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Famous Teeth throughout History

September 5th, 2018

We probably all remember sitting through history lessons during our schooling years. Revolutionary war heroes, English royals, and pop-culture icons filled the pages of our textbooks. Although you may recall a detail or two about their historical significance, how much do you know about their teeth?

Picture England in the mid 1500s. People wore frilly clothes as they hustled along the street, and talked about the latest import from the Indies: sugar. Wealthy Brits did not hesitate to indulge their sweet tooth, and it was no different for the monarch, Queen Elizabeth I.

The queen was especially fond of sweets, but not so fond of the dentist. Her teeth rotted; they turned black and gave off a foul odor. Eventually, Elizabeth lost so many teeth that people found it difficult to understand her when she spoke.

Flash forward to the Revolutionary-era colonies in the 1770s and we encounter the famous dentures of George Washington. They were not made of wood, but rather a combination of ivory and human teeth, some of which were his own pulled teeth and some he purchased from slaves.

Washington did not practice proper dental hygiene throughout his life. He began to suffer dental problems as early as age 24, when he had his first tooth pulled. By the time he was inaugurated in as the first president in 1789, he had only one tooth remaining in his mouth, which was pulled in 1796.

Washington’s dentures were made too wide and never quite fit his mouth properly. He complained that they were painful to wear and caused his jaw to protrude visibly outward.

If you’ve heard of Doc Holliday, you know him as the gun-toting, mustached criminal that ran the Wild West in the late 1800s. You might be surprised to learn that John Henry “Doc” Holliday actually had a career as a dentist.

He graduated from dental school in 1872 and began to practice in Griffin, Georgia. Holliday was later diagnosed with tuberculosis and his violent coughing fits during exams drove patients away. Jobless, he packed his bags for Texas and spent the rest of his days running from town to town as a criminal.

The Beatles brought pop music and British culture to their fans, as well as … teeth? In the mid-1960s, John Lennon had a molar removed that he presented as a gift to his housekeeper, Dorothy. Dorothy’s daughter was a huge fan of the Beatles and he thought she might like to a keepsake. Her family held onto the tooth until 2011, when they auctioned it off to a Canadian dentist for $31,000.

These historical figures had very different experiences with their teeth, but it’s safe to say a bit of extra brushing and flossing could’ve saved them a lot of trouble. Whether you’re queen, president, or an average citizen, it’s up to you to practice good dental hygiene!

Ask a member of our team at our Creve Couer or Saint Charles, MO office if you have any questions about how to keep your teeth in top shape!

Safety of Dental X-Ray Radiation

July 18th, 2018

We all want to live our healthiest lives. We know that part of keeping ourselves healthy is regular visits to our Creve Couer or Saint Charles, MO office for checkups and necessary dental work. And that dental work might require an X-ray. Should the amount of radiation in an X-ray concern us?

First, it is helpful to know that the radiation you are exposed to from a dental X-ray is very small. A set of most bitewing X-rays, for example, produces an amount of exposure about equal to the amount of background radiation we get from our normal surroundings in a typical day. We also take care to minimize your exposure even further by using specially designed equipment and protective shielding, and taking only necessary X-rays. If your child is very young, if you are pregnant, or if you have other health concerns, talk to us about the advisability of X-rays and whether they are essential to treatment.

Second, much of our careful general examination will be done visually. Dr. Zachary Varble can check for cavities and other problems and assess tooth and gum health. But sometimes, there are conditions which can’t be detected without an X-ray.

  • Decay that isn’t visible in an oral exam—if a small cavity develops between teeth, or is hidden underneath a filling, an X-ray will catch it before more damage can take place.
  • Infection—An X-ray will reveal infections such as abscesses that can damage both bone and tooth, and gum disease that has harmed bone and connective tissue.
  • Orthodontic and periodontal issues—We might need an X-ray to determine the spacing and development of your child’s incoming teeth and maturing jaw structure, to properly create braces for adults or children, or to place an implant within the jawbone.
  • If you are a new patient, it is helpful to have complete X-rays taken as a baseline of your current dental health and previous dental work. This baseline allows us to track tooth and jaw development, if necessary, and to evaluate any future changes that might be a concern. (If you have had X-rays taken in another office, we can help you have them transferred so we have a background of your dental history.)

Even though the radiation from a dental X-ray is minimal, be assured that we will never request any unnecessary procedure. When we recommend an X-ray, we do so to make sure there is no decay or infection threatening the health of your gums and teeth, and that we have the essential knowledge we need to treat any dental, periodontal, or orthodontic condition. Because we all want to live our healthiest lives—and part of that healthy life is both active and proactive dental care.

What is a palatal expander?

July 11th, 2018

Orthodontists like Dr. Zachary Varble recommend a first orthodontic visit and evaluation for your child around the age of seven. We will evaluate your child’s jaw and facial development and make sure that there is enough room in the mouth for the permanent teeth when they arrive. One of the recommendations we might make for early treatment is the use of a palatal expander. If you are unfamiliar with this device, let’s take a closer look at why it’s necessary and what exactly it does.

Why do we recommend the palatal expander?

There are two dental arches, composed of the upper and the lower teeth, in your child’s mouth. This arch-shaped design is meant to accommodate all the permanent teeth. Further, when the upper and lower teeth meet, they should result in a healthy occlusion, or bite.

Sometimes, the upper dental arch is simply too small to accommodate all of your child’s permanent teeth, leading to crowding, extractions, and impacted teeth. Also, a too-narrow arch can result in a crossbite, where some of the upper teeth bite inside the lower ones. An improper bite can lead to problems such as TMJ (temporomandibular joint) disorder, improper wear and stress on teeth, certain speech difficulties, and other potential complications. The palatal expander was designed to prevent these problems from occurring.

What is a palatal expander and how does it work?

The expander itself is a device that increases the size of the upper dental arch. Before your child’s bones are finished growing, the space between the two bones of the upper palate is filled with cartilage. This tissue is flexible when children are young, but gradually fuses solidly into place by the time they are finished growing (usually in the early to mid-teens). If the arch can be widened to accommodate the emerging permanent teeth, or to reduce malocclusions, this improvement can also affect the need for, and length of, future dental work.

There are several types of expanders available at our Creve Couer or Saint Charles, MO office. These are custom-made appliances, commonly attached between the upper teeth on each side of the jaw. The two halves of the device are connected with a screw-type mechanism that can be adjusted to widen the upper palate and dental arch with gentle pressure. This is a gradual process, with small adjustments usually made once or twice a day to slowly move the bones further apart. As weeks go by, you will notice a successful change in the spacing of the teeth. Your child might even develop a gap in the front teeth, which is normal and will generally close on its own.

If you would like more detailed information, talk to Dr. Zachary Varble about the palate expander. We can tell you what to expect from this treatment if we think it is best for your child’s unique needs, and how to make it as easy as possible for your child. Our goal is to provide your child with the healthiest teeth and bite possible, always making use of treatments that are both gentle and effective.

Not-So-Sweet Sweets

July 4th, 2018

Birthdays. Valentine’s Day. Halloween. A trip to the movies. There are just some occasions where a sweet treat is on the menu. Now that you are getting braces, does that mean you have to give up desserts completely? Not at all! The trick to finding the right treat is to know which foods are safe for your braces and which should wait until your treatment is complete.

There are some foods which should always be avoided. They fall into three main categories:

  • Hard and Crunchy

Hard candies, peanut brittle, popcorn balls, nutty candy bars—anything that is hard to bite into is hard on your braces, and can damage brackets or even break them.

  • Chewy

Caramels, taffy, chewy squares and rolls, licorice and other super-chewy candies can break brackets and bend wires. Not to mention, they are really difficult to clean from the surface of teeth and braces.

  • Sticky

Soft foods are generally fine, but soft and sticky candies are another thing entirely. Gumdrops, jelly beans, most gum and other sticky treats stick to your braces, making it hard to clean all that sugar from around your brackets. And even soft sticky candies can bend wires or damage your brackets.

As you have probably noticed, almost all candy falls into one of these categories. Of course, while sugary treats shouldn’t be a major part of anyone’s diet, and careful brushing and flossing are always on the menu if you do indulge, wearing braces does not mean giving up on treats entirely. A better alternative when you are craving something sweet is to choose something that avoids crunchy, chewy and sticky hazards, such as soft puddings, cupcakes or cookies. There are even some candy brands that are safe for your braces.

Talk to Dr. Zachary Varble the next time you visit our Creve Couer or Saint Charles, MO office about the dos and don’ts of desserts—we have tasty suggestions that will make those special occasions both sweet for you and safe for your orthodontic work!

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