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?

National Fresh Breath Day: Tips to Freshen Your Breath

by MikeMeehan 8/4/2016 4:31 PM

That clean, fresh feeling your mouth has after you brush your teeth in the morning helps get your day started and can give you a boost of confidence. But as the day wears on, your breath may take a nose dive. To mark National Fresh Breath Day, we’ve identified some potential causes of bad breath and ways that you can maintain clean, fresh breath. Bad breath can be caused by: Foods: Eating garlic, onions and spicy dishes can not only lead to strong odors lingering in your mouth, but after these foods are digested, their chemicals travel through the bloodstream to the lungs where you breathe them out. Poor oral hygiene: Not brushing and flossing enough can lead to plaque and bacteria build up in your mouth resulting in cavities, gum disease and infections. Dry mouth: Saliva helps clean your mouth naturally. When your mouth is dry and not producing enough saliva, food particles and bacteria remain in your mouth causing bad breath. Health issues: Diseases such as diabetes, bronchitis, acid reflex, ulcers, cancers and kidney or liver disease can give off strong odors that can be detected in the mouth. Tobacco: Smoking and chewing tobacco cause their own unpleasant odors. Using tobacco can also lead to gum disease, which is another source of bad breath.         You can freshen your breath by: Brushing your teeth and tongue at least twice a day and flossing at least once per day. Using a tongue scraper also helps remove bacteria from your tongue. Drinking lots of water to rinse and clean your mouth of bacteria. Avoiding sweets. Bacteria feed on sugar making bad breath worse. Chewing sugarless gum to produce saliva, which cleans your mouth. Not using tobacco. If these tips don’t help eliminate bad breath, consult your dentist or doctor. Your bad breath may be a symptom of a larger medical issue.

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