Tooth Talk: Always a reason

Q: Hey doc, every time I go to the dentist for a teeth cleaning the person that does my teeth is always trying to sell me something like x-rays, an electric toothbrush or some type of swish and spit stuff I don’t need. What’s with the sales pitch? Is it a commission thing or what?

A: This question was e-mailed to me. I sincerely appreciate all the e-mails I get and I always respond. Some questions, like this one, deserve an expanded answer in print. So, here goes.

First and foremost lets try to remember that your dental hygienist be they male or female are educated, highly trained health care professionals. They must attend college for a minimum of two years, pass all of their exams in order to sit before the board of dentistry to be licensed. Once licensed they can begin to practice what they have been trained to do, dental hygiene. While they are not dentists they are fully capable of performing a variety of dental procedures.

They communicate directly with their supervising dentist keeping them apprised of the patients condition as well as their needs and wants. What they are not are salespeople. Dental hygienists genuinely care for their patients and make recommendations based upon the patients needs for optimum oral health.

Although, I cannot speak directly to your specific question I can say that most dental hygienists are not paid additional monies for “selling” products or services.

Some offices, mainly office chains or dental clinics offer compensation for sales. These types of situations are very unfortunate for the patient but rest assured they are the exception and not the rule.

My recommendations would be to ask your dentist or dental hygienist why you need what he/she is trying to “sell” you. In most cases, they will have shown or explained why before it is offered.

Another important question to ask yourself is why this is being recommended. Your hygienist isn’t with you at home in between cleanings. They can only ascertain your oral health at your visit and from that visit recommendations are made based upon your current situation.

There are many, many scenarios that can lead to suggestions made by your dental hygienist. Some of these include dry mouth, inadequate dental hygiene due to illness, neglect, unawareness, limited dexterity, orthodontic treatment, gum recession, sensitivity, periodontal disease and age. Really, there are too many to list.

If there is no answer to the question of why, then ask your dentist. If the answer or rationale is inadequate then you should probably evaluate other options. However, in most cases you can rest assured because even though your hygienist preaches from the high pulpit of flossing there’s always good intentions at heart and enough floss to catch those who have fallen.


Questions can be sent to Fred Eck, D.D.S. at Marco Dental Care, 950 N. Collier Blvd., Suite 305, Marco Island, or call 389-9400. Web site: He received his Doctor of Dental Surgery at the University of Detroit Mercy and is licensed by the Florida State Board of Dentistry.

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