Here’s the thing: Patients tend to stretch the truth when they visit their doctor or dentist. You know it and we know it. It’s really not all that surprising.
But what is surprising is the consistency of the types of fibs patients like to tell.
A national survey conducted for the American Academy of Periodontology (AAP) details just exactly what people are lying about to their dentist and hygienist. And guess what? It’s not about how much sugary foods we’re eating, or how often we brush our teeth. It’s about something that potentially has more impact on our health than that.
27% of patients says they lie about how often they floss.
People just don’t like flossing. Period. In fact, some say they’d rather do the dishes or clean a toilet than to swipe a piece of dental floss between their teeth.
The American Dental association reports that only 50% of Americans floss daily and a whopping 18% don’t floss at all.
The truth is a person’s mouth is a very close reflection of not just oral health but also general health. And dentists can usually tell when a patient isn’t being truthful. For example, a patient who says she flosses every day but has inflammation under her gums.
Here are some other common tall tales dentists can spot.
“I hardly ever drink soda.”
How we can tell: The acid in soda can wear away the protective layer of enamel that coats the outside of your teeth — and it does so in a particular pattern. Lemonade and citrus fruits can do similar damage.
“I don’t smoke.”
How we can tell: Tobacco is notorious for staining your teeth. Since the color of the stains can vary from person to person, we might smell your clothes or examine your fingers for nicotine stains if we suspect you smoke.
“I don’t drink alcohol very often.”
How we can tell: Alcohol has a distinct smell, and what’s more, people who drink heavily tend to have very dry mouth because alcohol interferes with the salivary glands and reduces saliva production.
“I don’t grind my teeth at night.”
How we can tell: Your teeth can acquire a worn look from grinding. If you have headaches or muscle pain around your jaw, it’s a sign that you might have “nocturnal bruxism, a condition that’s also known as nocturnal tooth grinding. Teeth grinding should not be ignored.
One thing is certain: A close rapport between dentist and patient is key to the best possible treatment!