Are You Using Your Teeth for the Wrong Reason?

by MikeMeehan 10/13/2016 3:22 PM

Recently, I moved. The house is older, so instead of a closet, a six-foot section of wall is set back where a cabinet for clothing could go. The other day, my dad helped me install wire shelving. It was fairly straightforward: He held the shelving up, I used a level, and then I drilled in an anchor screw. During the process, I was tempted to hold the anchor screw with my teeth. Luckily, I remembered: Teeth do not make a good “third hand.” Five Reasons Your Teeth Don’t Make a Good “Third Hand” It’s easy, with home projects, to bite off more than we can chew. We might need an extra hand, so we’re tempted to use our teeth to hold a non-food object. But teeth don’t make a good “third hand” for the following five reasons: Biting down on non-food objects can crack enamel. When you chomp down on non-food objects — anchor screws, sewing needles, pencils — it’s easy to forget just how much pressure gets put on the teeth. One study suggests humans can bite with a force equivalent to about 265 pounds. In my case, I probably wouldn’t have exerted that kind of pressure on an anchor screw. But one surprise jolt is all it would take to crack enamel. Your teeth are at risk of shifting. For a similar reason to why braces straighten crooked teeth, a non-food object can shift straight teeth. In the case of braces, wiring applies pressure to the teeth, which straightens them over time. But with non-food objects, undue pressure is being placed on just one tooth. Over time, that one tooth can shift. You risk damaging other dental work that’s already been done. When you use your teeth as a “third hand,” you risk cracking fillings, which aren’t as strong as enamel, or damaging other dental work that’s already been done. You expose yourself to a choking hazard. One hiccup or yawn and the object could become lodged in your throat. With anchor screws, maybe not so much. But for something smaller, like a sewing needle, yes. Biting down on non-food objects over time can be noticeable. For people who bite down on non-food objects out of habit, the damage can even have a noticeable effect. A seamstress might have small ridges or grooves worn into teeth over an extended period of time from holding sewing needles. The same goes for construction workers with nails.         But you might be guilty of something worse than using teeth as a “third hand.” What’s Worse than Using Teeth as a “Third Hand”? All of us have probably used our teeth to tear electrical tape, or strip insulation from copper wiring, or snap plastic label tags from clothes, or pop a pull tab on a can of soda. But each of these actions — using teeth as scissors, wire strippers or bottle openers — is far worse than using teeth as a “third hand.” When we use our teeth as a “third hand” for non-food objects, we might unconsciously place too much pressure on our teeth. But when we use our teeth to tear, strip, snap or pop, we consciously exert an undue pressure on our teeth. Yes, it might not be super convenient to find the scissors, but in the long run, grabbing the proper tools will be better. Not Just Limited to Non-Food Objects Do you know the Tootsie Pop commercial, with Mr. Owl’s sage advice to the question “How many licks does it take to reach the center of a Tootsie Pop?” Mr. Owl knows, intrinsically, most of us aren’t patient enough to handle hard candy in a manner that’s best for our teeth. Hard candy, ice cubes and shelled foods can pose just as much a threat to teeth as common nails, needles and screws. The temptation can sometimes be there — with nuts and other shelled foods (like crab legs or lobster tail) — to use our teeth as a nut- or seafood-cracker. We are committed to protecting smiles. And one of the easiest ways to protect your smile is to use your teeth for their intended purposes. Next time you might be tempted to use your teeth as a “third hand,” use the proper tools instead. You’ll be well on your way to maintaining an attractive smile for a long time.

In 1492, How Did Columbus’ Teeth Do?

by MikeMeehan 10/10/2016 3:10 PM

In 1492 / Columbus sailed the ocean blue… Even today, you probably still have those two lines from Jean Marzollo’s poem memorized. Unfortunately, the poem doesn’t let us know about Columbus’ teeth. That’s ok, because we can garner some insight from other poems. Take Geoffrey’s Chaucer’s prologue of The Canterbury Tales, for example: When the West Wind also with its sweet breath / In every wood and field has breathed life into… We can infer “sweet breath” was important to people in the Middle Ages. And, thanks to the poem “O How Sweet the Breeze of April” by Arnaud de Marveil, we can also infer “snow-white teeth.” But if teeth were important to people in the Middle Ages… How Did They Take Care of Their Teeth? We have a few clues about how people in the Middle Ages took care of their teeth. For example, this page recounts how one woman, Jennifer A. Heise, tried several medieval tooth powders and rubs. Fresh Breath Powders Heise points us to two types of powders mentioned in Gilbertus Anglicus’ Compendium of Medicine: “And let him use this powder: Take of pepper, one ounce; and of mint, as much; and of rock salt, as much. And make him to chew this powder a good while in his mouth, and then swallow it down.” “And let him use these pills that are good for all manner of stinking of the mouth: Take of cloves, nutmeg, cinnamon and mace, eight drams; of red sandlewood, ten drams; of quibibis, seven drams; of cardamom, five drams. Mix them with the juice of mint and make pills of the size of a fig. And let him to have two of them under either side of his tongue at once.” In both cases, Heise described a burning sensation. But for the spice balls — the one with cloves, nutmeg, cinnamon and mace — she said her breath was noticeably sweeter. Tooth Rubs Gilbertus Anglicus also wrote about tooth rubs: “. . . let the mouth be washed with wine that birch or mint has simmered in. And let the gums be well rubbed with a sharp linen cloth until they bleed…And let him rub well his teeth with the chewed herbs and also his gums. . . .” Heise reports her teeth did feel cleaner and less gummy afterward. What Can We Learn from the People in the Middle Ages? Obviously, today, we don’t use the same tooth powders or rubs as people in the Middle Age. Yet, while those aren’t the same as squeezing a dab of toothpaste onto a toothbrush, and brushing in short, circular strokes for two minutes, we can still take away some oral hygiene pointers of our own. We are what we eat. This answer to a Quora question credits better teeth to diet. For example, during the Middle Ages, most people couldn’t afford sugar. According to this medieval sourcebook, sugar cost 1 to 3 shillings a pound, and the average family budgeted 600 to 2,000 shillings a year on meals (anywhere from two to six shillings a day). As a result, people used sugar sparingly, if at all. This helped their teeth a lot, as sugar can act as a stimulant for plaque. To prevent disease, get into a tooth-cleaning routine. “And after every meal, let him wash well his mouth and rub well his gums and his teeth so that no corrupt matter abides among the teeth.” There’s a lot we can take to heart from Gilbertus Anglicus. This Columbus Day, as we reflect on Columbus and other medieval forefathers, let’s remember our own snowy-whites, keep our breath smelling sweet and keep our teeth free of plaque.

Don’t Brush It Off: This Self-Improvement Month, Improve Your Brushing Technique

by MikeMeehan 9/22/2016 4:07 PM

September has been designated National Self-Improvement Month. And though the designation has proven surprisingly difficult to substantiate — the National Day Calendar listed its history as “To Be Researched” — a little self-improvement never hurt. In fact, you might expect the exact opposite. When it comes to dental hygiene, brushing and flossing are some of the most important routines for your smile, yet they could possibly use a little improvement. Why You Need to Brush and Floss Brushing and flossing can remove plaque, tartar and stains. These three culprits can cause problems of all sorts:   Cavities Gum disease, like gingivitis or periodontitis Weakened tooth enamel, making teeth more susceptible to chips or cracks   Conditions like these can wreak havoc on your smile. But the issues don’t stop there. In fact, here’s a saying worth remembering: You can’t spell overall without oral. As in, oral health directly affects overall wellness. Bad oral health doesn’t just put you at risk for cavities, gum disease, and weakened tooth enamel; it can increase risks for serious conditions like diabetes, heart disease and stroke. The solution, of course, is brushing and flossing, but only when done so properly. There are a few improper ways of going about them: Three Wrong Ways to Brush   Brushing with force. Brushing too hard might make you feel like you’re getting your teeth extra clean, but your teeth won’t be thanking you. Using too much force can lead to tooth abrasion, little notches in the teeth near the gums. Starting in the same place every time. Usually, when something is routine, the tendency is to start in the exact same place every single time. For brushing, this isn’t necessarily the best technique. It takes two minutes to brush your teeth. When you start, the first tooth has your full attention. But by the time you’ve reached 1:45, you might be thinking about that board meeting you have in an hour. For more evenly-cleaned teeth, consider a new first tooth each time you brush. Leaving your toothbrush on a bathroom sink or counter. This isn’t really a brushing technique, but it can defeat an otherwise perfect routine. Your bathroom isn’t the exactly the cleanest room in your house — to avoid getting too “potty” mouthed about it — so your toothbrush is susceptible to germs if you park it there. Should you keep your toothbrush in the bathroom, at least put it in a holder where it can air-dry, and where the bristles won’t touch the germy sink or counter. Pro-tip: If you’re on vacation and using a travel bag, don’t store the toothbrush while it’s damp, as bacteria can grow on a moist toothbrush.       Two Wrong Ways to Floss   Flossing too fast. Save for not flossing at all, rushed flossing may be a worst practice, as one up-and-down between your teeth might miss some food particles and won’t get under the gumline as effectively. Stopping at the sight of blood. If your gums start to bleed, it’s probably due to inflammation from bacteria that’s gotten into them. If you stop at the sight of blood, the bacteria wins, and the inflammation could grow worse.     At this point, it may feel like there’s a whole lot wrong with the world: diseases that want to rob you of your wellness, and wrong techniques that could prevent you from fighting them. But September is self-improvement month, and there’s love at the end of the day. Here’s how you can improve your brushing and flossing techniques. Six Steps for Better Brushing   Place your toothbrush bristles at a 45-degree angle to the gumline Use just enough pressure to feel bristles against your gums and between teeth. Don’t squish the bristles Brush all inner and outer tooth surfaces several times, using short, circular strokes. Be sure to brush along the gumline as well Brush chewing surfaces straight on. Clean the inside surfaces of front teeth by tilting the brush vertically and making up-and-down strokes with the front of the brush Clean only one or two teeth at a time Brush your tongue, as oral bacteria can remain in taste buds   Five Steps for Flossing   Start with an 18-inch strand of floss. Wind most of it around one of your middle fingers and the rest around the same finger on your other hand Tighten floss with about an inch of floss between your hands. Glide floss between teeth with a gentle sawing motion Curve it into a C against your tooth Hold the floss against each tooth, gently scraping the tooth’s side while moving the floss away from the gum. Repeat on all teeth. Don’t forget the back ones Rinse to remove any loosened plaque and food particles   For #SelfImprovementMonth this September, we’re brushing up on our brushing and flossing technique. What have you been doing to improve yourself?

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