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Dental Health of Early Native Americans

WHEN WE PICTURE people of earlier eras, particularly pre-industrial ones, we tend to assume that they must have had really bad teeth. While it definitely is easier to get high-quality dental care these days, not to mention modern orthodontics and modern root canal therapy, the people of the past didn’t always have terrible dental health. Especially in cultures with no access to refined sugar.

Food Played a Big Role for Native American Dental Health

The ancient Native Americans ate a diet mostly of corn (maize), beans, squash, fish, and game, as well as fresh fruit and nuts. Their high-fiber diet helped keep their teeth and gums healthy. The harmful bacteria in our mouths need plenty of sugar and starch to multiply. Foods high in fiber have the benefit of scrubbing our teeth as we eat them.

How Did Early Native Americans Clean Their Teeth?

Just because tooth decay was uncommon doesn’t mean it didn’t happen. One museum in Manitou Springs, Colorado, for example, has an exhibit of replica skulls with holes in the jaw bones from advanced gum disease. To fight against tooth decay, ancient Native Americans used chewsticks — twigs that have been frayed by a rock on one end and sharpened into a toothpick on the other. Chewing on the frayed ends cleans the teeth. They also kept their breath fresh by chewing herbs like sage, cucacua, and mint.

Top image used under CC0 Public Domain license. Image cropped and modified from original.
The content on this blog is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of qualified health providers with questions you may have regarding medical conditions.
Water Activities and Your Teeth

TO THE AVID swimmers out there, you may have noticed that your teeth are at their most sensitive after you get out of the pool. It’s not something that’s obvious after just one afternoon at the lap pool, but endless swimming time can take a toll on our teeth.

Swimmer’s Calculus: Enamel Erosion from Pool Chlorine

The term “swimmer’s calculus” might sound like something out of an advanced math class, but it actually refers to a dental health condition. After prolonged exposure to the acidic chlorine ions in pool water, a swimmer’s teeth can develop yellow or brown stains.

While chlorine is great for keeping the pool sanitary for all the people who enjoy swimming in it, it can cause the water’s pH levels to become more acidic if it isn’t monitored carefully. Because our teeth are so vulnerable to erosion from acid, even the mild acidity of pool water like this can increase the risk of developing these stains.

Scuba Divers Have Their Own Dental Health Concerns

Maybe you prefer scuba diving over swimming at the local pool. In your case, the risk to keep in mind isn’t swimmer’s calculus. Instead, you could be at risk of something called “tooth squeeze” or barodontalgia.

Have you ever felt the pressure building up in your ears when you dive to the bottom of the deep end? A similar pressure can build inside teeth — particularly teeth with untreated cavities or that have undergone faulty dental work. The pressure can grow to such a degree that it fractures the tooth, which is why we recommend starting your diving season off with a dental visit. That way you’ll know which teeth are more vulnerable.

Ear and sinus squeeze are other problems you may encounter while diving:

How Well Does Your Scuba Mouthpiece Fit?

A common struggle for divers is that those “one size fits all” mouthpieces are more like “one size fits none.” However, it’s rare for anyone who doesn’t dive a few times a week to own a custom-fitted mouthpiece. At our practice, we think they’re worth the investment, because a mouthpiece that doesn’t fit can lead to trouble for your teeth.

You might have to clench down on the mouthpiece to keep it from falling out during the dive, and that can put a lot of strain on the jaws, even causing temporomandibular joint disorder (TMD). If you don’t have your own mouthpiece, and especially if you dive at least a few times per year, consider getting a custom-fitted diving mouthpiece.

Any Other Teeth and Water Activities?

Whatever questions you have about dental health and how to protect it while diving and swimming, don’t hesitate to bring them to us! One final danger to watch out for is that the surfaces around pools are often slippery due to all the water, which is a major trip hazard. We minimize our risk of getting a dental injury at the pool by not running, coming out of the water carefully, and not diving into shallow water.

A fantastic summer break to all of our patients!

Top image used under CC0 Public Domain license. Image cropped and modified from original.
The content on this blog is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of qualified health providers with questions you may have regarding medical conditions.
Don’t Use Your Teeth as Tools!

OUR TEETH CAN do a lot of things. They chew our food, they form a lot of the structure of our faces to make us look the way we do, they make it possible to speak clearly, and they’re the highlight of our smiles. These are good and healthy uses for teeth, but when we use them as tools for other jobs, we risk causing serious damage.

Teeth Are Not Substitute Nail Clippers or Scissors

The damage a nail-biting habit can do is a topic worthy of its own blog post, but we’ll summarize it here. Our fingernails are the least sanitary parts of our hands because the area underneath them is essentially impossible to keep clean. Germs love to grow there, and those same germs transfer to our mouths when we bite our nails. Nail-biting also puts a lot of unnecessary wear and tear on the front teeth and may even shift them out of place.

Nails aren’t the only things we might be tempted to bite through; sometimes it might seem very convenient to use our teeth to cut a piece of tape. Unlike chewing food, the sawing motion we do to cut tape involves a lot of grinding, which is bad for our teeth’s surfaces. Some people do this with much worse materials than tape, such as wire. Take the time to find the scissors or wire cutters instead of trying this!

Please Use an Actual Nutcracker

If you love eating walnuts, pecans, pistachios, or even half-popped popcorn kernels, don’t break them open with your teeth. Doing so is a great way to crack or chip a tooth, especially if that tooth has already undergone a dental procedure or if it has an untreated cavity. It’s much better to use a nutcracker.

Teeth Do Not Make Good Bottle Openers

Even though tooth enamel is the hardest substance in the human body, it’s far too brittle to be right for the job of popping a metal lid off a soda bottle. We could easily chip a tooth on that edge, and if we slip, that could mean a nasty gash to the lips or gums. No matter how cool you might think it will make you look to do it with your teeth, please use a real bottle opener.

Teeth Are Not a Third Hand

Sometimes when we’re in the middle of a busy task, we run out of hands to hold things, and it’s very easy to briefly stick a pencil, a few nails, or some sewing pins in our mouths for safekeeping.

Once again, the convenience isn’t worth the risks. Tripping or being hit with a sudden yawn, sneeze, cough, or hiccup could result in disaster. Even if nothing so dramatic happens, these objects can cause a lot of wear on teeth. For example, seamstresses have given themselves dents in their chewing surfaces from holding sewing pins in the same spot over and over.

Only Use Your Teeth for Their Intended Purposes!

Cracking and fracturing are the third-highest cause of tooth loss, and you can significantly reduce your risk of needing an emergency dental visit and a series of expensive procedures by only using your teeth for what they’re for. Don’t forget to keep up with twice-daily brushing, daily flossing, and regular dental visits!

We love seeing our patients use their teeth for smiles!

Top image used under CC0 Public Domain license. Image cropped and modified from original.
The content on this blog is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of qualified health providers with questions you may have regarding medical conditions.
Welcome to VCAD Brandermill!

Welcome to Virginia Center for Advanced Dentistry, Brandermill. We know that’s a mouthful, so it’s VCAD for short. Thanks for visiting our new website. We’re excited about our relatively new practice and our new online presence. We hope you are able to use this site as a resource to learn more about our practice and as a source for information about dental health.

As we grow, we’ll continue to add new blog posts with helpful information about oral hygiene, new dental procedures, updates about VCAD Brandermill and much, much more. We also encourage you to check out Kids’ Corner. We’ll continue to add more fun resources for kids to learn more about proper oral hygiene to help them create and maintain good habits.

If  this is your first time learning about VCAD, we encourage you to call or visit our office. Our staff is ready to field your questions and our doctors are more than happy to meet with you to help you understand what a visit to our office will be like. We aren’t your typical dentist and we want you to be 100% comfortable before you make a commitment to becoming a patient.

Ready to schedule an appointment? Contact us today!

 

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