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Story Archives

THE WHOLE TOOTH

• Not everyone enjoys going to the dentist, but most folks love to have a mouth full of gleam­ing, pearly whites. In fact, home tooth whit­ening products are now a $35 million dollar business annually.

• Modern dentistry has improved considerably in just the past decade, so there’s no reason for patients to be apprehensive. The main purpose of regular dental exams is prevention – profes­sional cleaning will prevent plaque and tartar build-up. This will, in turn, prevent cavities and gum disease.

• Your dentist will do more than just check for cavities during an exam. After a thorough cleaning, he (or she) will carefully inspect your gums, looking for inflammation, swelling or loose “pockets” of flesh. He’ll look under your tongue and at the insides of your cheeks for any warning signs of oral cancer. And he’ll check your “bite,” or the way your teeth fit together.

• Basic dental hygiene dates back as far as Egypt, circa 3000 B.C. While the toothbrush hadn’t been invented yet, people employed “chew sticks” (twigs with frayed ends) to clean their teeth. Their version of toothpaste? A unique combination of pumice and wine.

• Saliva has properties that destroy bacteria, which in turn helps to prevent tooth decay. That’s why people with “dry mouth” tend to have more cavities than the rest of us.

• In 1802, dentists noticed that the citizens of Naples, Italy, had brownish-tinged teeth, but very few cavities. Further investigations found that the water in that area had very high levels of fluoride. It took many more years of study before scientists found the proper amount of fluoride that would safely prevent tooth decay without discoloring the tooth enamel. The city of Grand Rapids, Michigan, was the first to deliberately add fluoride to its water in order to prevent cavities.

• The two main Rolling Stones have had some noted dental incidents in the past. Guitarist Keith Richards’ choppers had slowly been eroding due to a combination of drug use and socialized dentistry. While he was giving an interview one day, a tooth actually fell out while he was talking. Mick Jagger, on the other hand, took pride in his smile to the extent that he had an emerald chip implanted in his front tooth. He later had it replaced with a diamond when he got tired of people telling him he had a piece of parsley stuck in his teeth.

• Are mercury fillings dangerous to our health? Probably not. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services reported in 1993 that the minuscule amount of mercury the body absorbs from silver fillings is far below the level that would cause any adverse effect to health. Never hesitate to discuss any concerns you might have with your dentist, though.

• Many dentists in today’s world provide their patients with stereo headphones or even video terminals. Studies have shown that the distract­ing music and images lowers the blood pres­sure, slows the pulse, and reduces anxiety.

• Several TV shows and movies have featured a character picking up radio broadcasts with their fillings. I Love Lucy star Lucille Ball claimed that it really happened to her. The year was 1942, the U.S. had only recently entered World War II, and Ball was filming DuBarry Was a Lady at MGM Studios. She had recently had some temporary lead fillings placed in her teeth, and one night while driving home she heard music in her head. Ball realized the sound was coming from her teeth. One week later, she heard a different sound in her head –beeps that alternated between being loud and soft. Thinking it was Morse Code, she reported the incident to MGM security. Nothing conclusive was ever discovered, however, and the sounds stopped when she had the fillings replaced.