly, but will not remove plaque. People should brush and floss in conjunction with the use of an irrigator.


Oral Hygiene: 6 Dental Care Myths That May Be Killing Your Pearly Whites

The truth of the matter is that any dental work can nerve-wracking. This is why we try to reschedule our six-month dental visits until we find ourselves cringing in the reclining chair at the dentist’s office. The anxiety and stress that surrounds dentists and dental health has circulated a cornucopia of dental myths to alleviate our dental woes.

These myths have been passed by word of mouth and become too deeply-rooted in our culture that we find it difficult to tell the difference between what is fact and what is fiction. These dental perpetuated myths can put our oral health in danger and prevent us from getting the proper dental care. It’s time to drill out the truth and sink your teeth into the most common dental care myths that may be killing your pearly whites.

Myth #1: Whiter Teeth Are Healthier Teeth

False: Your teeth may be white but this cannot show if there is an infection or cavities between the teeth. Pure teeth do not equate to healthier teeth, although they should be on the whiter side. The natural color of teeth vary from one person to another where people with healthy teeth could have darer teeth than the next person.

Moreover, as we age our teeth become more discolored, and this is also the case with teeth when they begin to break down.  “This is also the case with teeth when they begin to break down. This is why one often associates discoloration in the teeth with unhealthy teeth, however it is not always the case,” Dr. Kourosh Maddahi, celebrity cosmetic dentist in Beverly Hills, Calif. and recent best-selling author of “Anti-Aging Dentistry” told Medical Daily in an email.

Myth #2: Bleaching Your Teeth Is Dangerous

False: Bleaching is a popular service being used throughout recent years with technology allowing for patients to get whiter smiles faster and safer. Prior to 1990, the materials used to bleach teeth were acidic and would actually break down enamel, but now these bleaching materials are PH neutral and do not show damage to the enamel or route of the tooth. “When you are bleaching your teeth, you are simply oxidizing your teeth using carbamide peroxide so that light refracts more favorably off the enamel. What can be dangerous is aggressively high concentrations of whitening gels that can traumatize or shock the tooth,” Matthew Nejad and Kyle Stanley, dentists at Helm | Nejad | Stanley — Dentistry in Beverly Hills, Calif. told Medical Daily in an email.  Prolonged use of bleaching could cause sensitivity, but once one ceases to use the trays the pain should go away.

Myth 3: Brushing Your Bleeding Gums Is Bad

False: Brushing is not only good on teeth, but also on your gums and tongue. Brushing these areas helps get rid of plaque which is what causes inflammation, gingivitis, and eventually gum disease. This plaque can cause the gums to become inflamed and bleed if it is not removed.

Dr. Joseph Banker, a dentist at Creative Dental Care, and a member of the American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry and the Crown Counsel, told Medical Daily in an email patients should make sure “if you have sensitive gums, not to brush too hard.” He suggests to brush at an angle in order to avoid irritation of the gums. Brushing and flossing the surrounding areas will help keep the gum tissue clean.

Myth #4: The More Sugar You Eat, The Worse Off Your Teeth

Maybe: Sugar is bad for your teeth, but it’s not actually the sugar that is hurting them. Bacteria in the mouth needs processed sugar to survive, but according to Maddahi, if you don’t consume sugar but have poor oral hygiene habits, you will be prone to the same decay. Also, if you eat a lot of processed sugars you are more likely to incur a certain amount of tooth decay.

Overall, “the true cause of tooth decay is the combination of bacteria, sugar, and acid,” Nejad and Stanley said. Your gums can get irritated if sugar gets caught in between your teeth. It is important to brush or rinse after eating, especially after sweets, to get rid of the sugars and acids that can damage the enamel.

Myth #5: Placing An Aspirin Next To A Tooth Will Alleviate Pain

Maybe: Although aspirin only works when it is in the blood steam, Maddahi does contest if the pain comes from the gum, aspirin can temporarily relieve some amount of the pain there. However, if it is coming from the actual tooth structure, the aspirin would have to enter the blood stream because it cannot get through the enamel to get to the nerve. It is not advised to overuse aspirin or oral gels to relieve gum pain because they can lead to burn symptoms on the gums.

Myth #6: Flossing Is Not Important

False: Flossing is an extra step many of us tend to skip after brushing our teeth but this can lead to the build-up of bacteria. Nejad and Stanley said “If a patient doesn’t floss, he/she is not cleaning almost 33% of their tooth surfaces that regular brushing can’t reach. Bacteria in those hard to reach places can cause gum disease, decay, and pain. Flossing is cheap, easy, and essential to oral health.” Flossing is an easy to maintain good oral health.

Separate fact from fiction and chew on these dental care myths to avoid tooth decay.