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13 Secrets Canadian Dentists Want You to Know

Don’t dodge the dentist’s chair! Canadian experts weigh in on how to make your visit as comfortable as possible—and keep your teeth pearly white in between.

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1. You only need to floss the teeth you plan to keep

Patients who don’t floss are missing out on cleaning over a third of the surface of their pearly whites.

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2. Dentists can screen for more than just cavities

An estimated 4,700 Canadians were diagnosed with oral cancer last year, according to the Canadian Cancer Society, and the disease can be hard to spot in its early stages. Tell your dentist about any persistent sores, discoloured patches or difficulty chewing or swallowing.

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3. Soda isn’t the only beverage that destroys teeth

“Not only do fruit juices, energy drinks and sports drinks contain a lot of sugar, the acidity can cause significant decay,” says Dr. Mitch Taillon, president of the Canadian Dental Association. To protect your enamel, don’t brush your teeth for 30 minutes after downing these drinks (or better yet, avoid them altogether).

Here are 10 secrets for keeping your pearly whites in tip-top shape.

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4. A dental cleaning isn’t just a glorified tooth brushing

Only a professional can remove tartar or calculus, a cement-like form of hardened plaque.

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5. Periodontitis—also known as gum disease—may increase your risk of heart disease

Oral exams at least once a year are a must.

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6. Staff are trained in non-pharmacological techniques to make your visit less stressful

“Giving my patients control gives them more confidence,” says Taillon. “No matter what I’m doing, if they raise their hand, I’ll stop.”

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7. Dentists aren’t judging you

They’ve definitely seen worse teeth than yours. Delaying or skipping dental visits will only compound the problem, requiring more invasive and costly treatments later on.

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8. They’re not trying to swindle you, either

“Costs depend on the complexity of the treatment, whether you’re in an urban area, the technology available and your dentist’s level of specialization,” says Taillon.

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9. Baby teeth need fillings, too

It’s a myth that cavities in young children’s teeth don’t matter. Neglecting oral health in the early years can lead to serious problems with permanent teeth, gums and even speech.

To avoid cavities, here are 10 ways to keep your teeth clean.

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10. Bleaching your teeth doesn’t weaken them

Peroxide can cause some temporary sensitivity, but if bleaching is done properly, it won’t affect the integrity of your enamel, according to the Canadian Dental Association.

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11. Three-quarters of Canadians visit a dentist at least once a year

Here’s more good news: childhood tooth decay has decreased threefold in the last 40 years.

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12. No dental insurance? No problem

If you’re one of nearly a third of Canadians without dental insurance, you don’t have to wait until you end up in the emergency room for tooth pain. If you’re a senior or have young children, contact your provincial dental association to find out if you’re eligible for free dental-care programs. Taillon also recommends checking out dental schools for affordable checkups, cleanings and even restorative work. Fees can set you back as little as $15 a filling.

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13. The field is physically and psychologically taxing

Like other health care professionals, dentists are prone to perfectionism and are known to prioritize the needs of patients over their own. The upshot? Dentists have nearly double the rate of stress as the general population. Still, Taillon says the rewards are worth it. “What we do can make a huge difference in patients’ lives.”

Next, check out the 15 medical discoveries you’ll wish you knew sooner.

Originally Published in Reader's Digest Canada