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October 29, 2010

Don’t Neglect Your Tongue!

What’s the strongest and most flexible muscle in your body?  It’s your tongue!  Your tongue is the only muscle that’s attached only on one end.  It also has a unique print, just like your thumb – and it heals faster than any other body part.  The tongue has 9,000 taste buds and can sense four basic tastes: sweet, sour, bitter, and salty.  About 10% of your taste buds, though, are on your cheeks and palette.

Can you curl your tongue in a u-shape? About 15% of people can’t.

Your tongue harbors HALF of the bacteria that live in your mouth.  If you have bad breath, brush your tongue or consider using a tongue scraper to gently remove bacteria and food particles from the surface of the tongue.  It can really help!

And, according to Guinness, this is the most difficult tongue twister:

The sixth sick sheik’s sixth sheep’s sick.

National Museum of Dentistry

At the University of Maryland, there’s a museum that everyone can relate to.  It’s the National Museum of Dentistry.  It’s affiliated with the Smithsonian Institution.

Everyone brushes, right? So, it just makes sense that every human should want to visit this amazing museum!

Actually, the website is pretty awesome, and the interactive exhibits are fun for kids and adults. For instance, one lets you become a forensic investigator. And we’ve always heard about George Washington’s dentures. You can actually see them at the National Museum of Dentistry.  You might also like the Evel Knievel toothbrush or Queen Victoria’s dental instruments. Another cool collection, the world’s largest of its kind, is the museum’s dental advertising poster art.  If you like the future more than the past, you’ll enjoy the Operatory of the Future exhibit.

Visit for more information, and if you DO go to the museum, send us pictures to post on Facebook!

October 26, 2010

Toothbrush Facts that Make You Say, “REALLY??!”

Get this!  In 2003, Americans chose the toothbrush as the “cannot live without” invention. The toothbrush won over computers, cars, cell phones, and the microwave!

People have always wanted clean teeth. Until the first toothbrush was invented, folks used a frayed stick, feathers, bones, porcupine quills, and just about anything they could come up with to get plaque and food off their teeth.

The first toothbrushes on historical record were created in China around 1498. They were made of hog’s hair in bamboo and worked much like today’s toothbrush.

In 1780, William Addis first mass produced a toothbrush. He came up with the idea and made the prototype while in prison (for causing a riot — those rowdy oral healthcare guys!). The toothbrush was made with a small animal bone and bristles inserted through drilled holes. (What small animals are in a prison? Ugh. Don’t ask.)

In 1857, Mr. H. N. Wadsworth patented a toothbrush in the United States, and mass production came about in 1885. Again, the inventor used a bone handle and boar’s hair in the design.

DuPont introduced nylon bristles in 1938, and they were a much better choice. They did not harbor bacteria, and they dried much faster than boar’s hair.

Broxodent released the first electric toothbrush at the American Dental Association (ADA) convention in 1960. (Yay!)

Now, here are the best toothbrush practices for your family

  • Get a new toothbrush every six weeks. Opt for a soft or medium brush for adults, and a soft brush for children and elderly, unless Dr. Pate or our hygienist has other advice for you.
  • Kids need appropriately sized toothbrushes and non-fluoridated toothpaste.
  • If you’re ill, microwave your toothbrush for a minute in a glass of water to kill bacteria. If the bristles fall out, get a new toothbrush!
  • Electric toothbrushes are great – just replace the head every six weeks.
  • Be sure to clean your travel toothbrush thoroughly and let it dry before packing it away. You might even consider using the newer version of the travel toothbrush: a disposable toothbrush with water-activated toothpaste powder in the bristles.

October 19, 2010

Got Dry Mouth?

Dry mouth is that dry, cottony feeling you get when your salivary glands don’t produce properly. Saliva is important to digestion and lubrication of oral structures.  It also contains enzymes, electrolytes, anti-bacterial compounds, and mucus. Without the proper amount of saliva, you might experience bad breath, tooth decay, gum disease, trouble eating and talking, and general discomfort in your mouth.

Often, people with dry mouth feel excessively thirsty, their saliva seems thick, and their mouths feel sticky. Dry mouth can contribute to a hoarse voice, scratchy or burning tongue, chapped lips, thrush (oral yeast infection), mouth sores, or dryness in the nose.

So what causes this irritating condition?  Factors that may affect dry mouth include:

  • Smoking or chewing tobacco
  • Drinking too little liquid
  • Drinking alcohol or caffeine
  • Mouth breathing
  • Anxiety and stress
  • Using one of over 1,000 over-the-counter medications
  • Taking 3 or more prescription drugs
  • Medical Conditions: HIV/AIDS, anemia, rheumatoid arthritis, cystic fibrosis, Sjorgren’s Syndrome, diabetes, mumps, stroke, and others
  • Radiation and chemotherapy
  • Trauma to the mouth or throat

If you’re struggling with dry mouth, tell Dr. Pate at your next appointment. He’ll help you find the factors contributing to your condition, and then he can recommend ways to alleviate the problem.

October 13, 2010

Emergency Dental Care: What to do until you see Dr. Pate.

We handle dental emergencies all the time. If you have a dental emergency, please call the office immediately at 404-266-9424 so that you can see Dr. Pate. The most common dental emergencies are knocking out or loosening a tooth, a major toothache, and losing a crown.  For problems like severe trauma or bleeding, our first recommendation is to go to the emergency room. You will be treated more quickly for life-threatening emergencies at the ER. Remember, if it’s painful, it’s an emergency and should be addressed as soon as possible to increase the chances of saving the tooth and reducing damage to the nerves and tissue.

What do I do if a permanent tooth is knocked out?

Don’t panic!  First, find the tooth and brush it off gently. Don’t run water over it unless it’s covered in dirt.  Place the tooth into a small cup of milk – yes, milk. Press a clean cloth against the space in your gums where the tooth was knocked out. Then call our office to let us know about the situation, and we’ll make time in our schedule for you to see Dr. Pate. He might be able to replace the tooth, depending on the break and the damage.

What do I do if I have a toothache that’s so severe I can’t sleep, eat, or think straight?

Please call our office for an appointment! We’ll fit you in as soon as possible. Take Tylenol or Advil to temporarily help ease your pain.

What do I do if my temporary or permanent crown falls off?

If you can find the crown, rinse it off and keep it. If the crown is not broken, use a dab of toothpaste or temporary cement (available at the drugstore) to reattach the crown. Then call our office and we’ll set a time, probably the same day, for you to see Dr. Pate.

The best treatment for an emergency is prevention!  Preventive treatment is obviously easier, more cost effective, and significantly less stressful (on your body and your schedule) than undergoing emergency treatment. Although some emergencies cannot be prevented, many are preventable.  For example, you should wear a mouth guard while engaging in sports.  In addition, regular preventive care visits with Dr. Pate will help you avoid unexpected toothaches by identifying developing dental issues.  You can take care of them before they become a painful nuisance!


October 1, 2010

Never at a Loss with Dental Floss

Dental floss. It comes in round, flat, mint, unflavored, green, white, blue. Your dentist and hygienist urge you to floss daily to protect against plaque buildup and gum disease. So, every morning, you stand in front of the mirror and diligently try to perform oral gymnastics with dental floss.

Dental floss is what it is, an important tool for your oral health… But is it more? YES!

We’ve found some creative uses for this nearly indestructible dental string. Check it out:

  • Fly a balloon
  • Save your spot with a bookmark that’s minty fresh
  • Clean the nooks and crannies in jewelry
  • Cut slices of cake or dough
  • Escape from jail (this one’s a secret)
  • Hang Christmas ornaments
  • Catch fish in a pinch with this fishing line
  • Hang clothes to dry
  • Repair a broken shoelace
  • Hang shower brushes and squeegies (it’s waterproof)
  • Separate stuck photos
  • Hang pictures or wind chimes
  • Play cat’s cradle
  • Sew industrial strength items or buttons
  • String beads
  • Support those lazy plants
  • String popcorn for the holidays
  • Tie a ponytail
  • Clean a hair brush (thread thru an upholstery needle, then push through the bristles and pull upward)
  • Tie a stuffed turkey
  • Tie packages

The next time you floss, think about ways you can use dental floss outside of the bathroom. Think like a kid; you’ll come up with something clever! Post your ideas as a blog comment or on our Facebook page. Keep an extra box of floss in your purse, pocket or car.  You never know when dental floss will save the day!

Until next time, keep flossing!  Click here to learn about proper flossing techniques.