Don't tell me to smile

Don’t tell me to smile or floss!

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Don’t tell me to smile or floss!  You may never say this to a person, but I bet my bottom dollar the thought or at least part of it has popped into your mind. This post is about why (I believe) it is not compassionate to tell someone else to smile. It will also touch on why a person may not be consistent with a proper self-care routine and how a registered dental hygienist may address the matter.

Don’t Tell Me to Smile

It seems contradictory at first. “Your Smiling Hygienist” saying, “don’t tell me to smile”. The reality is no statement is more irritating than being told to smile. Not by my mother or a photographer. It’s the smile request of a complete stranger or a person who seems to only want you to make them feel better.

No one should tell another person to smile (excluding mothers and photographers). We do not know what another person has experienced or is going through. Whether inner battles or external, it’s easy and simple to bring the power of a smile yourself rather than commanding it from someone else. And let’s not forget, smiling is contagious. So if you see a smileless person, show them your smile.

What about the flossing part?

An oral hygiene routine is a self-care routine. And while most people do not floss for many reasons, there are circumstances dental hygienists wonder if a person even brushes their teeth.  One word – depression. No depressed person is walking around with a big ol’ sign that reads, “I’m depressed and have no energy to brush my teeth.” And not every mouth full of plaque is that of a depressed person. BUT depression is a dysfunction of the brain and poor oral hygiene could be a sign of depression. Click HERE to read more on why self-care is difficult for depressed people.

Let’s be clear: Dental Hygienists are not therapists. We are, however, expected to guide patients with health conditions, including depression, through oral hygiene instructions. The following are some examples of how to help a person showing signs of depression:

  • Review medical history
  • Acknowledge and validate the challenge of self-care when mental health is a factor
  • Do not lecture
  • Recommend:
    • an electric toothbrush
    • a water flosser to use in the shower
    • floss picks or holders – to use wherever and whenever
  • Suggest sulcular brushing with a dry, soft brush – this was my personal mouth saver when battling post-pardum depression. I brushed in the morning, but nighttime was hit or miss, so I “dry brushed” right by my bedside
  • Give practical lifestyle suggestions – “floss during lunchtime”, for example, gives flexibility and a feeling of not being judged

In conclusion, this post in no way replaces the medical advice of a doctor nor dental advice from a dentist. Always seek proper medical attention. Also remember, our eyes don’t see what another sees; our ears don’t hear what another hears, but if we try that is called – Compassion.

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