Thursday, July 26, 2012

Are You A Mouth Breather? Have a Strong Gag Reflex? Here's How to cope at the Dentist

It’s estimated that 5% of the population has a fear of the dentist that’s so severe, they’re willing to endure a painful toothache for weeks rather than seek help.  

One of the most common reasons that people fear going to the dentist is because they have a strong gag reflex, which can make any dental procedure extremely uncomfortable.   There are, however, some easy techniques that we use at Wilmette Dental to minimize a strong gag reflex. 

First, we try to make the patient as relaxed as possible, because stress alone can increase the gag response.  With some of our hygiene patients, we administer a little table salt to the tip of the tongue before the cleaning.  This helps distract the taste buds, which in turn, can lessen the urge to gag. 

We also suggest that patients who have this problem spray with a sore throat spray before a procedure.  This will numb the back of the throat, reducing the gag reflex.  Of course, we always incorporate frequent breaks in which the patient can sit up and relax for a moment.   

Another problem common among those fearful of dentists is an inability to breathe through the nose...“How will I get through an entire appointment if I can’t breathe through my nose?”  For mouth breathers, this can be a big concern, but it’s one easily remedied by using an over the counter nasal decongestant just before the appointment.  A decongestant will clear the nasal sinuses so that nose breathing is much easier during an appointment.  Frequent breaks, too, where the patient can relax a moment and take some nice, deep breaths are a part of every procedure.

Ultimately, a patient who is at ease will have few problems during a procedure.  We strive for just that:  a patient who, while maybe not delighted to be in the chair, is at least extremely comfortable.

Looking for a new, gentle dentist?  Wilmette Dental has helped Chicago area dental phobics for more than 30 years.  Visit our website at

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Afraid of the Dentist? Coping Strategies for the Dental Phobic

Though it’s a sad fact to admit, not many people really love going to the dentist.  And, some people are actually dental phobic -- so afraid of going to the dentist that they’re willing to endure a painful toothache rather than seek care.

A recent Swedish study revealed that about 5% of people actually have a debilitating, severe dental fear, which they defined as individuals who have serious oral pain, but wait 17 days or more to make an appointment to see their dentist.  (Comparatively, the rest of the population who is not as dental phobic waits only 3 days.)  

Interestingly, an Australian study showed that those most likely to be afraid of the dentist are women in their 40s.  This demographic group more than any other is more likely to have felt oro-facial trauma -- and are also more likely to be depressed, anxious or stressed.So whatever your age, if you happen to be a member of that 5% who really dislikes the dentist, how can you get over your dental phobia?   

In my next few blogs, I’ll explore some coping strategies for some of the most common dental concerns:  a strong gag reflex, mouth breathing (how a mouth breather can get through an entire appointment without holding his breath), a fear of instruments and loud noises, and being uncomfortable with lying back and not knowing what’s happening inside your mouth.

All of these dental phobias are easy to overcome.  With a few simple strategies, that 5% of people who are card-carrying dental phobics could turn into 5% who love going to the dentist!

Looking for a gentle dentist?  Wilmette Dental has been a North Shore Family Dental Tradition for more than 30 years.  Visit our website at


Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Eat Your Way To A Healthy Smile

Achieving a healthy, beautiful smile may be as easy as following a few simple eating tips:

Eat carbs at mealtimes.  Carbs, such as breads and chips, break down into the sugars that teeth-harming bacteria love!  But, when carbs are eaten along with larger amounts of other foods (such as with a meal instead of alone as a snack), the body produces more saliva, which helps wash away the particles that can attract nasty bacteria.

Drink tea.  Tea contains polyphenol, an antioxidant plant compound that prevents plaque from adhering to teeth.

Sip with a straw.  Most sodas, sports drinks and juices contain acid that can erode tooth enamel.  Sipping these beverages through a straw that's positioned at the back of the mouth limits their contact with teeth.

Increase Vitamin C.  This powerhouse vitamin helps keep teeth and gums healthy.

Eat Calcium.  Dietary calcium from cheese, milk and yogurt strengthens the alveolar bone in the jaw...and that's the bone that helps hold teeth in place!

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

America's First President And His Famous Teeth

George Washington, the first president of the United States, had lots of dental problems.   According to historians, by 1796, he had lost all but one of his teeth.

Washington's dentist, Dr. John Greenwood, crafted several sets of dentures for him, but contrary to popular opinion, they were not made of wood.  Instead, President Washington wore dentures made of elephant ivory, hippopotamus tusks and cows' teeth!  The dentures had sharp hooks, screws, and springs that made it difficult for him to smile...and must have been extremely uncomfortable to wear.  It is indeed sad that the man who gave so much to our country suffered with such severe dental ailments.

George Washington's dentures are still in existence:  one set is in the Baltimore College of Dental Surgery, one set is in possession of Joseph R. Greenwood of New York, and another set is on exhibit at Mount Vernon.