Q&A With Dr. Tart

Can water flossers actually replace good ‘ol floss? Why in the world are our teeth numbered? What do the shadows on a mouth x-ray actually mean? Is there really one toothpaste that’s better for your teeth than others? Midlothian Dental Center’s very own Dr. Tart answers these questions and more!

Q: Give us the scoop on Dr. Tart. Who’s behind the face shield?

A: I was born in Sarajevo, Bosnia, and moved to Phoenix, Arizona at the age of 9. I grew up in Phoenix and went to Arizona State University for my undergraduate degree as well as my business masters. I chose the University of Louisville for dental school, and good thing I did, because I married one of my classmates! We moved to Richmond for his residency and fell in love with the city! I dreaded the thought of moving to an unknown city but now I don’t see myself living elsewhere. We rescued a German Shepherd from a local rescue in Ashland when we first moved here. We enjoy long walks with our dog and it’s a great excuse to go outside even after a long workday. I also love to run. It’s the best stress reliever for me. Fun fact: I ran my first half marathon in 2018 and I hope to run a full one soon (when things are more normal). When we have extended breaks from work, we enjoy traveling and I like to go visit my parents in Phoenix as much as possible!

Q: What’s the #1 thing you want every patient to know about going to the dentist?

A: That we truly do care about them and their experience at our office. Most patients are anxious about a dental visit because of a bad past experience, which means we are always thinking of ways to improve their experience and make them more comfortable.

Q: A lot of people are nervous at the dentist, how do you put them at ease? Is it important for someone to tell you if they have anxiety about their dental appointment?

A: I put my patients at ease by going over the procedure with them in as much detail as they’d like to start out. Then I talk about non-dental subjects during the procedure with my assistant. A lot of times at the end, patients mention that talking about other things and telling them stories and jokes made them forget about their anxiety. And yes, it is important for someone to let me know that they have anxiety about their dental appointment because it reminds me to take that extra time and really explain everything so that there are no surprises for them. I also always ask them what is the number one thing that is causing them to be anxious about their visit. When I know that number one anxiety-causing step, I try to find a way to make that specific step better for them.

Q: What’s one question patients always ask you?

A: “What toothpaste should I use?” I tell patients (unless they have a specific issue with their teeth), that any toothpaste that has fluoride and a seal of approval by the ADA is great! I don’t recommend a specific brand, but I do tell patients what I like to use.

Q: We know that you mentioned having a dentist growing up who really encouraged you. What did she say that you remember most?

A: I always remember her saying how “everything will work out.” These are words I still try to focus on during times of stress in life. Whenever I would go to her office and I’d tell her where I was in the application process and my worries, she’d always take the time to sit down and say those encouraging words and give me some examples from her own life, and how things worked out!

Q: What’s one thing about dentistry that you find absolutely fascinating?

A: The fact that the mouth has so much blood supply and how quickly things can heal in the mouth because of the blood supply!

Q: What are your own habits for keeping your teeth healthy?

A: I use an electric toothbrush at least twice per day and I floss at least once per day. I always wear my Invisalign retainers. They help my teeth stay in place, but also protect them from damage from clenching and grinding.

Q; Where can we find you in Richmond when it’s not a workday?

A: If it’s not a workday, and it’s a nice day, you can find me by the River with my German Shepherd and my husband. We also love trying out new restaurants and breweries in town!

Q: Give us the scoop… do water flossers actually make a difference?

A: They’re better than nothing, however, they do not replace traditional floss. I always tell patients they’re a good adjunct to utilize with regular floss, especially for patients that have a lot of crown and bridgework. Nothing replaces good ol’ floss!

Q: When patients sit in the chair and their dentist and hygienist talk, there’s a lot of unfamiliar vocabulary. We’d love for you to help us de-code that conversation.

What does it mean when you say “occlusion”?

When we talk about occlusion we are talking about your bite and how your teeth come together.

Why are your teeth numbered?

Teeth are numbered for communication purposes and for record-keeping purposes. The numbering allows us to communicate with other dentists, specialists, and insurance companies. There is more than one numbering system. Different specialties and even different countries use a different numbering system. In the U.S. general dentists use the Universal method for numbering teeth and this method is supported by the ADA.

When you look at an x-ray - what do you see that I don’t?

We are looking for different shadows and contrast on the x-ray. We know how different parts of the tooth, bone, and other anatomy appear on the x-ray. We also know how different restorative materials appear on an x-ray, so we look for different shadows in certain areas—this indicates decay and other abnormalities.

Q: Why should patients consider a fluoride treatment as part of their 2x/year appointments?

A: To help prevent decay, especially if they have had a history of extensive dental work and/or are at high risk for decay.

We hope you enjoyed this Q&A session with Dr. Tart. If you have any questions about an upcoming appointment or service, please feel free to give our office a call at (804) 794-4588.

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