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Why Patient Education Materials Matter

Whether you go to the dentist for a first-time visit, regular checkup or a more time-intensive procedure, it's important to read the patient education materials your dentist provides. You should get into the habit of reading these materials, rather than leaving them for later or forgetting to take a look until you're due for your next office visit. Make a point to look over this information for the following reasons:

1. They Provide Important Information about What to Expect

Not all steps of a procedure are equally memorable. Details get overlooked, and if you're scheduled for a filling, extraction or crown, you'll want to be aware of every necessary point in the process. Some procedures – fillings, for instance – can take longer than one appointment, and understanding the timetable can curb the frustration that makes it harder to undergo each session.

Likewise, your teeth may be more sensitive than other patients, and knowing whether or not your dentist offers different treatment options based on the condition of your enamel can lessen anxiety prior to the first appointment.

2. They Eliminate Confusion amid Language Barriers

If you speak English as a second language, your patient educational materials can be extra helpful because they're often available in other languages to help ease confusion about what to expect. With 37 million Spanish speakers now living in the U.S., per Pew Research Center, dental practices and dental organizations increasingly offer educational materials written in Spanish (and languages other than English) to better clarify treatment plans and important aftercare.

3. You May Not Recall Everything from Your Consultation

When faced with a procedure you've never experienced, such as a wisdom tooth extraction, it's easy to forget some of the details – such as all the steps in aftercare. The American Dental Association (ADA), provides materials for dentists to give to you so you'll have all the details you may have missed during the appointment itself. You'll be better prepared for your procedure and can use the resource to ask follow-up questions before your next appointment.

In addition to a brochure, your dentist may dedicate a section of the practice's website to patient education as well. Many dentists today provide various media on their respective sites to educate patients about the more convoluted facets of dental care. You may have questions about brushing techniques, anesthesia, diabetes and its effect on oral care, as well as continued care as a senior, how to counter periodontal disease or how to strengthen your enamel. Check with your dentist's website to learn more about the areas of oral care that directly affect you.

4. You'll Be Equipped with the Right Preventative Care

One of the best reasons to read your dentist's educational pamphlets and materials is to learn all the ways you can take preventative care before your teeth display a bigger problem to your dentist. The California Dental Association (CDA), for example, provides fact sheets on early childhood caries, fluoride, gum disease and receding gums – all of which your dentist might pass along at appointment one to make for an easier appointment too.

You know it's necessary to brush twice a day with fluoride based toothpaste like Colgate Total®, which fights germs for 12 hours. But you may not be aware of the signs of gum disease, how to preserve your enamel or what else gum recession might indicate. Stocking your bathroom cabinet with this kind of information will keep you up to date on how to take the best care of your teeth, so you can prevent more severe problems down the line.

5. You Can Prepare to Budget for the Best Care

Your dentist won't just provide you with patient education materials on dental care; he or she may also offer you materials on procedural expenses. Dental costs can be expensive, and your dentist might work with a wide selection of insurance carriers that offer varying payment options for more intensive care. This may include discounts for large upfront payments, or a unique payment policy you should be aware of before you start a procedure. Assuming this information is included in a welcome packet (and it should be), take a moment to read their policy so you can plan your budget for the best care.

You only get one set of adult teeth. Reading over these education and treatment materials is an easy and important step to take to ensure they're deemed healthy at each checkup.

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This article is intended to promote understanding of and knowledge about general oral health topics. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your dentist or other qualified healthcare provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment.

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