At last month's Florida National Dental Convention in Orlando, New Port Richey's Paul Miller was named dentist of the year by the Florida Dental Association.
Miller, 59, an American Dental Association delegate and member of the ADA's Council on Member Insurance and Retirement Programs, went to dental school at Marquette University in Milwaukee and has been a dentist since 1981. He recently talked with the Tampa Bay Times about his profession:
Why did you decide to become a dentist?
I went to undergraduate school at the University of Wisconsin and got a degree in bio chemistry. I was working in laboratories. You can't have a very good conversation with a test tube. When I was working with people, I enjoyed it a lot better. (Dentistry provides) social interaction.
What does a dentist do that the general public might not know a dentist does?
Working with legislators, (and) community service. We make trips up to Tallahassee to explain good rules and laws that help preserve the profession and to make sure the public has the best care possible. Most of my colleagues donate a lot of time to community services. I donate time every other month to the Good Samaritan Clinic. Our local dental association, which is in New Port Richey, (provides) scholarships for people going into hygiene or dental assistant school.
Since you became a dentist, how has the industry changed?
Technology and material science. I haven't done an amalgam, which is a silver filling, in probably 20 years. The tooth-colored fillings are stronger and more durable.
How often should somebody see a dentist?
There's a great quote: "Dental care isn't expensive, but dental neglect is." Everyone should see a dentist twice a year. We know the rate that cavities can form, we know the rates at which people build up plaque and tartar. Six months is a good starting point. (If) we see that there's breakdown, we recommend a shorter time period.
What do people do to teeth that they shouldn't?
The thing we do that we shouldn't do so much is (drink acidic beverages), especially sodas. Another real bad one is power drinks (such as Powerade and Gatorade). Don't sip it all day, and you're okay. If you drink it in five minutes, that's five minutes of exposure. When you sip it for two hours, that's two hours of exposure.
What don't people do enough that they should do for their teeth?
Flossing. Another old saying: "You only need to floss teeth that you want to keep."