The things patients say

Aug. 5, 2013
Some of my most interesting Internet search sessions begin with a comment or query from a patient. News floods our days from every electronic device and from huge screens in city squares.

by Lory Laughter, RDH, BS

Some of my most interesting Internet search sessions begin with a comment or query from a patient. News floods our days from every electronic device and from huge screens in city squares. The influx of information starts people talking. I'm the first to admit very few of these "news" stories come from credible or scientifically sound sources; yet false or misleading reports spread quickly due to social media and gullible minds.

A patient asked my opinion on recommendations for replacing her missing teeth, and before I could even start my answer she stated, "Don't tell me implants; those things gave Dick Van Dyke a seven-year migraine." I had to look that one up before I even left the office. Several sources cite the story of Mr. Van Dyke solving his mystery illness, but the one my patient found most credible came from NewsmaxHealth.1

The piece quotes a noted doctor of holistic medicine and even refers to articles in the Journal of the American Dental Association, both claiming dental implants cause or aggravate oral cancers. (Not sure what the connection is to headaches.) No combination of keywords brought up any such articles on the ADA website. Why don't dental professionals and organizations follow these new agencies more closely and question the facts reported?


Other articles by Lory Laughter


One article I found on PubMed suggested an allergy to titanium could play a role in implant failure, though no mention of cancer or pain was found in the research, and the study was not limited to dental implants. It also looked at orthopedic joint implants, cardiac pacemakers, and debris from hip and knee arthroplasties, among other causes of titanium in the body.2 Since allergies play a possible role in pain and/or implant failure, this topic warrants more study.

It also makes for an enjoyable day when patients come in quoting Wikipedia. While not science based, some facts are checked and referenced. Two clients in particular come to each appointment with a web-based fact from this source -- usually phrased as a question. Last week it was "Lory, do you know where the term ‘charley horse' started?" The prophy started five minutes late -- the education started immediately. According to Wikipedia, the term possibly comes from the 1880s pitcher, Charlie "Old Hoss" Radbourn, who suffered from leg cramps.

Our leg cramp fact-finding did not stop there. By visiting the site,3 more interesting tidbits were uncovered. In Norway, the cramps are referred to as thigh hens, and in Sweden they're called thigh cookies. My favorite is the term for leg cramps in Portugal -- paralítica -- roughly translated as paralyzer. I suggest finding some time to visit this page, but beware of the time steal often associated with opening Wikipedia just for fun.

The oddest dental stories of 2012 can be found on While each story is certainly odd, the fact that more than one is about dentists who keep celebrity teeth as keepsakes and for possible financial gain might cross the line into creepy.

The most repeated dental story in my operatory lately actually came over the radio while I was treating an elderly woman. She stopped me and said, "I bet we'll hear that story 100 times today." It was, of course, Michael Douglas telling the Guardian about what he believes caused his throat cancer. Douglas states alcohol and tobacco had no role in his cancerous oral lesion, but that it was caused by a sexually transmitted disease, human papillomavirus, better known as HPV.

While the medical and dental communities have known of the link between oral/pharyngeal cancer and HPV, it appears the population at large is still in a state of shock and denial of just how much harm can be caused by sexually transmitted diseases. It's hard to spread the word and educate people when the topic is taboo for many and uncomfortable for most. Things need to change; maybe Michael Douglas is just the person to initiate more dialogue on this subject. Then someone can talk to him about the connection between tobacco, alcohol use, and oral cancer.

Web browsing is an excellent way to do research and find answers to the science matters on your mind. It is also a great way to initiate conversation and further connect with your patients. Share your interesting Internet findings and encourage your clients to share their discoveries as well. Your treatment may start five minutes late, but the respect may last for years. RDH

Web addresses for websites referred to in this column


LORY LAUGHTER, RDH, BS, practices clinically in Napa, Calif. She is owner of Dental IQ, a business responsible for the Annual Napa Dental Experience. Lory combines her love for travel with speaking nationally on a variety of topics. She can be contacted at [email protected].

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