What A New Dentist Taught Me About Explanation

Over my life as a dental patient, dentists have told me to pay close attention to brushing the back of my bottom front teeth. Unfortunately, this piece of professional advice had a hard time getting into my daily routine.  That changed recently - I'm now much more likely to brush these teeth - and it's because a new dentist took an extra 30 seconds to explain something important - why.

There I sat, with a small liquid vacuum cleaner hanging off my jaw, waiting for the dentist to check in on the work of the hygienist.  After some poking around, he said "you need to take some extra time to brush the back of your front teeth and the outside of your upper molars." Yeah, yeah, I'd heard it before... brush better whatever.  He then said "Do you know why that needs extra care?"  Hmm. No.  "It's because those teeth are positioned near your saliva glands, which are constantly pushing saliva on them, causing them to decay more quickly." Whoa. I had no idea.

It was like a new world of dentistry opened before my eyes.  It only took a couple of sentences to change the way I think about how my mouth is built and become motivated to prevent my own anatomy from working against me.  The dentist didn't just give me some abstract command to be a better tooth-brusher, he made sense of it - he gave me a way to see why.