Reader's Forum

Feb. 1, 2001
I am a long-time reader of RDH and always take the time to read the letters of my peers and other writers to your column, even though I am always several months behind in my reading.

A diverse profession

Dear RDH:

I am a long-time reader of RDH and always take the time to read the letters of my peers and other writers to your column, even though I am always several months behind in my reading. I read the June 2000 issue in November and realized that I, too, should respond to the April issue, which featured the African-American hygienist on the cover.

I practice at a military installation that employs four hygienists. One of them is a male African-American, a probable rarity in our society of hygienists. Mr. Lonnie Dixon came to work with us in July 1999 and is an excellent clinician and all-around great guy. I told Lonnie that I would be writing to you about him and asked him to provide me with a short "bio," which I will share with you.

Lonnie graduated from the dental hygiene program at Northeast Louisiana University in the spring of 1993. He practiced in a private office after graduation until June 1999, using two chairs and a part-time assistant. While in private practice, Lonnie performed a study on tobacco and its relationship to periodontal disease.

He is the proud father of two children, Brittany, age 9, and Lonnie, Jr., age 7. In a recent radio broadcast interview, Lonnie Jr. stated that when he grows up, he wants to be a "daddy and a hygienist."

Lonnie's first love and passion is gospel music. He is currently a recording artist on fellow artists' CDs and is soon to record his first personal CD.

Lonnie is a Desert Storm veteran, serving his country as part of an engineering battalion in the Louisiana National Guard. The primary focus of his unit during this mission was construction and maintenance of highways in Saudi Arabia. His unit also provided relief work for refugee camps in Kuwait.

As you can see, Lonnie is quite the well-rounded individual who has many talents and interests. I hope that you will publish this letter, late as it may be, so that other hygienists may see what a diverse group we are becoming.

Toni C. Funkhouser, RDH
Fort Polk, Louisiana

Causes of sensitivity

Dear RDH:

I was excited to see the article "Sensitive Issues" in the Dec. 2000 issue since it is such a common complaint of patients. I was surprised to find there was no mention of tartar-control toothpastes causing sensitivity. I have been aware of this cause of sensitivity for probably 10 years now. I am wondering just how many dental professionals are aware of this.

For those who are skeptical or weren't aware of this, start asking your patients with sensitivity what type of toothpaste they use, and I think you'll be amazed. I know firsthand from my own personal use of tartar-control toothpastes that this is true. I was told that it is the large amount of cinnamon flavoring in the toothpaste that causes the sensitivity.

If the author of this article was aware of this cause of sensitivity, stopping the use of tartar-control toothpastes would be the simplest and least expensive "cure" of many patients' sensitivities. I noticed that the author is the manager of dental hygiene affairs at the Block Drug Company, and I'm curious if she ever worked as a clinical dental hygienist. Lastly, I realize that implying that a toothpaste can cause sensitivity could be a "sensitive issue" with companies that make toothpaste, but I definitely feel that this issue needs to be addressed further.

Debbie Miller, RDH
Cortland, Ohio

Editor's Note: We also invited one of the authors, Juliana Kim, BSDH, to add her comments. Ms. Kim wrote: "Thank you for your feedback concerning dentinal hypersensitivity and tartar-control toothpastes. This seems to be a very common question that arises, so I am pleased to have the opportunity to address this concern.

"Tetrasodium or tetrapotassium pyrophosphate, which is the active agent in tartar-control toothpastes, works by inhibiting the crystallization of minerals. The purported claim that these pyrophosphates also demineralize the tooth structure and cause hypersensivity is false. There is no evidence to support that the pyrophosphates demineralize enamel or dentin and are responsible for the hypersensitivity despite the anecdotal claims. Hence, one cannot state that tartar control-toothpastes cause hypersensitivity. In my opinion, there are probably secondary factors in tartar-control toothpaste users that may shift the delicate equilibrium towards initiating a pain response. Studies are still needed to test these hypotheses.

"Clinically, if patients use a tartar-control toothpaste because they have a propensity towards calculus accumulation and experience hypersensitivity (remember, these factors are not related), it only makes sense to use a tartar-control toothpaste with a desensitizing agent such as Sensodyne Tartar Control+Whitening. This would still address the calculus concern while also treating their hypersensitive teeth.

"Unfortunately, corporate entities have earned a negative reputation of only seeking the bottom line regardless of the well-being of the consumer.

"In defense of the dental industry, particularly the Block Drug Company, I would like to assure my colleagues that dental companies act in a very responsible manner. Most dental companies employ dentists and hygienists, not only for their clinical expertise, but for their professional integrity to serve as the 'corporate conscience' of the company. I have met many of my counterparts at other dental companies and hold them in the highest regard.

"As for your curiosity concerning my professional credibility as a dental hygienist, until last year when I started my corporate position with the Block Drug Company, I had been working in private practice for eight years. I am licensed as a dental hygienist in two Canadian provinces and Virginia and am currently in the process of seeking licensure in New Jersey."