Monthly Archives: November 2014

The History of Dentistry

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Let’s just say right from the start that dentistry has come a long way! Substantial scientific advancements have been made in the field, many of which have been somewhat underpublicized and overlooked. Treating problems with the teeth goes back to 7000 BC, a Bronze age civilization in the area of current Pakistan. They actually used woodworking tools, drill type tools, to work on decayed teeth.

For a long time, from 5000 BC through the 1700’s, there was an accepted belief that tiny tooth worms got in your mouth and bored holes in your teeth, causing the “cavities”. Many cultures including the Japanese, Egyptian, and the Chinese believed in these worms but alas, they were just a myth. It was in ancient Greece that they began extracting teeth when there was tooth pain, and this lead to pulling teeth for treatment of other illnesses as well. This went on into the Middle Ages.

So who do you suppose performed these teeth extractions way back then? Not the medical community. No, the barbers of their day were the teeth-pullers! They used a tool called a “Dental Key” to extract teeth, the precursor to modern day forceps.

Somewhere between the mid 1600’s and start of the 1800’s, actual dentistry as we recognize it got its start. A French physician named Pierre Fauchard is credited with founding dentistry, and he practiced in the 17th century. It is he who came up with dental fillings, and he is credited with many procedures still in use today. Amazingly, he recognized that sugar contributed to decay, and was the first to educate others about this. In 1723, he published “The Surgeon Dentist, a Treatise on Teeth” that actually described a system for caring for and treating teeth. And so he became recognized over time as the father of modern dentistry.

Another doctor, Dr. John Harris, later contributed significantly to furthering the industry. He opened the world’s first dental school, which was located in Bainbridge, Ohio. He promoted dentistry as a true health profession and his school opened in 1828. It’s now a museum. In 1840, the first dental college opened in the U.S. This was the Baltimore College of Dental Surgery, in Baltimore Maryland. The government began to observe and oversee what was being taught at the college, and this lead to regulation of the practice of dentistry, which then eventually lead to the formation of the American Dental Association.

The dentists of this time period can’t take credit for the development of toothpaste, however. Ancient civilizations would crush up dried fruit, shells of nuts, dried flowers, and talc. They sometimes used various parts of animals bodies as well, and rubbed these odd mixtures on their teeth. Not exactly minty fresh!

We’ll share the history of toothpastes, mouthwashes and dental instruments in an upcoming article.


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If you have a dental emergency, your dentist should be the first person you call. It is smart to keep your Dentist’s after hours phone number handy at all times, because seeing a dentist in a timely manner can make the difference between losing or saving a tooth. But, until you get the appropriate treatment, the following information will help you.

First, ask yourself if it is a Dental Emergency.

If you are not sure, answer the following questions:

•Are you bleeding from the mouth?

•Are you in severe pain?

•Do you have any loose teeth?

•Have you been hit in the face or mouth?

•Do you have any swelling in the mouth or facial area?

•Do you have any bulges, swelling or knots on your gums?

If you answered yes to any of these questions, call your dentist immediately. It’s important to describe exactly what happened and what you are feeling. If your dentist can’t be reached, seek hospital emergency room care.

Here’s what you can do until you get to your dentist.

•Take acetaminophen. Take ibuprofen or Tylenol but avoid aspirin for a dental emergency because it is an anticoagulant, which can cause excessive bleeding.

•Clean your mouth out by gently rinsing thoroughly with warm water.

•Apply a cold compress to the area to minimize any swelling.

•Try drinking ice water if you are experiencing extreme pain caused by hot or warm foods or beverages. It might relieve the pain.

•Breathe through your nose if you are having a sensitivity to cold or if it causes pain to breathe air into your mouth, avoid cold foods and beverages.

•Never apply a painkiller to the gum because it can burn the gum tissue despite what the product recommendations are.

When a tooth has been knocked out.

When you have lost a tooth and you still have it, pick up the tooth by the top (crown) of the tooth and be careful not to scrub it, rub it or remove any tissue. Do not touch the root(s) of the tooth. Then, rinse the tooth off very gently to ensure that it’s clean. If you can, gently place the tooth back in the socket and bite down. If you can’t safely insert it back into the socket for safe-keeping you can put the tooth in a small container or in a cup of milk (the latter is preferable) and take it to your dentist or the ER immediately. It is possible to sometimes reconnect a knocked-out tooth.

Be prepared for a Dental Emergency.
Because a dental emergency can happen at any time and place, the best thing to do is be on the ready and don’t panic. If you are an active person, involved in recreational activities and/or sports, it is wise to pack and keep with you a small dental first aid kit containing the following:

•Small container with a lid

•Name and phone number of your dentist

•Take ibuprofen or Tylenol (not aspirin because it can act as a blood thinner and cause excessive bleeding during a dental emergency).



The best plan to avoid a Dental Emergency.
The smartest thing you can do is to commit to making your dental health care a priority. Brush, floss, and rinse as directed and visit your dentist for regular check ups. Don’t let a dental problem go until it is severe.

The Anatomy of a Tooth – and how it decays

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Understanding a root canal or any dental procedure is more easily done when you understand the anatomy of our teeth. The outside of your tooth is covered by a very hard, white enamel. Tooth enamel is the hardest substance in the human body, and it takes a beating from biting and chewing, not to mention the extreme temperatures of hot and cold beverages and foods. When you think about it, it’s surprising it doesn’t wear down and decay more frequently!

The enamel is very hard for good reason – it protects the soft, sensitive insides of the tooth. The layer immediately under the enamel is called dentin, and it too is fairly hard. But under that is the pulp – very soft and sensitive. The pulp is what can become infected or inflamed. Infection and inflammation can come from a number of causes – a crack in the enamel, a chip in a tooth, decay from cavities, or a faulty filling or crown.

Obviously, if infected or inflamed pulp is left untreated, it will lead to pain for the individual. This is why at the first sign of mild pain or discomfort in a tooth, you should see your dentist. When decay has spread up into the root of the tooth, you may receive a root canal from an Endodontist. Endodontists such as those here at 5th Avenue work specifically on the inside of teeth. We are “teeth interior specialists”.

The roots of the teeth reach up into your gums. They anchor your teeth and keep them in place, and are an essential part of a healthy mouth. Decay travels, so it can get into the roots.

Endodontists save millions of teeth each year, by performing root canals and avoiding the entire tooth being ruined. Saving a tooth is always preferable to losing a tooth. These days, a root canal treatment is very similar to receiving a filling. Gone are the days of root canals being a highly painful dental procedure. They’ve become routine with modern products and equipment. Endodontic treatment will save the tooth and reduce the need for further, future dental work.

However, nothing beats good old prevention. You don’t want the exposed part of your teeth to become decayed, which is why brushing and flossing regularly is encouraged. You don’t want to eat lots of sugary foods either, as sugar contributes to decay (and it’s not good for us, anyway!). Untreated decayed teeth can lead to an abscess, and you don’t want that, as it will be painful when it develops.

Luckily, roots can be cleaned out, filled and healed by skilled endodontists whose goal is to see everyone have a healthy smile. If you have questions about your teeth or gums, please don’t hesitate to ask.