Adults Wearing Braces

Mom and Dad (and Grandma and Grandpa) Are Getting Braces Too

Although orthodontists will say that no one is ever too old to wear braces, for most of us, it is surprising to learn that actor Danny Glover started wearing braces at age 59. Actress Faye Dunaway was age 61 when she began 18 months of treatment. Dunaway said that she was inspired by Tom Cruise, who at age 40 showed off his ceramic braces in 2002.

Today, more than one million adults in America wear braces. Statistics from the American Association of Orthodontists show this reflects a 58 percent increase in the number of adults (defined here as people over the age of 18) in orthodontic treatment, while the number of children and teenagers increased only 15 percent during that same period (1994-2010).

Advances in orthodontics are one of the primary reasons that so many adult patients seek treatment. Options today include clear removable aligners (Invisalign), tooth-colored ceramic braces, lingual braces that fit on the tongue side of the teeth, and veneers, which are wafer-thin shells of porcelain bonded to the front side of teeth. Even when metal braces are recommended, they are much smaller than those used 15 years ago.

Some adults choose to get braces at the same time their children do to correct similar problems: crowded or crooked teeth, overbites and underbites, and misaligned jaws. Such problems can create oral health issues, and it’s not only movie stars who want to have pretty smiles. One lawyer who chose to get his teeth straightened said he wanted juries to pay attention to the words coming out of this mouth and not to his crooked teeth.

Why didn’t these adults address these problems before they were 18? Maybe their families couldn’t afford the cost at the time, or perhaps these adults did have braces as children, but they didn’t follow up or wear their retainers properly. In addition, teeth can shift as you age, and an accident may cause dental issues.  Regardless of the reason, it is never too late to start orthodontic treatment.

Advertisements
Adults Wearing Braces

The Tooth Fairy and the Mouse

When a growing child loses his or her first tooth, what should you do with the tooth? In America of course, the parents put it under the child’s pillow for the Tooth Fairy to collect in the middle of the night. On the face of it, the Tooth Fairy seems like a cute but insignificant little tradition. In actuality, it reflects a rite of passage that extends across just about all cultures worldwide.

The specific traditions regarding what to do with children’s baby teeth vary from country to country. Sometimes the tooth is thrown somewhere—up into the sun, into a fire, or over a roof. Sometimes it’s buried. Sometimes it’s hidden where animals can’t find it, and other times it’s given (either symbolically or literally) to an animal to take or swallow. In some cases, the mother swallows the tooth, and in other cases the child does.

The loss of the child’s tooth signifies the boy or girl is taking an early step into adulthood. This step can be scary for the child, and ritualizing the disposal of the tooth can bring comfort. Other children are excited about losing their first tooth, because they can’t wait to grow up. However the kid feels about it, all cultures agree that doesn’t seem right to let the moment pass without performing some sort of custom.

The animal most associated with these traditions is a mouse. Mice have strong teeth that continually grow, and parents wish to transfer the idea of strong, healthy teeth to their children. In France, it’s not a fairy but La Bonne Petite Souris, or “The Good Little Mouse,” who sneaks under kids’ pillows to trade a tooth for cash or candy. In Spain, the mouse is named Raton Perez (or some variation on this). He looks under the pillow too, but sometimes, the tooth is left in a glass of water on the nightstand. In the morning the water and tooth are gone and replaced by coins or a small gift. In South Africa, instead of under a pillow the tooth is left in a slipper on the floor, sometimes with a piece of cheese.

Asian countries, from China to Japan to Vietnam to India, favor the tradition of throwing the tooth somewhere, and while it’s in the air, they might ask for the tooth to be replaced by the tooth of, yes, a mouse. In Iraq and Egypt and other Middle Eastern countries, the tradition is also to throw the tooth.

Some of these traditions can be traced back hundreds and hundreds of years, but the Tooth Fairy tradition in America is relatively new. Its first appearance in print appears in 1927, and it is believed to have started a few decades before that. Americans at the epoch were becoming enamored with the figure of a kindly, motherly fairy, as seen in everything from Glenda the Good Witch in The Wizard of Oz to fairy godmothers in classic Disney movies. The Tooth Fairy herself seems to be a mixture of this sort of fairy and European mouse traditions.

How about the money she leaves? Well, since losing a baby tooth symbolizes the path to adulthood, the giving of cash is part of that transition. Money belongs in the realm of adulthood, not childhood. A child can make his or her own decisions about what to do with the Tooth Fairy’s gift, whether buying something independently of Mom or Dad or saving it for the future.

February 28th is National Tooth Fairy Day, but the next time a child you know loses a tooth, you can hide it for the Tooth Fairy to find, give it a mythical m

The Tooth Fairy and the Mouse

Dental Hygiene History

The First Doctor to Preach Dental Hygiene

Everyone today cleans their teeth (or at least knows that they should). We do it at home with a daily regimen of brushing, flossing and rinsing, and then we supplement home care with periodic professional dental cleanings. But the idea that it’s important to clean your teeth is a fairly new one in the annals of history. The very concept of modern dental hygiene is only around 100 years old and was launched into being by a Connecticut dentist named Alfred Civilion Fones.

Dentists in the early 20th century were primarily occupied with pulling out rotten teeth. They didn’t concern themselves much with preventing teeth from becoming rotten to begin with. Furthermore, at the time it was still a recent discovery that bacteria have something to do with tooth decay. But Fones knew from his experience and insight that cleaning teeth of plaque, bits of food, and other matter would be instrumental in preventing decay, in making gums healthier, and in allowing his patients to keep their teeth.

He recruited and trained his cousin, a woman named Irene Newman, to work in his office where she cleaned patients’ teeth and scraped plaque. Essentially, she was the first dental hygienist. The idea actually was pretty outlandish at the time, that people would go to the dentist for preventative cleanings, but it was hard to argue with Dr. Fones’ excellent outcomes. The idea of dental hygiene began to catch on, so in 1913 Fones opened the first school of dental hygiene ever, located in his town of Bridgeport, Connecticut. He’s the one who also coined the very term “dental hygiene.”

Almost three dozen women enrolled in the school’s first year. After finishing two years later, the graduating class went out in the world and cleaned teeth at dental offices and in public schools. Soon enough, the practice of dental hygiene developed official standards. Laws were passed to regulate the field, and Newman became the president of the first dental hygiene association in 1917.

The dental hygiene school closed, however, because Fones preferred to spend his time traveling to preach the gospel of dental hygiene instead of focusing on a small set of students. He spoke at dental schools with his data as support to convince others in his profession of the preventative benefits of clean, well-maintained teeth. Other dental hygiene schools opened, and the one Fones first founded eventually re-opened as well.

Fones and Newman thought public outreach to be an important aspect of their work. They encouraged hygienists to go into schools and communities to clean teeth professionally and to teach people how do to it at home. So this evening when you’re brushing your teeth, remember that this habit that is ingrained in your daily routine might not even be part of your life if it weren’t for the efforts of a doctor and his cousin 100 years ago.

Dental Hygiene History