Do you know someone with very bad oral health? Is it affecting your relationship with them? Do you suspect it’s affecting their health, too? If so, then it’s time to have a discussion with them about the issue.
But we know that it’s not easy to have these conversations with people, so here’s a guide to bringing up this difficult issue in a way that will help them–and allow you to stay friends!
Make Sure You Need to Have This Conversation
The first step in dealing with this issue is making sure that you need to have this conversation with the person. There are two parts to this question: does this conversation have to happen? And am I the one to have it?
Does this conversation have to happen?
This conversation has to happen if you think that they’re suffering as a result. You might believe that their oral health is at risk. Evidence of this could be visible damage to their teeth, receding gums, or complaints about discomfort or dysfunction of their teeth. Chronic bad breath is another sign of poor oral health.
A person might also suffer as a result of a cosmetic problem with their teeth. If that friend or loved one complains about missed opportunities and you think their teeth might be to blame, it’s a good idea to mention it.
You don’t necessarily need to talk to them if it’s an issue that just bothers you personally.
Are you the one to talk to them?
How do you know if you’re the person to bring this up? First, ask how close you are to this person. Have you had health-related discussions in the past? Have you relied on them for advice? Have they brought up similar issues with you?
Next, ask if there’s someone else who might be having this conversation with them. Sometimes it’s not a good idea to gang up on someone if you can avoid it. So talk to other friends and relatives to see if any of them are addressing the issue. If they aren’t, see if they think you should bring it up.
Start from a Position of Love
Always begin these conversations from a position of love and compassion. Tell them that you care and that you’re concerned about their health. Make sure they know you want to spend as much time with them as you can (poor oral health can lead to a shorter life).
Never bring up this kind of issue in an accusatory or angry way. Don’t use it as “evidence” against them or as part of an argument. Once this becomes an insult in any way, it can undermine the dialogue and will likely do more harm than good.
Sometimes people have underlying issues that have affected their oral health. They may have an eating disorder. They may be afraid of the dentist. They may not have money for dental care.
If they do have these kinds of issues, listen to their concerns. Help them work through them. Help them understand that they have options. People can overcome eating disorders. Sedation dentistry helps people get past dental fear. Financing can make dental care much more affordable. Offer what help you can to help them get past their issues.
Be Gentle, but Persistent
Don’t be surprised if they’re not receptive to your ideas at first. Resist the temptation to make demands or deadlines. Don’t escalate the conflict. You have to put the relationship first.
But that doesn’t mean you should drop the issue, either. Don’t nag them with questions like “When are you going to get that fixed?” Instead, remind them of your concern. Let them know that this isn’t something that isn’t going away unless it’s fixed. And reiterate offers of help and support. Always be positive about the possibilities, not negative about the problem.
Let Us Help You and Yours
At Rice Dentistry, we care about all the members of our dental family. And if someone is important to you, that means they’re important to us. If you have specific questions about any of these issues, we’ll be happy to discuss how to get your friend or loved one in for the help they need.