Written by By Chanda Akpagu, CNN
When Australian journalist Tracey Spicer launched a campaign to increase awareness about common dental health problems back in 2006, she was referred to the advocacy group Dental Care Victoria.
Her colleagues mentioned that a loss of self-esteem and reputational damage could occur if they vent their frustration to a dentist who had the capacity to push all the right buttons.
Spicer, who was having chronic headaches for several months, agreed and was later taken to a dentist who “almost screamed” at her.
“The lack of consideration was like being slapped in the face. This is the mentality that, it’s always someone else’s problem,” Spicer says in an interview for CNN.
For the next seven years, Spicer had several stress-related dental issues.
Stress-induced attacks, “toxic reflux” and a bad piercing were the main issues she dealt with.
When such depression struck, Spicer went to see a psychiatrist. A year later, she had told her doctor that she had stopped paying visits to the dentist.
Although encouraged by a wave of support for her cause, Spicer says she believes there are still “too many barriers” for some people from getting regular dental check-ups.
There’s also a problem with inappropriate dentists who push their own agenda, says Carol Kerin of the Australian Dental Association.
“One of the things we don’t want are just any old dentist. We need to get the right dentist. We need to get a specialist,” Kerin says.
If you want to get the right dentist for you, here are some hints to help:
1. Make sure your dentist is on the same page
In May, CNN Travel’s Gerard O’Brien traveled to the rural northern New South Wales town of Singleton, where he found that there were many dentists, but few had a dental degree.
One dentist said, “If you had the same 3-D scan at one dental school and then at another dental school, there would be some huge differences.”
So be wary of whether the dentist you’re meeting at the weekend is qualified, Spicer suggests.
“When I went to the dentist I had some incorrect dentistry done,” Spicer says. “The dentist in Sydney was absolutely fantastic, but I had no idea about three or four years later it was going to be the same.”
Spicer added that a proper doctor-patient relationship can help alleviate any anxiety, but she had warned the dentist she would be writing the article that she did not “necessarily want to engage in daily debate with her.”
2. Check all their qualifications
Does the dentist have a dental training or are they just seeing patients?
“If I was just a student, they wouldn’t be qualified to teach me how to take care of my teeth,” Spicer says.
3. Be careful about who you consult
Some dentists are more than willing to use your money to push their own views on social media, Spicer says.
“I’ve had professionals tell me, look, no one is going to Facebook you or Instagram you about ‘the problem that your dentist had.’ All that’s going to happen is that you’re going to have to pay it back,” Spicer says.
Ceramics artist Kathleen Egan is a regular social media user. In her recently published book “Corona Press: Dream Your Bathroom Into Real Life,” she relates her experience of needing refinishing work done to the front of her teeth.
“The real issue was the dentist who he painted it differently to the impression I got from a 3D scan of the front of my teeth,” Egan told CNN.
“We never did get a result in the way we wanted, so I was basically paying them to try to repair the mistake because it was costing so much money.”
4. Ask what would make your teeth safer
If a dentist prescribes any specific remedy to relieve your problems, you should ask if the procedure you’re interested in is safe, and if it’s the right choice for you.
“I found out that a number of dentists had different opinions of what was safe — which created tension,” Spicer says.
5. Try and see a specialist
If the issue is of concern to you, go for an expert consultation with the specialist who is best suited to your needs.
If the general practitioner can’t help you, discuss the issue with a dentist who may be able to give you a different solution, says Spicer.
6. Ask for reassurance