Settling into the dentist's chair probably doesn't top anyone's list of favorite activities, but it's vital to maintaining good oral health. However, even though you may be diligent about ensuring your continued tooth and gum health, the same can't always be said about your dentist. We spoke to dental experts to find out which warning signs might signal it's time to find a new oral healthcare provider.
1. Your dentist doesn't take a full medical history before examining you.
"One of the first things we do with our patients, before assessing their dental problems, is take a full medical history. We need to know what's going on with the patient in terms of his or her entire body," says Jeffrey Gross, DDS, who practices at The Healthy Smile in Ohio. Certain medications or conditions may affect the way your teeth react to treatment, so it's essential for your dentist to know what's going on with your body. For example, bacteria from the mouth can affect the heart of someone who suffers from heart disease, pregnancy may cause gum disease and bleeding gums and arthritis can make it difficult for patients to maintain a clean mouth. It's also essential for you to keep up with your own medical care — for example, people with untreated diabetes may have delayed healing of the gums, which can make performing root canals difficult. "If we don't know what the underlying problems are, we will just be spinning our wheels and performing unsuccessful treatments."
2. Your dentist says you need to replace all of your silver fillings with white ones.
If your dentist recommends that you replace all of your silver fillings with tooth-colored versions, you may want to get a second opinion. While there are some theories that the mercury content in silver fillings can be harmful to your health, none of them has been proven to be true, says Dr. Gross. According to Shelley Seidel, DDS, MD, who practices at Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons of Houston and is the director of the Institute for Dental Implant Awareness, as long as you don't have cavities below your fillings — which can be detected by examination or x-ray — or the fillings aren't broken or fractured, there is no need to replace them. "If your dentist wants to take them out simply because silver fillings are passé, you're asking for trouble because you don't know how your teeth will react," explains Dr. Gross. "They may react in an unfavorable way, becoming more sensitive or in need of a root canal or crown."
3. Your dentist tells you that you don't need to see a dental surgeon for your implants.
Ask a lot of questions if your dentist says you don't need to see a specialist for procedures like orthodontics or placing implants. If she wants to do them herself, she needs to have taken several hundred hours of training and should be able to produce all course certificates and even patient testimonials with photos of procedures she has done, says Dr. Seidel. Especially because some patients benefit from going under anesthesia during certain procedures — if they're prone to nervousness or have high blood pressure, which can lead to heart attack or stroke, for example. Your dentist can't do that, so it has to be done at an office with an an anesthesiologist. "Ask what training your dentist has had and ask where she had her training," says Ada S. Cooper, DDS, a New York City-based dentist and consumer advisor for the American Dental Association. "Ask how many implants she has placed, how many have been successful and how many have failed."
4. Your dentist doesn't give you alternative treatment options.
"Options are so important when a dentist presents a treatment plan," says Dr. Gross. "Your dentist needs to be well-versed enough to give you different ways of fixing your problems. She needs to figure out what fits the patient best: Is the patient dental-phobic? What can she afford? The last thing you want is for a patient to walk out the door without any treatment because she couldn't find an option that worked for her." Most dental problems have several treatment options and, according to Dr. Cooper, you and your doctor should be discussing each one before you decide on a course of treatment. "Whether it's a small cavity, a large cavity or an infection, your dentist should be telling you what the options are, what the advantages and disadvantages are of each, and then together you should be able to make your way through all those options to figure out what is best for you," she says.
5. Your dentist doesn't address the specific problem you're having.
If you go to your dentist with tooth pain and she simply sends you on your way with a tube of desensitizing toothpaste — without performing a thorough exam — you may want to consider finding new doctor. Another complaint that should never be overlooked, according to Irwin Smigel, DDS, founder and president of the American Society for Dental Aesthetics, is bleeding gums. "If you have bleeding gums and he doesn't get to the cause, that's a problem." But whatever your complaint or concern, you should never leave with unanswered questions. "You should understand the problem your dentist has diagnosed and the treatment she has recommended so that you're leaving with an understanding of how much each alternative will cost so you can make sound, educated judgments as to what is best for you."
6. Your dentist bristles at the fact that you want a second opinion.
"Many patients are reluctant to tell their dentist that they're getting a second opinion," says Dr. Smigel. "But if it's a doctor who's new to the patient, and you're told that you need to have procedures done, you absolutely should get an exam from another dentist." That applies to anything you're uncertain about. "If you leave your dentist's office and your dentist is recommending a procedure you're unsure about or if you've gotten a diagnosis that you don't understand, you should get a second opinion," Dr. Cooper says. "You shouldn't have treatment that you don't understand the need for."
This article originally appeared on WomansDay.com and it's republished here with permission.