Every Question You’ve Ever Had About Dentistry, Answered By A Dentist

Feared and avoided until it's too late, a trip to see your dentist is like the long walk from a cell on death row to the electric chair, except that it’s 10 times worse than death. But that's just because we don't understand them.

Why do people actually choose to be dentists? Why do they always ask you questions when their hands are in your mouths? Why do they prefer adult contemporary over all other genres of music? What’s with the high suicide rate? These questions, among many others, haunt us as we take the dreaded walk from the waiting room to the cushy green chair, cursing ourselves for not flossing more.

In hopes of clearing up some misconceptions and also confirming rumors, we spoke to Dr. Rappaport of NYC’s LAVAAN Dental Spa, who specializes in quelling the public’s rampant dentophobia.

1. What's the most common problem you see with your patients?

Probably that people are not taking care of their gums. Most of our patient base [is people in their] 20s/30s/40s. It's people that have always taken good care of their teeth and never really had cavities, but because they haven't had cavities they don't really get their teeth cleaned as frequently. [What] we're really seeing right now is people not having a ton of cavities but not taking as good care of their gums as they should be.

2. What's the easiest way to prevent gum disease?

Flossing and brushing every day and getting your teeth cleaned four times a year, every three months.

3. What's biggest mistake that people make when it comes to oral hygiene?

Not flossing enough. I mean, flossing is probably the number one thing you can do unless you want to get your teeth cleaned every day. Flossing is the best thing you can do for yourself. We tell people that if you have time to do one thing—floss or brush—you should floss instead of brush.

4. Who is the Bruce Lee of dentists?

GV Black. Black is known as one of the founders of modern dentistry in the United States.

5. Do dentists and orthodontists have a huge unspoken rivalry?

My wife is an orthodontist, so I love orthodontists. Orthodontists go to a lot of extra schooling to become specialists. All they do is know how to move teeth with products such as Invisalign. Every general dentist thinks they understand how to move teeth—which is not true—so you're really relying on software to figure out what can be done. Unfortunately, a lot of what we see is general dentists treating orthodontic cases because they took a weekend Invisalign course. Then someone like my wife, who's an orthodontist, cleans up their mess.

6. Why did you decide to become a dentist?

My father was a dentist. I was pre-med in college, and I was like, "Oh, dentistry seems like a good field," so I went into dentistry. I was working at very high quantity, high turnover offices, and we realized that getting your teeth cleaned and doing dentistry should not be so expensive. LAVAAN’s whole business was based on providing affordable cleanings for people. I've worked in dental offices where it was $350 to get your teeth cleaned. You should actually be going every three months to get your cleanings done, and that's a lot of money to pay four times a year. We opened this business to make dentistry more affordable for people and a little more approachable.

7. Are grills bad for your teeth?

I mean, it's awful. I've actually been asked to put grills in people's mouths—which I have not done—but I can't imagine that putting something like that in your mouth is very good. There are probably ones that you can take in and out that are made by dental labs, but the ones that are cemented in...I can't imagine being very good for your mouth.

8. What’s dental care like nowadays as compared to our parents’ generation?

Our generation really has done a good job of not having a lot of cavities. Dentists have done a good job of promoting prevention. There's fluoride in most of the water sources, and a lot of people don't have cavities that much anymore. It's really about maintaining the foundation which is your gums and just telling people why it's important to do stuff. I think that most of our generation has not had a ton of dental work to be done. Now, I think a lot of the fears come from our parents' generation who have fillings in almost every tooth and had bad experiences at the dentist.

9. Okay, what’s with the high suicide rate?

It's a very...I'm trying to think of how I can say this. It's a stressful profession. You're working in a small space. A lot of the time, people are either in pain or you're causing them some discomfort, so it's stressful.

10. What’s worse for your teeth than people think?

A lot of times people come in with a lot of staining on their teeth, and they'll say, "You know, I don't drink coffee. I don't smoke. I don't drink any red wine, and I always, always have staining on my teeth." Our next question will always be, "Well, do you drink tea?" They'll say, "Yeah. I have six cups of tea every day." Tea is actually more staining than coffee or red wine.

11. Oh my god, so is that why British people…

I think that's a start to why British people might not have the best teeth.

12. So, you guys know when we’re lying about flossing, right?

Yeah. The way we tell is when you ask how often do you floss or do you floss, if the person doesn't say yes right away, there's some variation of a lie. Like, "Well, I kind of do," is never. There is either "yes, everyday" or some variation of that. We can almost always tell.

13. Why do you guys always ask us questions when you have your hands in our mouths?

It's just one of those things that we always do. I wish I knew the answer, but as much as I want to make fun of it, I find myself doing the same thing. I wish I could tell you we were taught in school that that's when you ask the questions, but it could also be because we just love to hear ourselves talk. I don't know, but every dentist does it, and I'm definitely guilty myself.

14. What's the best kind of music to listen to during a cleaning?

I mean, right now we pretty much change the playlist all the time. Right now we're listening to the War on Drugs album because I think it's the best album of the year. The new Mumford album, the new Alabama Shakes album and Shaky Graves. Sometimes're never going to make everybody happy, and hip-hop might be a little intense sometimes when you're getting your teeth cleaned.

15. What kind of toothbrush should I use?

Medium and hard bristles both can actually cause damage to your enamel. You should only use soft or extra soft bristle toothbrushes. Always.

16. Is gum bad for you?

Sugarless gum is not bad for you. It's actually good for you because it's salivary, it stimulates saliva. Gum with sugar in it is bad for you because it can cause cavities.

17. Do you eat a lot of candy?

Yeah. The problem with candy and having things with sugar is you don't want it to stick onto the teeth and stay there and cause problems. If you're drinking a lot of water, you're going to be washing that out and rinsing a lot of that sugar out. So, I drink water when I eat candy.

18. Have you ever gotten bitten while cleaning a child's teeth?

Not just children. Seriously. You think I'm kidding. People do the weirdest things, some of which maybe they can't control and some of which they can. People lick instruments when they're in their mouths. People lick your finger. It's a strange world out there, but we've definitely been bitten.

19. When you’re hanging out with four of your dentist friends, is there always one of you who inevitably disagrees on a major topic?

That joke is as old as time itself.

Jeremy Glass is a staff writer at Supercompressor and practices oral hygiene with diehard enthusiasm. 

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