Dentist: Yes, we do notice your teeth when you’re talking

Dr. David Gordon knows most people aren’t fans of the dentist. He said there isn’t a day that goes by at his office, Logan Peak Dental Care, when he doesn’t hear at least one patient say they aren’t happy to be there.

Luckily for his patients, Gordon knows not to take the comments personally. Instead, he’ll strive to make his patients as comfortable as possible while they’re in his care.

“I think beyond helping people’s oral health, I enjoy being able to make a difference in people’s lives,” Gordon said. “Unlike a lot of medical professionals, dentists see their patients often enough to develop strong friendships, to watch kids grow up. I see that as one of the most rewarding parts of my profession.”

Here are Gordon’s Top 3 things dentists want people to know about them:

No. 1: Yes, we’re always staring at people’s teeth, even when we’re not working.

David Gordon: That’s actually not a misconception. I do stare at people’s teeth a lot. Of course, I don’t say anything, but you can tell a lot about a person’s teeth just by looking at them.

I can sometimes see decay on people’s teeth. Oftentimes there will be a dark shadow underneath the enamel, and that’s usually indicative of something deeper going on. I can tell a decent amount about someone’s regular oral hygiene just by seeing their gums at the front. If they’re red and inflamed, obviously there’s something going on there.

But I probably can’t see as much as people think I can see just from a quick smile. I can’t tell someone’s oral hygiene history entirely by just a quick glance, but it’s something that I’ll always notice.

Herald Journal: Do you see people become self-conscious about their breath as well?

DG: You know, I hear an awful lot from people who say to me, “I could never do your job.” One of the main reasons they say that is because they hate the smell of bad breath. I don’t like the smell of bad breath; I’m no different from anybody else. What I do enjoy is that I get to help people fix that problem. It’s very gratifying to have a patient come to me in a poor state of oral health and a few weeks later is much, much better.

People do get self-conscious about their breath, but I usually have a mask on anyway. Oftentimes, I don’t pick up on it, so it’s nothing most people really need to stress out about much.

No. 2: There’s a lot more creativity involved in dentistry than you might think.

Gordon: There’s a saying in dentistry that has almost become sort of cliche, that dentistry is a blend of art and science. It’s true that a lot of what we do is science-based, just like any other health profession, but we’re also dealing with little, tiny sculptures inside people’s mouths.

There’s a lot of spatial awareness that dentists have to possess. One portion of the entrance exam into dentistry school, the Dentist’s Admissions Test, is about perceptual ability — your ability to picture what a shape looks like and being able to turn it around in your head without being able to manipulate it in person.

There’s some creative skill required in a lot of what I do. Before I went to medical school, I didn’t know that I needed to possess that creative side. As dentistry became more appealing to me, I discovered that about myself — I enjoy creating stuff and making new things for people. For example, after I finished dental school, I began baking cakes for my kids. I thought it would be fun to try out, and it turns out that I have a bit of a knack for it.

HJ: What’s more difficult between working on people’s teeth and baking cakes?

DG: (Laughs) Dentistry for sure. When I make mistakes in dentistry it’s a lot more serious, but making cakes is just a fun thing I can experiment with.

No. 3: Most dentists know you don’t like coming to see them, but we’re still happy to help.

DG: I do get discouraged a little bit, but if I really let something like that get to me, I would need serious therapy. I get told at least once a day that people hate coming to see me.

I understand that dentistry can be an emotional thing for people. It can be especially scary when you’re a child, and it’s something unfamiliar, and it can leave a very long-lasting, deep wound into people. Even as an adult, people have a difficult time getting over that.

So I do what I can to cater to that feeling and make it better. I do whatever I can to go out of my way to make this as enjoyable an experience as I possibly can do for you.

Everybody thinks that dentists have the highest suicide rate because of what they do, but that’s not true at all. Not even close. It’s a myth that has been passed down. In general, dentists are pretty happy with what they do.