How dentistry has developed over the last 300 years

When you visit a modern dental surgery, it’s hard to imagine the challenges of dental treatment without all the latest technology.

Yet specialists have been taking care of people’s teeth for thousands of years.

Here are some of the key developments over the last 300 years.

1723: French surgeon Pierre Fauchard – credited as being the father of modern dentistry – publishes the first book to describe a comprehensive system for the practice of dentistry.

1760: John Baker, the earliest medically-trained dentist to practice in America, immigrates from England and sets up practice.

1790: John Greenwood adapts his mother’s foot treadle spinning wheel to rotate a drill.

1790: Josiah Flagg, a prominent American dentist, constructs the first chair made specifically for dental patients.

1832: James Snell invents the first reclining dental chair.

1841: Alabama enacts the first dental practice act, regulating dentistry in the United States.

1844: Horace Wells, a Connecticut dentist, discovers that nitrous oxide can be used as an anesthesia and successfully uses it to conduct several extractions in his private practice.

1880s: The collapsible metal tube revolutionizes toothpaste manufacturing and marketing.

1890: Willoughby Miller notes the microbial basis of dental decay in a book which started a world-wide movement to promote regular toothbrushing and flossing.

1896: New Orleans dentist C. Edmond Kells takes the first dental x-ray of a living person in the U.S.

1938: The nylon toothbrush, the first made with synthetic bristles, appears on the market.

1945: The water fluoridation era begins when the cities of Newburgh, New York, and Grand Rapids, Michigan, add sodium fluoride to their public water systems.

1950s: The first fluoride toothpastes are marketed.

1960: The first commercial electric toothbrush, developed in Switzerland after World War II, is introduced in the United States. A cordless, rechargeable model follows in 1961.

Common questions about dental insurance

Understanding what’s covered by your dental insurance is an important part of making sure you get the best oral care possible.

Here are some common questions that arise when people want to understand their cover better.

– If treatment my dentist recommends is not covered by my insurance, does that mean it’s not necessary?

Some plans make exclusions such as sealants, pre-existing conditions, adult orthodontics, and specialist referrals. This depends on your dental plan and you should not let the level of cover determine whether you need treatment.

– My dental benefit will only pay for a large filling but my dentist recommends I get a crown. Which should I choose?

Some plans will only cover the least expensive solution but it may not be the best option for your needs. You should decide based on your health needs and not on your insurance cover.

– My dental plan says it will pay 100 percent for checkups and cleanings but the insurance company says I owe for part of the dentist’s charge. How can this be?

Some plans provide cover based on a “customary fee” for each procedure. So, if your dentist’s fee is higher, your benefit will be based on a percentage of the customary fee instead of your dentist’s fee. Although these limits are called “customary,” they may not accurately reflect the fees that dentists charge in your area.

– Will my plan cover the care my family will need?
If your employer offers more than one plan, check the exclusions and limitations of the coverage as well as looking at the general benefits. It’s a good idea to discuss your family’s likely needs with your dentist before choosing a plan.

The plan document should specify who is eligible for coverage under the plan.

Plans offered by the same provider or employer can vary according to the contracts involved so your dentist will not be able to answer specific questions about your benefit or predict what the coverage for a particular procedure will be.

If you have specific questions about coverage, talk to your plan provider.

The secrets of avoiding gum disease as an older adult

Gum disease � also known as periodontal disease � often progresses slowly, without pain, over a long period of time and that’s one reason it is common among older adults.

The longer the disease goes undetected and uncontrolled, the more damage it causes to gums and other supporting tissues.

Although periodontal disease is caused by plaque, other factors can increase the risk or severity of the condition, including:
– Food left between the teeth
– Tobacco use � smoking and smokeless tobacco
– Badly aligned teeth
– Ill-fitting bridges or partial dentures
– Poor diet
– Systemic diseases such as anemia

Although periodontal disease is common, it can be controlled and, if caught in its early stages, it can be reversed. However, in advanced stages, it may require surgery.

Look out for the following warning signs and see your dentist if you notice any of them:
– Bleeding gums when you brush
– Red, tender or swollen gums
– Gums that have pulled away from the teeth
– Pus between your teeth and gums when the gums are pressed
– Loose teeth or teeth moving apart
– Any change in your bite
– Any change in the fit of your partial dentures
– Constant bad breath or bad taste

Keeping an eye out for these problems and having regular dental checkups can help you stop gum disease becoming a major and expensive problem.

Diagnosing jaw problems and pains – TMD and TMJ

More than fifteen percent of American adults suffer from chronic facial pain.

Common symptoms can include pain in or around the ear, tenderness of the jaw, clicking or popping noises when opening the mouth or even head and neck aches.

There are two joints and several jaw muscles which make it possible to open and close the mouth. They work together when you chew, speak, and swallow.

These structures include muscles and ligaments, as well as the jaw bone, the mandible (lower jaw) with two joints, the TMJ’s.

The TM joint is one of the most complex joints in the body. Located on each side of the head, these joints work together and can make many different movements, including a combination of rotating and gliding action when chewing and speaking.

Several muscles help open and close the mouth. They control the lower jaw (mandible) as it moves forward, backward, and side-to-side.

Both TM joints are involved in these movements. Each TM joint has a disc between the ball and socket. The disc cushions the load while enabling the jaw to open widely and perform rotating and translocational movements.

Any problem that prevents this complex system of muscles, ligaments, discs and bones from working together properly may result in a painful TMJ disorder.

If you are suffering from this type of pain, your dentist can help identify its source with a thorough exam and appropriate x-rays.

Often, the problem is a sinus or toothache or it could be an early stage of periodontal disease.

But for some pain, the cause is not so easily diagnosed.

The pain could be related to the facial muscles, the jaw or temporomandibular joint, located in the front of the ear.

Treatments for this pain may include stress reducing exercises, muscle relaxants, or wearing a mouth protector to prevent teeth grinding.
They’ve been successful for many and your dentist can recommend which is best for you.

The risks of oral piercing

Young people today choose to make a variety of fashion statements affecting not just the clothes they wear but also their bodies through tattoos and piercing, for example.

Oral piercing may be something they feel looks good but it can lead to problems where they end up needing medical or dental treatment.

Oral piercing can often lead to symptoms such as pain, swelling, infection, increased saliva flow and injuries to the gum tissue.

There can be severe bleeding if a blood vessel is in the path of the needle during the piercing.

Swelling of the tongue is also a common side effect and, in extreme cases, this can block the airway and lead to breathing difficulties.

Other possible problems include chipped or cracked teeth, blood poisoning or even blood clots.

Infection is a very common complication of oral piercing because of the millions of bacteria in your mouth.

Of course, the jewelry itself also causes risk. It can be swallowed or cause damage to your teeth.

So, while young people may feel piercings in the mouth look cool, a great smile will look a lot better in the years to come.

Caring for people who have special needs

People at any age can have a condition that makes it difficult for them to look after their own dental health.

This could affect people who suffer from a wide range of conditons such as stroke, spinal cord injury, multiple sclerosis, mental retardation, Down syndrome, genetic disorders, Alzheimer’s disease or arthritis.

However, people in all of these categories have the same dental needs as everyone else – they need daily brushing and flossing, regular dental visits and a balanced diet.

There are some steps caregivers can take to make it easier to look after people in those categories.

If the person is uncooperative or uncontrollable, try to explain what you are about to do and schedule the task for a time of day when they are rested.

Move in a calm, slow, reassuring manner to avoid startling them. Give praise and encourage them when they help themselves.

Support the person’s head, and take special care to prevent choking or gagging when the head is tilted back.

If the person is unable or unwilling to keep their mouth open, your dentist will explain how you can make and use a mouth prop.

Ask your dentist for advice on how to care for people with special needs and check if they have facilities for caring for these needs in the dental office.

How braces can be made to look good

Orthodontic appliances such as braces can be used to help straighten out crooked and crowded teeth.

This is not just about looking better; it also helps improve your dental health.

How they look may determine how you feel about wearing them but, these days, braces can be as inconspicuous as you want.

Brackets � the part of the braces that attaches to each tooth – can sometimes be attached to the back of the tooth, making them less noticeable.

The brackets can be made in a wide range of different materials such as metal, ceramic or plastic.

They can also be designed to look appealing. For example, they may be clear or tooth-colored. There can also be shaped in a variety of ways like hearts and footballs or created in favorite colors.

You could even go for gold-plated braces or glow-in-the-dark retainers!

Fixing crowded and crooked teeth with orthodontics

Correcting problems with crowded and crooked teeth not only gives you a better smile, it also leads to a healthier mouth.

Malocclusion, also known as “bad bite”, involves teeth that are crowded or crooked.

Sometimes, the upper and lower jaws may not meet properly and, although the teeth may appear straight, the individual may have an uneven bite.

Problems such as protruding, crowded or irregularly spaced teeth may be inherited. But thumb-sucking, losing teeth prematurely and accidents also can lead to these conditions.

As well as spoiling your smile, crooked and crowded teeth make cleaning the mouth difficult. This can lead to tooth decay, gum disease and possibly tooth loss.

A bad bite can also interfere with chewing and speaking, cause abnormal wear to tooth enamel and lead to problems with the jaws.

Orthodontic treatment can help correcting these problems giving you a better smile but, more importantly, creating a healthier mouth.

Your dentist will advise you on how orthodontic treatment could help you.

How dentures can replace your smile

If you’ve lost all of your natural teeth, whether from gum disease, tooth decay or injury, complete dentures can replace your missing teeth and your smile.

Replacing missing teeth will benefit your appearance and your health.

Without support from the denture, facial muscles sag, making a person look older. You’ll also find it harder to eat and speak – things that people often take for granted until their natural teeth are lost.

There are various types of complete dentures.

A conventional full denture is made and placed in the patient’s mouth after the remaining teeth are removed and tissues have healed which may take several months.

An immediate complete denture is inserted as soon as the remaining teeth are removed. The dentist takes measurements and makes models of the patient’s jaws during a preliminary visit. With immediate dentures, the denture wearer does not have to be without teeth during the healing period.

Even if you wear full dentures, you still must take good care of your mouth. Brush your gums, tongue and palate every morning with a soft-bristled brush before you insert your dentures to stimulate circulation in your tissues and help remove plaque.

And even if you wear full dentures, it’s important to visit your dentist regularly to maintain your overall oral health and get early warning of serious issues such as oral cancer.

How the food you eat can cause tooth decay

When you put food in your mouth, it immediately meets the bacteria that live there.

Plaque, for example, is a sticky film of bacteria.

These bacteria love the sugars found in many foods. So, when you don’t clean your teeth after eating, the bacteria and the sugar can combine to produce acids which can destroy the enamel – the hard surface of the tooth.

In time, this can lead to tooth decay. The more often you eat and the longer foods are in your mouth, the more damage occurs.

Many foods that are nutritious and important in our diet contain sugars – such as fruits, milk, bread, cereals and even vegetables.

So the key is not to try and avoid sugar but to think before you eat.

When you eat is also important because each time you eat food that contains sugars, the teeth are attacked by acids for 20 minutes or more.

This means that foods that are eaten as part of a meal cause less harm. More saliva is released during a meal, helping to wash foods from the mouth and reduce the effects of acids.

Here are some tips to follow when choosing your meals and snacks.
– Eat a variety of foods from different food groups
– Limit the number of snacks that you eat
– If you do snack, choose nutritious foods, such as cheese, raw vegetables, plain yogurt, or a piece of fruit

It’s also important to brush your teeth twice a day and to clean between your teeth daily with floss or interdental cleaners.

And of course regular visits to your dentist will help prevent problems from occurring and catch those that do occur while they are easier to treat.