Monday, February 20, 2017

Happy President's Day: George Washington's Teeth

Contrary to what you heard in grammar school, George Washington did not have wooden teeth. He did have dentures made out of a variety of materials including lead, gold, and brass, with teeth carved from ivory, hippo, and cow teeth. There were also some human teeth set into his dentures - other's and possibly some of his own. Some think that staining from red wine and foods in the tiny fractures of the fake teeth may have resulted in the wooden look of Washington's teeth. This rumor may also have come from the fact that his last dentist was a Dr. Greenwood. Washington gave Greenwood his very last real tooth, the only one he still had when he became president, as a gift when it, too, failed. Dr. Greenwood then wore this tooth displayed in a small glass case in a chain around his neck.

Sketch of Washington's dentures & dollar bill, ym
So what caused Washington’s devastating tooth loss?  Historical documents suggest he was particular about caring for his teeth to the point of obsession, and owned toothbrushes, tooth powders, tongue scrapers and other implements to clean his mouth. Still, he started losing his teeth in his twenties. By his own account, his tooth loss was caused by a bad habit of his youth - cracking walnuts with his teeth! The scar on his cheek is from an abscess that required draining, and in portraits of the president when he was older, there are obvious signs that the loss of his teeth had changed the look of his face.

Washington often complained that his dentures hurt and were ill-fitting and he was constantly in contact with dentists. A letter to his dentist that was intercepted by the British may have even changed the course of a battle. Because Washington directed his dentist to send him dental materials in New York, the British decided to not send troop reinforcements South.

Some historians speculate that Washington had a genetic disorder that affected his teeth.  He was tall compared to his family members and other men of that time. He also had other physical signs that indicate the possibility of a genetic defect. (Washington had no biological children of his own and was thought to be infertile - the children that he and Martha raised were from her previous marriage.) 

Washington suffered from many illnesses throughout his life including small pox, malaria and tuberculosis. He may even have suffered from metal poisoning from the medications he took or from materials, like lead, that made up his dentures. Indeed, the bloodletting that was used to treat his very last illness, epiglottitis (swelling of the cartilage that covers the windpipe when swallowing,) is suspected to be what actually caused his death at the age of 68 in December of 1799.

For more information about Washington, his teeth, and other fascinating facts about his life visit:,, and

This blog is for entertainment purposes only and not intended to treat or diagnose any medical or dental condition. Please see your dentist or doctor if you are having health problems. 

Friday, February 10, 2017

It's Children's Dental Health Month - Baby teeth matter!

It’s National Children’s Dental Health Month! Here are some facts about children’s teeth and tips for childhood tooth care:

 Baby teeth are important: Just because children lose their baby teeth, it does not mean “decay is okay.” Children need to have healthy, strong baby teeth to eat, speak, and smile.

Babies are born with their baby teeth already formed under the gums. This means that baby tooth care needs to start in infancy, before the teeth appear in the mouth! A baby’s gums should be gently wiped with a soft, damp cloth after drinking a bottle or eating. This gets baby used to his or her mouth being cleaned. As soon as the first little tooth appears, it can be brushed with a soft toothbrush using a tiny smear of fluoride toothpaste.

Gum pain gels are not necessary and
can cause a rare but life-threatening condition called methemoglobinemia. It is better to let baby chew on a cold cloth or spoon if “teething.” This should relieve baby’s discomfort.

Always use a separate spoon to test baby’s food. Caregivers and parents spread their own mouth’s germs this way. This is especially important if a caregiver has cavities or gum problems.

Never put baby to bed with a bottle with formula, milk or juice. Don’t let a toddler walk around with a sippy cup with formula, milk or juice. These drinks are for meals. The sugar in them can destroy baby teeth pretty quickly. Children should only drink water between meals.
Lift the lip to check baby’s teeth at least once a month. White spots or lines near the gums may be the start of cavities. Baby teeth should be smooth and all one color. White, brown or black spots indicates cavities. If the teeth are being wiped or brushed daily, this should not happen.

Children start to lose their front teeth at about 6-7 years of age, so those front permanent teeth coming in are obvious. Not so obvious are the first permanent molars that erupt in the back of the mouth around the same age. If daily brushing and flossing aren’t already being done, that can hurt those teeth!

Flossing, too? Yes. While baby teeth usually have space between them that the tooth brush can reach, sometimes they don’t.
As soon as “teeth touch” they should be flossed to remove plaque germs that grow in between the teeth.

Baby teeth fall out over time and kids still have some of them until they are 12-13 years old. Baby teeth hold the space for the permanent teeth coming in.

Cavities are the NUMBER ONE chronic disease in children, more common than asthma. A cavity is a bacterial infection in a tooth!

Dental pain affects a child’s ability to learn and thrive. Dental emergencies cost parents and kids thousands of lost school and work hours. (Emergency room visits for dental issues cost Americans over $1.5 billion dollars in 2012!)

The cost of an amalgam (metal) filling can be well over $100 dollars - depending on how much of the tooth surface is affected, it can be much more. Composite (white) fillings cost even more. If a tooth needs to be “capped” it can run into thousands of dollars! Compare that to the cost of a toothbrush, toothpaste and floss.

Dental decay is preventable! Unless there is an underlying medical condition, cavities are caused by not brushing and flossing and eating or drinking sugar too often. A well-balanced diet helps the mouth and the body to stay healthy!

Preventing childhood cavities is so important and easy to do but young children need a hand. Pediatricians and dentists recommend the first dental visit by age one and that children up until age nine should have help and supervision while brushing.

c- ym 2017
Brush Morning & Night chart - ym 2017

This information is not intended to treat or diagnose any condition. If you think you or a loved one needs medical or dental treatment, please see a doctor or dentist right away!

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

The Great American Smokeout, November 17, 2016

During the Great American Smokeout, held on the third Thursday of each November, the American Cancer Society asks smokers to quit even if just for one day. After 20 minutes of not smoking, heart rate and blood pressure decrease; after 12 hours, carbon monoxide levels in the blood drop. The longer a person stays smoke-free the more health benefits are gained.

image from
Smoking also affects the mouth and teeth in very serious ways. 

Smoking increases risk for:
  • oral cancer (cancer of the mouth)
  • esophageal cancer (cancer of the throat)
  • periodontal disease (gum disease that leads to bone loss)
  • cavities
  • tooth loss
  • black hairy tongue (Google an image of it)
  • dry mouth
  • bad breath
Diseases caused by smoking and second hand smoke are preventable. Quitting, if only for one day, is the first step to better health.

For more information about The Great American Smokeout and how to quit smoking, visit:,, This blog is not intended to diagnose or treat any condition. If you need medical or dental treatment, seek help from your doctor or dentist. If you smoke, QUIT!

Friday, November 4, 2016

Bad eyesight? Back Hurts? Your mouth may be to blame.

Italian researchers reviewed studies that show a relationship between the health of the mouth and the health of the eyes. The mouth and eyes share a complex nerve pathway that runs through the head and neck. This nerve connection is a main reason for the relationships they found.

The studies revealed a strong correlation between Class II malocclusion, known as overbite, and myopia, near-sightedness. People with this dental condition were more likely to be nearsighted than people with other types of crooked teeth or people with straight teeth. Astigmatism (overall blurry vision) was also found to be associated with crossbite - teeth that don't fit together properly when the mouth is closed.

Research also showed that the pupils of people with jaw pain, like that caused by TMJ (Temporomandibular Joint) disorder, react differently to light than people without jaw pain. People with TMJ disorder were more likely to have poor posture and back problems, too. This is because the alignment of the jaw and muscles affects gaze and line of sight which can affect how people stand. Dry eye was also associated with TMJ difficulties.

So, in the future don't too surprised if your dentist asks you about your eyes and your eye doctor asks you about your teeth!

(The research review article was published in The Open Dental Journal, Volume 10, 2016, Oct. 31.  2016 Aug 31;10:460-468. eCollection 2016.
Dental Occlusion and Ophthalmology: A Literature Review.
Marchili N1Ortu E1Pietropaoli D1Cattaneo R1Monaco A1.)

This blog is not intended to treat or diagnose any medical or dental condition. For good health - see your dentist and doctor regularly - your eye doctor, too!

Friday, October 7, 2016

It's World Smile Day 2016!

Happy World Smile Day! The intent of World Smile Day is to engage in an act of kindness or good deed in the spirit of the Smiley symbol.

Although the traditional Smiley has no teeth showing, I hope you don’t mind if I pass along some tips on keeping your smile beautiful and healthy:

Brush at least two times a day for two whole minutes, once in the morning and once at night.

Brush each and every tooth (it’s called a tooth brush and not a teeth brush!) to get each and every surface.

Brush gently and use a soft tooth brush – you don’t want to hurt those all important gums!

Floss once a day to keep those in-between surfaces germ free, too.

Eat a healthy diet, low in sugar. Plaque germs that make acid on the teeth just LOVE sugar – Starve the plaque!

Watch what you drink – water is always your best bet. It has no sugar and keeps you healthy and hydrated.

If you can’t brush – rinse or sip some water, or chew some sugar-free gum.

Finally, think about someone you love and how each day is a gift. It will make you smile and a smile is a beautiful thing.
Yours in good oral health for better health,


For more on World Smile Day, visit:

This blog is not intended to treat or diagnose any condition. Visit your doctor and dentist regularly!