We tend to trust our doctors. After all, they’ve spent a lot of time learning to care for us, passed complex board exams, and spent time as interns, practicing their medicine and learning at the same time.

Unfortunately, despite all that time spent training, doctors can still be a little short of knowledge, especially in areas they don’t focus on, such as oral health. Now a new study shows that doctors might actually harbor many misconceptions about oral health, although dedicated continuing education can help them overcome gaps in their knowledge to provide better insight to their patients.

Group of young doctors sitting in a classroom to their Dental teacher on oral health

Common Misconceptions

The study looked at the dental knowledge of just over 100 primary care doctors. Although the doctors in this study were located in Tehran, their gaps in knowledge aren’t that different from some doctors we’ve worked with in the US.

Among the gaps in the doctor’s knowledge were ignorance about the effectiveness of dental sealants, which was known to only about 60% of doctors. However, after a brief course in oral health, about 92% of doctors understood the benefit of dental sealants.

Doctors also didn’t know that the first signs of tooth decay was white spots or lines on tooth surfaces–less than 50% of doctors got that right before their course. After their course, though, 97% of doctors were able to answer that question correctly.

But perhaps the biggest point of concern is that many doctors didn’t seem to understand some of the key interactions between oral and overall health. Only about 60% of doctors knew that gum disease can contribute to the risk of low birth weight babies and make it harder for diabetics to control their blood sugar levels. But after training more than 90% got each question right.

Few doctors knew that some of the medications they prescribe can have serious impacts on your oral health. Less than 50% knew that antidepressants can increase your risk of cavities. (This study didn’t ask, but we also know that few doctors know about the impact of antidepressants on dental implants.) Even fewer knew that pain medications can increase the risk of cavities, and very few (13%) knew that blood pressure medications can increase cavity risk. But after treatment, about 70% of doctors understood the risks related to these medications.

Take Your Dental Questions to a Dentist

On the one hand, doctors should understand all these oral health questions. But on the other hand, doctors shouldn’t be the ones who have to answer them.

Doctors’ ignorance really becomes a problem for people who see their doctor regularly for checkups, but not their dentist. If people want to get accurate, up-to-date information about dental topics, they need to see their dentist regularly, at least twice a year for checkups and oral hygiene visits.

If you are overdue for a dental checkup in Myrtle Beach, don’t take your questions to a doctor, schedule an appointment with a dentist. Please call (843) 903-3111 today for an appointment with Dr. Dustin Holladay at Carolina Forest Cosmetic Dentistry.