Dentists' Poll: Who's Got Great Smiles & a Patient Said What?

Dental professionals included in our 2015 list of topDentists share their opinions on everything from which Pittsburghers have great smiles to the strangest things they've heard from their patients.

Please note that not all dentists responded to our questions. Those who participated did not necessarily respond to each question, and some provided more than one answer per query. Some answers have been condensed.

Pittsburghers with Great Smiles


Next: The Proper Way to Brush & How to Choose a Toothbrush


The Proper Way to Brush

• Brush with the “off” hand to avoid brushing too hard and too fast
• Use a power brush with soft bristles and a timer
• Start by flossing properly, then brush in small circles with a drop of toothpaste and a sugar cube-size lump of baking soda
• Hold the brush at a 45-degree angle and make small circular motions to get to the gum line; use a back-and-forth motion for chewing surfaces and for surfaces facing the tongue, use short, angled strokes away from the gum line; brush the tongue in a back-to-front sweeping motion
• Brush 3 times a day with fluoride toothpaste
• Brush from the gums toward the biting surface of the tooth
• Avoid scrubbing back and forth
• Brush for 2-3 minutes
• Use the top part of the brush to clean the inside surface of the top and bottom front teeth; use a gentle up-and-down motion
• Replace toothbrush or electric toothbrush head every 1-3 months
• Brush along gumline thoroughly and often
• Use a circular motion

Choosing a Toothbrush

• a small head (for better access) with soft polished bristles — not medium or hard bristles, which can damage enamel
• bristles of varying heights
• a head that allows easy access to all surfaces of your teeth
• quality in manufacturing and the American Dental Association stamp of approval
• design that is comfortable to use, ensuring that its owner will brush frequently and easily
• electric toothbrush with medium/soft rounded bristles
• spin or power brushes are great, but remember to get to the gum line

Next: The Best and Worst Foods for Teeth


The Best and Worst Foods for Teeth

• soft foods
• food that is low in sugar
• food that contains a balance of healthy fats, carbohydrates and proteins
• crunchy fruits and vegetables (apple, carrot)
• milk, dairy products (cheese, yogurt)
• leafy vegetables
• pears
• nuts
• lean meats and fish
• water
• chewing gum containing xylitol — “Yes, chewing gum can prevent cavities”

• chewing ice
• sticky foods/candies (gummy bears, Swedish fish, caramel, jellybeans)
• candies
• sour candies
• sugary foods
• acid-containing foods and drinks (coffee)
• diet sodas
• “biggest thing to avoid: a daily soft-drink habit”
• fruit juice
• dried fruits (raisins)
• citrus fruits
• potato chips and French fries
• Red Bull and sports drinks
• foods containing sucrose
• foods containing processed flour (pretzels, breads, cookies)

Next: Patients Say the Strangest Things . . .


Photo by NIck Johnson via Flickr creative commons


Patients Say the Strangest Things …

We asked our dental professionals an open-ended question: What’s the most unusual thing a patient has expressed to you? We were stunned at the variety of surprising and occasionally bewildering responses. Numerous patients have asked to have their jaws wired shut for weight-loss reasons — and about the same number were willing to drop serious cash to have their teeth turned into vampire fangs. Here are some of the other unusual (well, even more unusual) answers:

“I’ve had many unusual requests over 27 years of practice. While in dental school in Philadelphia, I had an up-and-coming boxer from Joe Frazier’s gym [ask for] a gold front tooth with a diamond in it. It took me a long time to make it, and he loved it. Three months later he got into a street fight, and it was knocked out and stolen. I’ve had patients request [that] procedures be done without Novocaine. This has included root canals and extractions! These people must be wired differently. I think it bothered my assistants more than the patient.”

“A patient with terminal cancer … asked if I could whiten his teeth. I asked why, considering the time he had left and the potential cost due to the deteriorated condition of the teeth (from the cancer therapy) and the need for veneers. He said that he would like to be able to smile one last time to his grandchildren and for them to not be troubled by what they would see. With the help of a local cosmetic dentist we were able to get [the man] the smile he wanted in time for him and the grandkids to say goodbye.”

“Perhaps the most unusual one was with a teenage boy who had recently had his wisdom teeth extracted by an oral surgeon. He brought in one of the wisdom teeth and a chain and asked if I would drill a hole into the root to fit the chain through so that he could give it to his girlfriend to wear!”

“The most unusual thing a patient asked me was what size diamond he should get so I [could] embed it in his front tooth. Unfortunately I soon read about him in the paper for robbing multiple homes.”

“I have had several patients ask if I could ‘just stick a tooth’ back into where they had lost one.”

“One patient asked me to sharpen her canine teeth. I didn’t want to ask what she was planning on doing — or biting — with them.”

“[Patients asked] if they could wear a dead relative’s dentures. [A]nother wanted his canine teeth cut down to a point so he could look like a vampire!”

“I have been asked to personalize crowns with symbols such as crosses and a Mercedes symbol. I was also asked to embed a diamond in a bezel inlaid onto a front tooth.”

“When writing a paper for school entitled ‘Who is your hero?’ a fourth-grader patient named me ‘her hero’ for ‘fixing her teeth’ and giving her a nice smile.”

“An avid hunter [asked] if I could crown his six upper front teeth and have my dental lab put a ‘painting’ of a deer on one end being chased by five hound dogs (one of each of the other five front teeth). I turned him down.”

“I had a patient years ago who was going to her high-school reunion and asked that I wire her mouth shut a month prior so that she would lose weight. I did not comply with that request.”

“A teenage girl had broken several braces off her teeth, and I had to put them back on. I asked her if she had been eating anything hard or sticky. She said she was chewing on some ‘soft ice.’ The whole office LOL!”

“The famous actor Tom Hulce [“Amadeus”] was filming on the South Side of Pittsburgh in the movie ‘Dominick and Eugene.’ To be more in his character, he requested that his teeth look poorly cared for. We put a stainless-steel crown on his front tooth and dark-brown staining on other front teeth to look like tartar and tooth decay.”

“Someone recently told me that they tried cleaning their teeth with an abrasive cleaner (AJAX). I do not recommend.”

“I have a patient that has been married for 65 years but could no longer remove her wedding band from her finger due to arthritis surrounding her knuckle. She asked if I could cut her wedding ring off of her finger. I cut it off with my high-speed drill, and I am happy to report my patient is still happily married!”

“Can you put a Steelers logo on my crown?”

“Do these teeth make me look fat?”

“Hold their gun for them.”

“A former pediatric patient had her tongue pierced in college and regretted it. She came to me and asked me to remove [the piercing] for her (the ends were stuck in place). Since nobody else would touch it, I removed it for her free of charge.”

“Check to see if the sores in their mouth were from a STD.”

“Put a diamond in an otherwise unneeded crown in a maxillary incisor.”

“I had one patient ask me if wearing her Invisalign trays would affect her ‘kissing skills.’”

“I had a patient on her own try to whiten her teeth with Clorox.”

“Place a gold tooth in a denture.”

“Clean her dog’s teeth.”

“Make their front teeth crooked to play a trumpet better.”

“Evaluate some other part of their body.”

“Numb up their lips for permanent lip liner.”


Categories: From the Magazine, Medicine and Health Features