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Dental Trivia

Grapefruits aren’t just for breakfast anymore. According to researchers at Pace University, grapefruit extract in toothpaste can kill oral viruses. The researchers also noted that adding aloe, zinc, and grapefruit extract to mouthwash and toothpaste kills viruses in the oral cavity, and thus eliminates their passage into the body.

Are you a wine drinker? According to a study at Guy’s Hospital in London, the acid in wine was shown to erode the enamel on teeth. A wine taster had been exposed to so much wine that only the fillings were protruding in some of the subject’s teeth. Any individual who tastes or drinks wine often should clean his or her mouth at least twice a day. Typically, red wine causes the worst stains on teeth.

Routine dental radiographs may be an effective tool in preventing strokes, according to researchers at the University of Buffalo. Stroke victims usually receive no warning of the impending stroke, but dental radiographs can help spot potentially dangerous calcium buildups in the carotid arteries near both ends of the jawbone. These buildups can choke blood flow to the brain and are a cause of strokes.

Have you ever wished that your dentist would turn up the music while he/she is drilling your tooth? The American Dental Association recommends that patients listen to music in the dentist’s office as a form of distraction. A combination of music and an anesthetic during dental procedures can reduce the patient’s blood pressure and pulse rate more than an anesthetic alone. It has also been noted that patients who listen to music at the dentist office tend to have lower levels of stress-related hormones. Many dentists are aware of this anxiety-reliever and provide their patients with headphones.

Does your child go through a tube of toothpaste in two weeks? Too much toothpaste early in life accounts for more than 70 percent of fluorosis cases (staining or mottling of tooth enamel that develops when children swallow fluoridated toothpaste), according to a study at the University of Connecticut. The problem is purely cosmetic, but it is recommended that children under six only use a pea-sized amount of toothpaste and be reminded to spit it out after brushing.

Dental injuries are the most common type of orofacial injury sustained during participation in sports, according to the National Youth Sports Foundation for Safety. An athlete is 60 times more likely to incur damage to the teeth when not wearing a mouthguard. It is estimated that mouthguards professionally designed by dentists prevent approximately 200,000 injuries (such as concussions or dental and mandibular injuries) each year in high school and college football. The stock mouthguard, which can be purchased at sports stores without an individual fitting, provides only a low level of protection if any.

Do your palms sweat and heart race when you arrive at your dentist appointment? Patients at the Dental Phobia Treatment Center of New York are offered foot massages, 3-D virtual reality goggles, and aromatherapy to alleviate their fears and help them relax during dental visits. About 35 million people in the US are anxious about dental visits.

Patients don't seem to be as concerned as they should be about the possible link between periodontal disease and strokes, heart disease, diabetes and low-birth-weight babies. Forty-two percent of dentists say that periodontal disease is the most pressing oral health issue, according to the 1998 ADA/Colgate Oral Health Trend Survey. Three out of four dentists plan to educate patients on possible links between this disease and other medical ailments.

Dentists are among the top five most trusted professionals in the United States, according to a study by the Gallop Organization and Consumer Reports.

The next time your dentist asks if you are taking any medications, don’t forget to mention herbal remedies or alternative medicines, advises the Academy of General Dentistry. Patients tend to forget that multivitamins, ginseng tablets, and herbal teas are considered drugs. High consumption of beverages such as herbal teas, known for their relaxing and soothing qualities, can lower blood pressure and put people at risk of fainting in the dental chair. Keep your dentist informed to avoid any potentially harmful drug interactions during your dental procedures.

Looking for an excuse to eat chocolate? Many dentists agree that raisins can cause more tooth decay than chocolate. Sticky foods, such as raisins and dried fruits, can stay on the teeth longer and cause more decay.

Want to cure bad breath? Mouthwash, sugarless gum, and tongue scrapers are some modern remedies, but Thomas Vicery, a surgeon from the early 17th century, has a unique suggestion: "Wash the mouth with water and vinegar. Chew mastic (a tree resin used as an astringent), then wash the mouth again with a decoction of annis seeds, mints and cloves soaked in wine."

The popular technique of baking pizza in wood burning stoves could be harmful to your oral health. The smoke from wood-burning stoves can cause people to have two to three times the risk of mouth and throat cancers, according to the International Journal of Epidemiology. Wood stoves may be responsible for 30 percent of all such cancers. Cooking and heating stoves are used in more than half the world’s households and have been shown in many areas to generate a number of combustion products that are known, or suspected, carcinogenic agents.

Little Known Dental Facts

What do tree branches, wild boar hairs, and nylon have in common? The bristles of a toothbrush have been made from these items. People have been concerned about their dental hygiene since Egyptian times. Ancient tombs contained small tree branches whose ends had been frayed into soft fibers. In the 15th century, the Chinese made toothbrushes from the neck hairs of a Siberian wild boar. The present-day nylon toothbrush wasn’t invented until 1937.

Powdered fruit, talc, honey, dried flowers, mice, and lizard livers were ingredients in ancient toothpaste and powder. Soap and chalk were suggested components in the 1800’s. Modern toothpaste in collapsible tubes was introduced in the 1850’s. Fluoride wasn't added to toothpaste until 1956.

Toothpicks haven't always been made of wood. In ancient times, people used combination "tooth/ear pickers" made of bone, quills, silver, or gold. These "dentiscalpias" were used freely by even the best-mannered citizens.

Americans purchased over 2.7 million miles of dental floss in 1996. Dental floss was first manufactured in 1882 when it was made from silk. Recently, some floss has been made of Gore-Tex.

The term "indentured servant" has a story behind it. In the colonial days, debtors were shipped from Europe to America to work as servants. Instead of signing a contract, they sealed their agreement by leaving their dental imprint in wax.

The defenders of the Alamo were the first to try chewing gum in America. Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna, the Mexican dictator who fought Davy Crockett and his Texas comrades, introduced modern day chewing gum. His version of chewing gum was chicle, the latex sap of the sapodilla tree. Thomas Adams, an American inventor, used chicle as the base for commercial chewing gums. Rumor has it, chicle could be the source of the brand name "Chicklets."

Francisco Goya, a famous Spanish Artist, depicts a morbid dental custom of his time in the painting "A Caza de Dientas" (or "tooth hunting"). Dentists would quickly transplant live teeth, often stolen from the dead, into their patients’ empty alveolar sockets.