The Evolution of Dental Care: From Finger to Floss

Did you know that the toothbrush is one of the oldest tools that humans still use? In fact, in a survey conducted in 2003, Americans chose the toothbrush as the number one invention over the car, personal computer, cell phone, and microwave. This may come as a shock in a day and age obsessed with technology, but it just goes to show how much value we place on our pearly whites. But it makes you wonder… how have people kept their teeth clean throughout the centuries? How did the toothbrush, toothpaste, and floss come into existence and how have they evolved over time?

The Evolution of Dental CareOne would assume that the first toothbrush was surely the finger, but evidence has shown that as far back at 3500 BC to 3000 BC chewing sticks were used in Babylonia. These chewing sticks were essentially a stick from an astringent tree with a frayed end that acted as bristles to clean teeth. These chewing sticks have also been found in ancient Egyptian tombs. Their predecessors are still commonly used in certain areas of the Middle East, Africa, Asia, and South America and are known as miswak or mswaki sticks.

When excavating Ur in Mesopotamia, ornately decorated toothpicks were found that dated back to 3000 BC. Other archaeological digs have recovered various tree twigs, bird feathers, animal bones, and porcupine quills as the earliest toothbrushes and toothpicks. An ancient Sanskrit text on surgery dating back to the 6th century describes severe periodontal disease and stresses oral hygiene; “the stick for brushing the teeth should be either an astringent or pungent bitter. One of its ends should be chewed in the form of a brush. It should be used twice a day, taking care that the gums not be injured.” Pretty sound advice, even by current standards! Ancient Greek and Roman literature referenced the use of toothpicks to keep their mouths clean, and ancient Roman aristocrats kept special slaves for the sole purpose of cleaning their teeth. Imagine that job!

Ancient Chinese writings from around 1600 BC portray chewing sticks that were derived from aromatic trees and sharpened at one end to act as a toothpick. In the thirteenth century, the Chinese began to attach boar bristles to bamboo, essentially fashioning the first toothbrush. The optimal choice for bristles was taken from the back of the necks of cold climate boars, generally found in Siberia. Traders introduced these toothbrushes to the West and they quickly gained popularity. At that time Europeans were brushing their teeth by dipping a linen cloth or sponge in sulfur oils and salt solutions to rub away tooth grime. This was referred to as “The Greek Way”, as Aristotle had recommended this method to Alexander the Great. As these toothbrushes spread from East to West, in the West they preferred softer horse hairs over the coarse boar bristles, yet horses were deemed too valuable for the sake of toothbrushes, making boar bristles popular well into the early 1900’s.

Fast-forward to 1780 and we meet a man named William Addis of Clerkenwald, England. Addis was sitting in Newgate Prison for allegedly inciting a riot. The method for brushing teeth in jail was to take a rag and dip it in a solution of soot and salt and rub it onto the teeth. Addis believed there had to be a more efficient way, so while he passed his time in jail he began to think up solutions. Spying a broom, inspiration struck him and he took a small animal bone leftover from his meal and drilled holes into it. He then tied some swine fibers into bunches, strung them through the holes, and glued them into place. At this time in Georgian England, refined sugar was being shipped in from the West Indies in mass quantities. This caused a huge increase in the consumption of sugar for Londoners who then suffered from rotting teeth, the only treatment for which was to pull the infected teeth. When Addis was released from jail, he went on to market and sell his toothbrush under the name Wisdom Toothbrushes, which went on to become a very successful business that is still around today.

Toothbrushes continued to be made with animal bone handles and more often than not, boar bristles, although fancy toothbrushes were made with badger hair for those who could afford them. Celluloid handles were introduced in the 1900’s and quickly replaced bone handles. In the 1920’s a new method of attaching bristles to the handle was developed: holes were drilled into the brush head, bunches of bristles were then forced through the holes, and secured with a staple. This method is the same method that is commonly used today.

The next evolution in toothbrushes occurred when Wallace H. Carothers of Du Pont Laboratories invented nylon in 1937. Nylon bristles quickly overtook animal hair bristles for sanitation and cost-effective purposes. Although boar hair bristles often fall out, do not dry well, and are prone to bacterial growth, they strangely still account for 10% of the toothbrushes sold worldwide. The new nylon bristled toothbrushes were sold as “Doctor West’s Miracle-Tuft Toothbrush” due to its more hygienic properties.

With World War II looming in the background, British and American housewives were instructed to waste nothing, which translated to no more bone handles for toothbrushes. Bone handles had long been popular for things like toothbrushes, knives, guns, and handles for many more items. The shift to celluloid was a natural progression as soup bones were needed more than ornate bone handles. World War II gave oral hygiene an unexpected boost. The soldiers in World War II were expected to brush twice daily, a habit they brought home with them, likely due to the fact that Trench Mouth had become so rampant during World War I.

And what about toothpaste? Well, ancient Egyptians were making a “tooth powder” as far back as 5000 B.C.E. It was made from ox hooves, myrrh, eggshell fragments, and pumice. No device was found with the remnants of the tooth powder, which is why it is assumed that the finger was the first actual toothbrush. Other early tooth powders contained mixtures of powdered salt, pepper, mint leaves, and iris flowers. In Roman times, urine was used as a base for toothpaste. And since urine contains ammonia it was likely an effective whitening agent. In later times, homemade tooth powder was made of chalk, pulverized brick and salt. It is said that Napoleon Bonaparte regularly brushed his teeth with an opium-based toothpaste. In 1873, Colgate mass-produced the first toothpaste in a jar called Crème Dentifrice. By 1896, Colgate Dental Cream was packaged in collapsible tubes. Finally, by 1900, a paste of hydrogen peroxide and baking soda was developed, and by 1914 fluoride was introduced and added to the majority of toothpastes on the market at that time.

And what of floss? Researchers have found floss and toothpick grooves in the teeth of prehistoric humans. But it wasn’t until 1815 when a New Orleans dentist named Levi Spear Parmly promoted flossing with a piece of silk thread that floss really gained notoriety. Levi went on to be credited for inventing the first form of dental floss. By 1882 the Codman and Shurtleft Company of Randolph, Massachusetts began mass-producing unwaxed silk floss for commercial use. In 1898 Johnson & Johnson received the first patent for dental floss.  Dr. Charles C. Bass then developed nylon floss, which performed better than silk because of its elasticity. Today floss is still made of nylon.

Who would’ve thought that the history of dental care would be so fascinating? And who would’ve guessed that the toothbrush we use today evolved from a stick and was perfected by a convict? Today, there are over 3,000 patents worldwide for toothbrushes. Regardless of how they got here, toothbrushes, toothpaste, and floss are a necessity in our daily lives.

FAQs Regarding General Anesthesia for Oral Surgery

Here in our office we perform a variety of treatments including dental implants, facial reconstruction and teeth removal. If you have recently been diagnosed with a condition that requires any of these types of treatment, you will likely be required to go under general anesthesia. 

For some people, impending anesthesia can induce a bit of anxiety. We completely understand what you are feeling and believe that proper education can help put your fears at ease. The following are some of the most common questions our patients have before “going under”.

FAQ-Regarding-General-AnesthesiaWhat exactly is general anesthesia?

General anesthesia is a medically induced loss of consciousness (also called coma) that affects your entire body. This administration of a variety of medications is extremely beneficial for both our patients and our oral surgeons.

The purposes of general anesthesia include:

  1. Analgesia (loss of pain)
  2. Amnesia (loss of memory)
  3. Immobility
  4. Unconsciousness
  5. Skeletal muscle relaxation.

 

Is anesthesia safe?

Due to many advances over the past 25 years, the risks of anesthesia are very low. Certain types of illnesses, such as heart disease, high blood pressure and obesity, can increase your anesthesia risks. Still, even very sick patients are routinely brought through major operations safely.

Adverse events are very rare. The specific risks of anesthesia vary with the particular procedure and the health of the patient. You should ask your oral surgeon about any risks that may be associated with your specific condition.

What should I know before I come in?

Before you go to have your procedure completed under general anesthesia, here are a few requirements:

  • Have a responsible adult accompany you to drive you home.
  • Do not eat or drink anything  for 8 hours prior to surgery.
  • Do not drive or operate machinery for 24 hours after surgery.
  • Do not wear contact lenses, jewelry, or dentures during the time of your
  • Do not wear excessive makeup, lipstick, or nail polish on day of surgery.
  • Make sure to notify your oral surgeon of any illness, cold, sore throat, or upset stomach.

Are there side effects I should be aware of?

There are a few different side effects of general anesthesia. The most common are nausea, sore throat, sleepiness, and shivering. However, effects may vary greatly with each patient — it all depends on how your body reacts to it. It’s a good idea to consider any prior experience(s) with general anesthesia to get an idea of to know what to expect during your next oral procedure.

Please do not hesitate to contact our office with any remaining questions you have. We are happy to answer them!

Bacteria’s Great Odyssey to The Pulp

If a tooth’s pulp, the innermost layer, becomes infected it is in grave danger. Without proper prevention or early treatment, the tooth can die and fall out. So how does a tooth reach this ruinous point? In this blog post, we will examine bacteria’s journey to infection of the pulp.

Bacteria's Great OdysseyBacteria Packs its Bags, Forms Plaque

As we all know, certain bacteria found in the mouth can cause serious problems. These harmful residents are gluttons for the lingering sugar in your mouth and produce an acid byproduct that strips enamel and weakens teeth.

Bacteria Makes Friends With Common Goals: Tooth Decay

Bacteria then groups together to form plaque (a clear, sticky film) and tartar (hardened plaque) which will adhere to teeth in the absence of proper hygiene habits. Beyond their sticking power, these substances allow bacteria to dwell in one area so all the damage they do is very concentrated. Accordingly, tooth decay in these areas can occur rapidly, causing a cavity.

Post-Cavity Voyage

When a cavity develops, the best treatment is to visit us to place a dental filling as soon as possible. If the cavity is left unattended to, decay continues. These bacteria burrow even deeper into the tooth until they access the tooth’s pulp. At this point the bacteria causes an infection with the power to kill the tooth. This infection can even spread into the jaw, mouth and rest of the body.

Bacteria Meets Its Final Destiny in Our Office

Thankfully, this infection spread can be halted with preventative hygiene habits and treatment of any dental cavities. If you suspect you have bacteria embarking on the journey described above, schedule an appointment as soon as possible. As with all ailments, early diagnosis is your best course of action.

Dental Implants:  Changing the Way We Treat Missing Teeth

Dental Implants Changing the wayDental implants are rapidly becoming the standard of care in how we, as dental professionals, deal with missing teeth.    And while the incidents of adults losing permanent teeth has been declining for decades, there is still a good chance that at some point in your life you too will require treatment for a lost permanent tooth.

The way this was treated in the past was by one of two methods.  The first method was to install a bridge.  The second commonly used method was dentures.  But both of those methods present their own challenges and hassles to patients.  Thankfully, dental implants have improved so much over the years that more often than not they are a better choice for a patient’s oral care plan.

Here are our top five reasons that dental implants have a leg up on their old competitors.

  1. Almost Natural:  Dental implants are so sturdy that they feel and function just like a natural tooth.  This is achieved by inserting a screw into the jaw which is allowed to bond with the bone in that area.
  2. Longevity:  Dentures are a long term solution and have the ability to last a lifetime when properly placed and taken care of.  By contrast, traditional bridges last only about 5-7 years.
  3. Fully Functional:  Unlike dentures, which have a tendency to slip or feel uncomfortable and might even cause worry about possible embarrassments in public, dental implants don’t move when you are eating, talking or moving around.
  4. Face Shape Protection:  When a permanent tooth is lost, over time the face and smile can sag.  Dental implants fill in those spaces and allow you to keep your natural face shape longer!
  5. Keeps your Jaw in Shape!  Dental implants actually stimulate natural bone growth when set in the jaw.  Without them, the jaw gets lazy and can deteriorate.

If you have a site in your mouth where you are missing a tooth and have been wondering what to do about it, give us a call today for a consultation to see just how great dental implants can be!

Considering an Upgrade to Dental Implants?

Considering an upgrade to dental implantsHave you been thinking of upgrading your current tooth replacement strategy but aren’t sure where to start?  This is a great time of growth in modern dentistry, especially when it comes to replacing missing teeth!  With the evolution of dental implants, patients don’t have to suffer some of the pains of the past when older, traditional tooth replacement methods were used.

Traditionally, missing teeth were always “fixed” with bridges or dentures.  And while both of those procedures are still in use by dentists and do still serve an important purpose, they often cause unintended problems in the mouth that modern dental implants may be able to alleviate, or avoid completely.

 

What is a dental implant, you may be asking?  At the most basic level, a dental implant is simply a prosthetic tooth that is mounted to a metal post which is screwed into the jaw bone.  The procedure is typically done in two visits.  During the first procedure, a titanium screw is inserted into the jawbone, where it is allowed to “settle in” and bond, a process that takes about six to eight months.  After that, the dentist creates a prosthetic tooth and attaches it to the titanium post for a fully functional (yet fake) tooth!

The benefit of dental implants is that, unlike dentures, they are almost unnoticeable by the patient.  Anyone who has had dentures knows that they tend to slip and wear down and sometimes even cause mild pain or discomfort.  With dental implants, you will not even know they are there.  They function just like a natural tooth in your mouth, no slipping, movement or separate cleaning required.  Similarly, patients who are used to receiving bridges may benefit by an upgrade to an implant as bridges have a tendency to invite bacteria and infection, requiring additional replacements.

Whatever your concerns about dental implants are, we are here to help.  Give us a call today to see if dental implants might be right for you!

Can My Dental Implants Get Cavities?  And Other Common Questions…

Can My Dental Implants Get CavitiesIn my practice, I hear dozens of questions every day about dental implants from concerned (or simply curious) patients.  Every one of those questions is a good question and I always try to provide an equally good answer.  To help you better understand an upcoming dental implant procedure, we’ve compiled a top-five list of the most common questions about dental implants that we field in our office every day:

1.  Can dental implants get cavities? 

No.   Because the implant-restored crown is an artificial (not natural) material, it cannot grow cavities, phew!  However, you still need to have regular gum care and cleanings around the implant site just like you would for a natural tooth.

2.  Can implants slip or fall out like dentures?

No.  The artificial tooth (crown) is attached to the permanent titanium post that is set in the jaw.  They will not slip around or fall out like you may have experienced with dentures.

3.  Can I sleep with my dental implants in?

Yes!  They are practically “permanent”, unlike dentures.  You do not need to remove and soak them overnight.

4.  Aren’t dental implants more expensive than bridges and dentures? 

It depends.  If you are talking about just a few teeth, implants may be cheaper over time than bridges because they last longer.  However, if you need a whole row of teeth replaced, dentures may be a less expensive option for you.  Each case is unique, however, so be sure to call us for a proper consultation.   We are here to help you understand your costs and benefits so that you can make an informed decision.

5.  How long will my dental implants last?

If implanted and cared for properly, dental implants can last for many decades or possibly even a lifetime.  Some implants have been in patients for over forty years!

Don’t see your question on our list?  Contact us today for quick answers! 

What Good Oral Health Means When You Are Pregnant

What Good Oral Health Means if Your PregnantIf you are pregnant, you probably already know how important it is to take care of your body during this exciting time.  A good, nutritious diet, regular moderate exercise and adequate sleep help protect both your health and the health of your baby.  But what you may not already know is how important your oral health is during pregnancy also.

Recent research has suggested that women with periodontal disease may have a higher risk of unwanted childbirth complications, such as pre-term labor and low birth weight of the baby.   However, luckily, the opposite is also true!  A thorough exam by your oral health  practitioner may decrease the chance that you will have these pregnancy and labor problems.

Now we may have you wondering, “What exactly is periodontal disease?”  Simply put, it is “gum disease”, a chronic inflammatory condition in the gums that is caused by the presence of bacteria.

So what can you do about it?  To ensure the best health outcome for you and your baby, in addition to receiving regular medical care from your obstetrician, be sure to see your dentist or periodontist on schedule during your pregnancy as well.  And, as always, practice good dental hygiene at home with routine brushing and flossing.

These simple steps that we all should be doing anyway might just save you and your baby from potentially serious complications when the birthday comes!

 

Calming Your Nerves Before Dental Procedures

Almost everyone has some feelings of nervousness when thinking about visiting the dentist.  We hear it all the time from our patients.  But don’t worry (I know, easier said than done).  It is totally normal to have a bit of anxiety (or even a lot of anxiety) before you come to our office.

In our office, we have many years of experience in dealing with nervous patients.  So to help you out, we’ve compiled this quick yet effective set of tips for dealing with those inevitable nerves before your dental procedure. Calming Your Nerves

  1. Let us know!  Sometimes just saying the words, “I’m a little bit nervous” can help by normalizing the nervousness itself a little bit, which instantly releases some of that stress that has the tendency to build up in your system. It also alerts us, which is great!  In fact, we might just be able to help by doing procedures a little bit differently than we normally would or even just by offering some words of encouragement and reassurance.
  2. Music – Ask us to turn up (or down) the music in your exam room if that helps.  Or, depending on the procedure, you may even be able to listen to your own MP3 player while we work away.  Ask us ahead of time to be sure the procedure will allow for this.
  3. Breathe – Did you know that consciously taking a breath instantly calls to action your parasympathetic nervous system which is the part of the brain responsible for calming you down?  The good news is that you always have your breath with you, so don’t forget to use it!  Just by paying attention to your breath, for example, how it feels coming in and going out and the other sensations it creates, you can access the calming center of your brain.  An easy breathing exercise that can be used anytime, anywhere, including in the dental chair is to breathe in for 4 counts, then out for 4 counts.   You will instantly feel better.

We hope you find these tips helpful in dealing with your dental fears.  Just remember, you are not alone.

Crown Lengthening to the Rescue:  When Gums and Teeth Need an Intervention

When the gum to tooth relationship has deteriorated, you may hear us suggest a procedure called “crown lengthening”.  Many patients are a little bit hesitant about having this procedure done because it’s a relatively new idea.  They simply aren’t sure what it is and more to the point: they aren’t sure why they have to have it.  So if you have an upcoming crown lengthening procedure Smile 2scheduled, read on to find out why we might be doing it and what to expect.

What is Crown Lengthening?

The idea behind crown lengthening is to expose more of the tooth or bone under the tooth by contouring and reshaping your gum tissue.  This restores a good “gum-to-tooth relationship” (so that more tooth is showing).

Why am I having this procedure?

Sometimes crown lengthening is done for aesthetic reasons, for example to reveal more pearly white teeth when a patient is concerned about an overly “gummy” smile.

Other times, crown lengthening is necessary if we need to install a new crown or perform other restorative work in the area but there simply isn’t enough tooth showing for us to work with.

What’s the big deal about crown lengthening?

Crown lengthening is a great improvement when you consider the old way we used to deal with this issue which was to remove what was left of the tooth and use a removable denture instead.  Now you get to keep your naturally rooted tooth and we will install a more or less permanent crown – no dentures to deal with!

What is the procedure like?

Usually it can be done in less than an hour, depending on how many teeth need work.  Also, typically the procedure can be done under local anesthesia so you can be in and out on time!

Still have questions?  Call us today to ease your anxieties about this smile-transforming, modern procedure!

Chomp!  Fun Facts about Teeth

chomp!As children, we are obsessed with our teeth.  Counting them, watching them fall out and grow back in.  Waiting for the tooth fairy’s surprise.  And as adults, we are still obsessed with them, but maybe in a different way (as in “why do they always hurt and why aren’t they white anymore?”)  So just for fun, and to further indulge in this fascination with teeth (See?  It’s not just dentists that are obsessed with them), here are some fun facts about teeth.

 

This is a great article to share with your children!  How many of these facts did you already know?

 

Sharks don’t get cavities.  Why?  Because their teeth are coated in fluoride.  That combined with the fact that they have rows and rows of replacement teeth, ready to go at a moment’s notice, give them an unfair advantage over humans when it comes to oral health.

 

You are lucky!  You have three types of teeth:  (1) Incisors to bite pieces off, (2) Canines to hold and tear, and (3) molars to grind food.  This allows you to eat a wide variety of foods.  Some animals, like crocodiles, aren’t so lucky, they only have sharp teeth to grab and kill, which greatly reduces their restaurant choices.

 

Enamel is the hardest material in the human body.  It is considered the last line of defense for your tooth.  Normal wearing down of enamel does occur over time and is simply a part of aging.  But bacteria can cause this breakdown to accelerate, which is why we brush and floss regularly!

 

Taste buds only live for about 10 days, or 2 weeks if they are lucky.  They go through a life cycle just like every other cell renewal processes in the body.

 

Sharkskin is covered in teeth.  Don’t believe me?  Both sharks and their cousins, rays, are covered in what are called dermal denticles.  Although they look like scales they are actually just modified teeth, with an enamel coating and all!  These protect them and also help them swim faster, but enough about sharks.

 

The jaw muscle, called the “masseter”, is the strongest muscle in the body if we are talking about strength based by weight.  When all of these muscles work together, the jaw exerts 55 pounds of weight on the incisors and 200 pounds on the molars.  This is why we take jaw disorders like teeth grinding, TMJ and bruxism very seriously – that’s a lot of force!  Call us today if you suspect you might be a teeth grinder.

 

Did you know any of these fun facts about teeth already or did we surprise you?