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The Advanced Dental Care of Ancient China

September 8th, 2021

RUDIMENTARY DENTAL EXTRACTIONS were performed in China as early as 6,000 BC, and there is also evidence that they used wires to stabilize teeth. They didn’t seem to be very interested in straightening teeth, but they were quite advanced when it came to treating endodontic problems.

Treating Toothaches in the Tang Dynasty
In 618 AD, Emperor Gaozu of the Tang Dynasty fell victim to a toothache. He consulted with his tooth doctor for relief, and his recommendation was a dental filling made of melted silver and tin. European dentists wouldn’t catch up until over a thousand years later!

Daily Dental Hygiene in Ancient China
The typical oral hygiene routine for a person in ancient China was to gargle salt water or tea. It became common in the Tang dynasty to soak a willow twig in water before bed and chew on it in the morning. The willow fibers would protrude like a comb and scrub the teeth clean. That’s where the Chinese idiom “chew wood at dawn” comes from.

Wait…They Had Toothbrushes Too?
Some people from that period had access to toothbrushes made of animal bone and hair. They also had an early form of toothpaste made from boiling honey locust fruit, ginger, foxglove, lotus leaves, and other herbs to reduce gum inflammation, ease toothaches, and whiten the teeth.

How We Breathe Impacts our Teeth for Life

August 24th, 2021

MOUTH-BREATHING CAN cause all kinds of short-term issues, many of which are connected to poor sleep quality from getting insufficient oxygen by breathing through the mouth.

Short-Term Consequences of a Mouth-Breathing Habit
If a child exhibits the following symptoms, it could be due to mouth-breathing:

Impaired speech. When a child’s mouth is always open, certain sounds become more difficult to say.
Halitosis (chronic bad breath). An open mouth tends to be a dry mouth, which means there isn’t enough saliva to clean out the germs.
Tooth decay. Other serious byproducts of dry mouth are tooth decay and cavities.
Irritability, lethargy, and inattention. Less oxygen means worse sleep, which makes it much harder for kids to pay attention in school and to be their bright, happy selves.
How Mouth-Breathing Impacts Health Long-Term
While the above issues are bad enough, the problems that come from mouth-breathing don’t stop there. If left unchecked throughout childhood, mouth-breathing can cause the following:

Extended orthodontic treatment. Braces will take longer and there will be a higher chance of the teeth shifting back to their pre-braces position.
Altered facial structure. The bones in the face can actually develop differently because of mouth-breathing, resulting in flatter features, droopy eyes, a narrow jaw, and a smaller chin.
Sleep apnea. Mouth-breathing can increase a person’s risk for sleep apnea, a dangerous sleep disorder that makes it difficult to get a restful night’s sleep

The Decayed Teeth of Early Modern England

August 10th, 2021

THERE WAS SOMETHING rotten in the state of England during the Early Modern Era: everyone’s sweet tooth! The English loved the expensive new commodity of sugar so much that the royalty and nobility were extremely prone to tooth decay and foul breath. Foul breath seems to have been on Shakespeare’s mind too because it got at least three mentions in his plays and sonnets.

A Class-Based Dental Health Crisis
The weirdest part is that having bad teeth was such a pervasive problem among the rich in particular that it became trendy among the lower classes to artificially blacken their teeth with soot. It was a great way for them to make themselves seem wealthy enough to afford sugar!

Early Modern Dental Health…Solutions?
How did the English try to keep their teeth healthy? They used herbs like cloves for their breath and toothpicks and cloths to clean their teeth. (We would much rather have our modern toothbrushes.)

When these methods proved insufficient to prevent cavities and a tooth became so painful that it needed to be pulled, they had a few options depending on budget. The most expensive choice was a surgeon, but a “tooth-drawer” was cheaper and a blacksmith would do it for a real bargain.

It’s Good to Have Modern Dentists
Isn’t it wonderful to live in a time when we have effective dental hygiene and access to twelve different specialties of dental professionals — everything from pediatric dentists to orthodontists to endodontists and more?

Improving Our Mood and Health With Smiles

August 3rd, 2021

THE OLD LINE “it takes fewer muscles to smile than frown” isn’t actually true. It takes at least ten muscles to smile but as few as six to frown, so maybe the saying should be something like “you burn more calories when you smile than when you frown!” instead. However, getting a better workout isn’t the only benefit we get from smiling!

The Feedback Loop Between Smiling and Happiness
Obviously, we smile when we’re happy, but evidence shows that the very act of smiling might make us feel happier. Smiling is so closely linked to the feeling of happiness in our brains that even a fake smile can release endorphins — the feel-good hormone — and make us feel better. The next time you’re having a rough day, try flashing a smile and see if that helps a little!

We Reduce Pain and Stress by Smiling
Those endorphins we get from smiling can do a lot of helpful things besides just contributing to a better mood. Short-term, endorphins help to reduce pain and relieve stress because they function in a similar way to painkillers (except without the side effects).

A 2012 experiment tested how long it took subjects’ heart rates to return to normal after completing a stressful task, and the smiling subjects recovered faster. The way the experiment worked was that the non-smiling group had to hold a pencil between their lips while they did the task (forcing a more pout-like expression), while the smiling group had to hold the pencil between their teeth (forcing more of a smile).

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The Long-Term Benefits of Smiling: A Better Immune System!
Those short-term endorphin effects are great, but it doesn’t even stop there! Over time, when we make a habit of smiling more, the effects compound into long-term health benefits like making us more resilient against illnesses and reducing our risk of getting cancer. The reason for this is that the better we manage our stress, the fewer stress-induced mutations our cells go through over the years.

Smile More, Live Longer
People typically perceive a smiling face as being more attractive and younger than a non-smiling face, and that’s not just about appearances. Over the course of a lifetime of smiling, we might accrue enough health benefits to actually live longer. One way to make it easier to smile more is to be proud of the way our smiles look because we have healthy teeth and gums. For that, we need great dental health habits and regular professional dental care.

Bring Your Beautiful Smile to the Dentist!
Don’t fight the battle for your smile’s health on your own; the dentist can help. Schedule regular cleaning appointments to get that professional deep clean and catch any problems while they are still small, and bring any questions you have about dental health with you!

Nothing makes us smile quite like our patients!