Monday, December 10, 2007

Dental work anyone?

Are there any healthcare professionals more feared or dreaded than the dentist? I feel badly for them. Imagine being in a social situation, introductions made and the new acquaintance saying something like “I’m terrified of dentists,” or “oh boy, I haven’t been to a dentist in ages. I hate them.” I know the prospect of dental work isn’t pleasant – not too many people actually look forward to it, but dentists play a very important role in our overall health.

The says it well: “While the eyes may be the window to the soul, your mouth is a window to your body's health.” According to the Canadian Dental Association, 7 out of 10 Canadians develop gum disease at one point in their life.

Problems with teeth and gums can contribute to serious health issues and can cause illness as well. People with heart disease and diabetes, for example, are at risk for problems. People with diabetes have a higher risk of developing gum disease, which in turn, can cause complications with the diabetes. For people with heart disease, bacteria from the teeth can get into the blood system, causing infection. This is why many people with heart problems must take antibiotics before undergoing dental procedures. Even pregnant women are targeted for special dental care. According to Health Canada, “Studies show that pregnant women with gum disease might be at a higher risk of delivering pre-term, low birth weight babies than women without gum disease.” Other health issues include osteoporosis (bone loss can show up in the teeth), HIV/AIDS (one of the first signs may show up in the gums), eating disorders (wearing away of enamel from vomiting), among others.

So, what do you do if you are afraid of dentists? That depends on the extent of your fear. If you are truly terrified of dentists, perhaps you can enlist the help of a therapist to learn coping techniques. It’s not as silly as it may sound – if fear is keeping you from caring for your teeth properly, then the fear need to be addressed.

Otherwise, you can find dentists that specialize with people who are scared or who have been traumatized. You may need to do some calling around first, but they are out there. Word-of-mouth is a good way to find dentists. Be open about your fear and ask for recommendations from people you know. Most are more than willing to share their experiences with a dentist who helped them overcome their fears. Perhaps a call to a local university department of dentistry may help if you, or even the regulating body for dentists in your state or province.

Dental care is important – it can be scary, but with the right team, it can also be done successfully and with the minimum of stress and discomfort.

News for Today (slim pickings!)

Staying slim improves survival after breast cancer diagnosis: study
Gleevec, the targeted cancer pill, delivers more good news to patients
Pneumonia Vaccine Is Keeping Kids Healthier
Hard to stomach

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