MedicalMany of us fear going to the dentist—the drills and consequential pain that we may experience after the appointment can make any of us quake at the thought of a dental visit. However, it is important to have regular checkups and cleaning. In fact, according to the American Academy of Periodontology, a preventative checkup could save your life. For example, periodontal disease, a chronic inflammation of the gums, has been linked to other serious health risks such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease and even Alzheimer’s disease.

That being said, many people know very little about their dentist. Just as it is important to have regular dental checkups, it is just as important to have a well-qualified and well-equipped dentist to provide first-class dental care. Currently there are 165,000 dentists nationwide and according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the yearly earning of dentists averaged around $147,010 in 2007. Obviously, this country spends a great deal on dental care. But how much do you actually know about your dentist? Here are the top 10 secrets that your dentist doesn’t want you to know:

#1: Your dentist isn’t as educated as you think—dentistry has changed a lot since your dentist graduated from dental school. It is almost vital that a dentist have 100 hours or more of updated dental education EACH YEAR. Dental techniques and advances in materials used in fillings, bonding and root canals are just a few areas in the dental world that are said to change at an “almost daily” rate.

#2: Your dentist doesn’t have the latest technology—digital x-ray and ultrasonic cleaning are just two of the most important and advanced technological creations of today. It would cost your dentist about $2000 to update their equipment to provide you with the best possible care. There is not excuse not to have the latest technology.

#3: Your dentist may be using mercury—simply said, mercury is toxic. However, some dentist still put it in the mouths of their patients. In fact, the American Dental Association and the FDA have no problem with mercury fillings. Scary? Make sure to ask what’s being put in your mouth.

#4: The lab may be more important than your dentist—dental labs create crowns, bridges, orthodontic appliances and dentures. Unfortunately, to cut costs and increase profits, some dentists use foreign labs or cut-rate domestics labs that may use tin, aluminum or even lead to create your mouthpieces. Be particularly wary if your dentist uses a lab in China or Mexico, where the practice of using these cheap metals is very common.

#5: There’s more to good dentistry than just filling cavities—a good dentist checks for more than just tooth decay. A good dentist should also be concerned with sleep apnea, TMJ (jaw-related pain from grinding), periodontal disease, oral cancer, diabetes and hypertension.

#6: You are probably using the wrong specialist for dental implants—periodontists are usually the best option for replacement of your original tooth with an artificial implant. Many people assume an oral surgeon is best qualified to perform these types of procedures. This is usually an incorrect assumption.

#7 Bad dental advice about dentures can be fatal—dentures need to be replaced at least once every seven years. Poor fit or worn out dentures can cause sleep apnea, stroke, or even death.

#8: Your dentist may not know enough about sleep apnea—sleep apnea literally means that a person stops breathing during the night, sometimes several times. It is a blockage of the airway during sleep that can be treated with Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP). CPAP involves blowing pressurized room air through the airway at high enough pressure to keep the airway open. Your dentist should know about the latest techniques to treat sleep apnea.

#9: Not all cosmetic dentists have the skills to improve your smile—has your cosmetic dentist had post-graduate training? What kind of veneers do they use? Have them show you proof of their work! A cosmetic dentist should be able to show you at least 10 photographs of “before” and “after”.

#10: You may not need that root canal, even though your dentist suggests it—dentists receive kickbacks when they refer you to an endodontist, who will most likely perform a root canal. Why? Because it’s an expensive (and sometimes) unnecessary procedure! Sometimes an extraction and an implant is a better option.

Please keep up your bi-annual cleanings and check-ups. But be prepared with the right questions to ask your dentist to protect yourself and to receive the best possible dental care.