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Why Do Dentists Talk When They’re Working on Your Teeth?

Posted May 23 2011 10:08am

When people find out that you’re in the dental biz, they often ask questions – sometimes about a problem they’ve been having, sometimes just about dental experiences they’ve long been curious about. One of the most common:

Why does a dentist talk with you while cleaning your teeth and ask questions when you can’t answer because of the work being done in your mouth?

Most of the time, a dentist will only chat while cleaning a patient’s teeth. Otherwise, the talk will focus mainly on whatever procedure’s being done – explanation of what the dental team is doing or questions about pain or discomfort.

In our office, Dr. Verigin often chats with clients while cleaning their teeth – especially if they have shared interests such as sports. Longtime clients will ask about his children and what they’re doing, and he likewise asks about theirs, or their own work or interests. Newer clients sometimes ask about the college sports posters on the ceilings of our treatment rooms or the Atlanta Braves memorabilia displayed in the front office. Dr. Verigin then talks about his love of sports, how he became a Braves fan, how he published a collegiate track and field newsletter for 30 years….

But he also knows that some clients like to just “be in their own mind” during their appointment. In that case, he’ll say little beyond complimenting them on their good home hygiene and otherwise giving encouragement.

Any dentist knows that you can’t talk when he or she is actually working on your teeth. Rest assured, if they ask you a question, they don’t expect an immediate answer – don’t expect you to speak with a mirror, scaler, suction tube or other tools at different angles in your mouth. Once there is a break in the procedure, you’re free to answer and chat – or not, as you prefer.

The one time when you may need to give an answer right away is when you’re asked if something hurts or is uncomfortable. If so, do let the dental team know as soon as possible. Causing pain or discomfort is the last thing they want to do. If you’re silent, they may assume that everything is fine. If you can’t speak clearly, just make a noise or signal with your hand so they’ll know there’s a problem. They’ll stop what they’re doing so you can explain what’s wrong.


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