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Why Are They Called “Wisdom” Teeth?

Why Are They Called “Wisdom” Teeth?Third molars have been referred to as “teeth of wisdom” since the Seventeenth Century and simply “wisdom teeth” since the Nineteenth Century. The third molars generally appear much later than other teeth, usually between the ages of 17 and 25 when a person reaches adulthood. It is generally thought among linguists that they are called wisdom teeth because they appear so late, at an age when a person matures into adulthood and is “wiser” than when other teeth have erupted.

Lately, science has added some credence to the idea that the third molar does indeed erupt when a person is “wiser”. Recent research has shown the brain continues to grow and develop right on through adolescence: in fact, most researchers believe the brain does not reach full maturity until the age of 25. Perhaps, then, our ancestors weren’t so far off the mark — that the eruption of “wisdom teeth” is a sign that the carefree days of childhood have given way to the responsibilities of adulthood.

Kathy Bates Chose Invisalign to Straighten Her Smile

Kathy Bates Chose Invisalign to Straighten Her SmileAlthough she’s taken on many different roles in her career, Kathy Bates is perhaps best known for portraying creepy characters — like the ones she played in the film Misery and the TV show American Horror Story. So, when she recently told Dear Doctor magazine, “I noticed my teeth were moving around,” was she exaggerating for a sinister effect — or was it for real?

In fact, the celebrated actress was describing how her teeth had literally changed positions over time. That’s why she decided to get orthodontic treatment in her fifties.

What’s more, the changes she noticed aren’t unusual. Over time, teeth really can — and do — move around in the mouth. (If they didn’t, it would much more difficult for dentists to bring them into better alignment.) Many people don’t realize that teeth aren’t solidly anchored in bone — instead, they are held in their bony sockets by a network of stretchy fibers called the periodontal ligament. Dentists and orthodontists can straighten teeth by applying just the right amount of gentle force to teeth, using appliances such as traditional braces or clear aligners. Both work the same way — but Kathy Bates, like many adults, opted for the aligners.

“When I heard about Invisalign®, I thought, hmm, maybe this is better than getting braces, so I’ll give it a try,” she said. “And I’m really glad I did.”

Why? For one thing, they’re more discreet. Aligners consist of clear plastic trays that are custom-made to fit over your teeth perfectly. Even from right up close, it’s difficult or impossible to tell if you’re wearing them. (And that’s something that just can’t be said about braces.) Plus, while they must be worn for 22 hours every day, they can be removed for cleaning, eating, or special occasions. So if you’re concerned that braces don’t fit your image, aligners might be right for you.

Here’s how they work: The aligner trays are custom-made from impressions (digital or physical models) of your own teeth. As you go through treatment, you’ll get a new tray about every two weeks. Each one causes your teeth to move just a little bit. All together, they can make a big change in your smile. Aligners may not be appropriate in every situation, but many people can enjoy the benefits of this effective and unobtrusive treatment. After an examination, your dentist or orthodontist can recommend your best options for orthodontic treatment.

Best of all, there’s no age limit for getting straighter teeth: As long as they are otherwise healthy, teeth can be moved at any age. In fact, about one in five orthodontic patients today is an adult, and many opt for clear aligners — like Kathy Bates.

Getting the Most Out of Your Dental Insurance Health Plan

1-5-2017  Inglewood, Torrance, Hawthorne
Getting the Most Out of Your Dental Insurance PlanHealthcare can be costly. And while there’s a lot of angst today about insurance, most people depend on it to manage costs.

The same is true about dental care. If you’re going to effectively maintain healthy teeth and gums you will have expenses. And to keep those expenses as low as possible, many people depend on dental insurance.

While similar to general health insurance, most dental plans function more like a discount coupon to reduce overall cost. For example, a typical plan might cover 50% of a tooth extraction, while the patient or guarantor pays the rest of the charge.

This can be a great cost savings if your plan is part of a compensation package with your employer. With this arrangement, your employer pays the premiums as an employee benefit, which enables you to pay much less for dental care. (If you’re paying for the plan, though, you should “do the math” to see whether any cost savings is worth the annual premium.)

There’s one caveat, however, with employee benefit insurance: your employer and not you has negotiated the plan benefits with the insurance carrier. The plan could therefore contain deductibles and restrictions on types of procedures and materials covered. For example, your policy might pay for a certain type of crown, although your dentist may have another material of higher quality or durability available.

Although your dentist understands these constraints and their effect on your finances, his or her top priority is what’s best for your dental health. Your dentist will recommend your best options health-wise, not necessarily what a dental policy will cover. That could mean costs above what your policy will pay.

While policy details are often confusing to individuals, your dental office staff likely works regularly with several plans and carriers. They will do their best to help you get the most out of your coverage. And, if there are remaining costs for dental work after insurance pays, they may be able to work with you on a payment arrangement or program for the balance.

Your dentist will be glad to discuss with you what you can expect from your insurance plan for any upcoming dental work. The goal is to provide the best care possible within your budget.

Inglewood, Torrance, Hawthorne

Dental implants and how crucial replacing teeth really is…

Dental implants and how crucial replacing teeth really is…

Before we get into the importance of replacing teeth, let’s address the most common question first: what exactly is a dental implant anyway? A dental implant is a tiny, but extremely strong, titanium alloy screw which is used while surgically replacing damaged or missing natural teeth.  It is drilled into the jawbone, so that the screw can firmly connect the artificial teeth or any other dental prosthesis to the jaw.

In addition to its use in replacing broken/missing teeth, implants can also be used to provide support to loose, removable dentures. Now that you know what a dental implant is exactly, let’s take a look at why replacing lost or badly damaged teeth is important in the first place.


Superficial as it may sound to someone who has all their teeth, even a single missing tooth can put a lot of emotional stress on us. In varying degrees, we are all somewhat concerned about our appearance, and it affects our confidence as well.

To lose your perfect smile because of a missing tooth or two can cause depression and loss of confidence, which in turn may affect your work and personal life. It has been found that dental implants are often effective in boosting the patient’s morale and overall confidence. Since there is no externally visible difference between a replaced tooth and a natural one after the procedure, it does actually affect physical appearance positively.

Oral Health

As soon as a tooth is lost, the balance in your entire dental structure is disturbed. The created gap allows for the remaining teeth (especially the ones nearest to the gap) to tilt and shift as a result of even the most normal regular chewing.

This could lead to further oral problems down the line, especially if the distorted structure of the teeth interferes with the patient’s chewing abilities. It isn’t uncommon to see someone lose multiple teeth over the years as a result of this and more often than not, the bone loss occurs in the same row, side by side.

The Comfort

If you have all your teeth intact, then you probably don’t have any idea how it feels when a particularly hard piece of food comes in-between the exposed root of the missing molar and an existing one.

Let’s just say that it isn’t a very comfortable experience and once that keeps happening almost every time you try to eat, it’s not rare to see people giving up on meat and other previously loved food sources to alleviate themselves from the continuous pain and discomfort. In a way, losing your ability to properly chew food can potentially stop you from enjoying a very big part of your life.

Dental prosthetics with the proper dental implant to support it can dramatically change the life of someone

who is missing teeth. However, it is important that the procedure is carried out by a reputed institution like Progressive Dentistry. A lot depends on the skill of the dentist/dentists involved and it is a complex surgical procedure; so, it is best to not take any risks with this one. The good news is that dental implants have a success rate over 95%.

4 Things You Should Know About Your Dental Insurance

4 Things You Should Know About Your Dental InsuranceReceiving proper dental care is important — and not just for your teeth and gums. A healthy mouth is essential to a healthy body.

But dental care costs money. Even routine, preventive care can have an impact on a family budget — not to mention treatment for disease or injury. As with other healthcare costs, people often turn to dental insurance to help soften this financial impact.

But is dental insurance right for you and your family? Here are 4 things you should know if you have insurance or are thinking of getting it.

Dental insurance operates differently from other types. We often understand “insurance” as protection against unforeseen expenses. Dental insurance, though, works more like a “discount coupon” to offset dental care costs. It’s important, therefore, that you know what your plan pays for (routine care and treatment, orthodontics, cosmetic enhancement, etc.), at what percentage (50%, 80%) of the usual and customary fee. Find out what the plan refers to as the usual fee as that can be much less than 2016 costs and any annual deductible, the amount you pay before the policy pays. Also, there is always a cap as to the maximum benefit you can receive in one year.

Weigh all the costs if you’re the insurance purchaser. Employers pay the premiums on many dental plans as an employee benefit. If, however, you’re paying the premiums yourself, you need to add that cost to your other out-of-pocket costs for a true picture of what you’re actually spending on dental care. It’s possible a self-paying policy won’t save you money or could even increase what you might otherwise pay for dental care.

Your policy might limit your options. Most plans pay for the “basics”: routine cleanings and checkups, repairs and some restorations. They may or may not pay for orthodontics, certain dental materials for fillings or crowns or restorations like dental implants. Some plans could require you to see a dentist in their network, which may not include the one you prefer. It’s important to find out any limitations in your policy and factor them into your cost vs. benefits evaluation.

Ask your dentist for help managing your dental care costs. While your plan may seem to you to be written in a “foreign language,” your dentist’s staff works with it and other policies on a daily basis. They may be able to help you figure out the best approach for a procedure within your policy or help you arrange payments and financing that fit your family budget.

A New Year’s Resolution You Can Keep: Cut Out the Sugar

01/26/2017  |
A New Year’s Resolution You Can Keep: Cut Out the SugarJust days ago, countless people resolved to make positive changes in the New Year — for example, eating a better diet or improving their overall health. And while it hasn’t been long since we flipped our calendars, many of us are already struggling to keep those promises. Some resolutions can be difficult to follow through — like pledging to lose a certain number of pounds or follow a strict dietary regimen. Here’s one that’s a little easier: Stop consuming foods and drinks with ingredients that are known to cause serious problems for your health. Can you guess what ingredient is number one on this list? It’s sugar!

Like tobacco and alcohol, sugar affects many different parts of the body. In the mouth, it provides food for the harmful bacteria that cause tooth decay and gum disease — respectively, the largest causes of tooth loss in children and adults. In the bloodstream, excessive sugar is linked to metabolic diseases like diabetes and the troubling epidemic of obesity, and is suspected to play a role in many other ailments.

Over the years, Dear Doctor – Dentistry & Oral Health magazine has run numerous articles from practicing dentists and researchers pointing out the harmful effects of too much sugar in your diet. These effects are seen not only in your mouth, but in all areas of your body. In fact, medical and dental researchers are finding increasing evidence that your body should be viewed as an interconnected system, where the health of one area — oral health, for example — can have a direct impact on other areas, such as the cardiovascular system.

If you’re interested in some eye-opening reading about sugar’s danger to your health, look for the new book by best-selling science writer Gary Taubes. In The Case Against Sugar, Taubes not only sums up recent scientific research, but also traces how some food companies tried to downplay the harmful effects of excessive sugar (much like the tobacco industry did for decades regarding the health effects of smoking).

In his book, Taubes cites the work of Dr. Robert Lustig, a professor and medical researcher at the University of California, San Francisco. His influential book, Fat Chance: Beating the Odds against Sugar, Processed Food, Obesity, and Disease, was published in 2013. The following year, Dr. Lustig also authored a feature article for Dear Doctor magazine entitled The Bitter Truth About Sugar. That article points out how sugar has become an omnipresent ingredient in our foods, how it can harm our health… and what we can do about it.

As we deal with the challenges of the coming year, it’s not hard to understand why some New Year’s resolutions (like running five miles a week or eating kale every day) may go unfulfilled. So here’s a simpler one: Become aware of how much sugar is in the foods you and your family eat and drink every day — and then take steps to control your sugar intake. Like quitting smoking and giving up other harmful habits, it’s one of the best things you can do for your overall health. And if you’re looking for ways to improve your oral health, keep reading Dear Doctor magazine.

The Truth About Root Canal Treatment

The Truth About Root Canal TreatmentDoes the thought that you may need root canal treatment send shivers up your spine? Do you have the idea that it’s a painful and complicated procedure that is best avoided? If so, it’s time to think again. While an infection or inflammation in your tooth’s pulp tissue can indeed cause severe pain, you should remember that root canal treatment relieves this pain — it doesn’t cause it!

What is a root canal? It’s a series of tiny, branching, river-like chambers found deep inside the roots of your teeth, which contain the nerve, or pulp, tissue. It’s also a shorthand name for the dental procedure in which inflamed pulp tissue is removed, and the affected tooth is cleaned, disinfected and sealed. This treatment can put an end to the pain-causing inflammation and infection, and help prevent the tooth from being lost.

So, is this routine procedure exceptionally painful? The answer is no — it’s generally no more uncomfortable than having a dental filling. And just like a filling, it begins with an anesthetic to numb the area under treatment. At that point, for many people, the worst is already over. To restore the tooth’s appearance and function after a root canal procedure, it’s usually necessary for a crown or another type of restoration to be placed on it. Learn more by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “Tooth Pain? Don’t Wait!

Kris Bryant’s Choice: The Diamond or the Dental Office

Kris Bryant’s Choice: The Diamond or the Dental Office“What do you want to be when you grow up?”

That’s a question every kid gets asked at some stage of life — and the answers they give may be cute, hopeful… or possibly, surprising. Take Major League Baseball star Kris Bryant, for example. Not so long ago, the Chicago Cubs slugger and 2015 Rookie of the year was a minor-leaguer, playing for teams like the Boise Hawks and the Tennessee Smokies. Before that he played college ball, and still earlier he was a standout on the Bonanza High School team in Las Vegas, Nevada. That’s when an interviewer asked Bryant what he would do if his big-league dreams didn’t come true.

The young man looked directly at the camera and stated, “If baseball doesn’t work out for me, I want to be a dentist.”

While his answer might be startling, Bryant wouldn’t be the first to go from the diamond to the dental office. Both “Gentleman Jim” Lonborg, who played for the Milwaukee Brewers, the Phillies and the Red Sox, and Brian Banks, formerly of the Brewers and the Florida Marlins, traded their big leather gloves for the tight, sterile kind. So did pro football player and Heisman Trophy winner Billy Cannon. And Mark Spitz, swimming superstar of the 1970s, only gave up his place in dental school after his record-shattering Olympic victories.

So what’s the connection? Both professions rely on dedicated, hard-working people who have good hand-eye coordination, and are willing to spending plenty of time honing their skills. And both can certainly be fulfilling. But if you had to guess, could you name the profession that has been ranked among the top 3 in the United States for several years running? (Hint: Open wide!)

All together, in Major League Baseball today, there are about 1200 players on the extended rosters. By contrast, there are about 151,500 dentists now practicing in the United States, and perhaps one million around the world today. What’s more, the demand for dentists is expected to increase rapidly in the coming decades.

A career in dentistry offers the chance to work as part of a team that really makes an impact in people’s lives. And, like a home run hit out of the park, it’s good at bringing out smiles. That’s one reason why U.S. News and World Report ranked dentistry the #1 profession in 2013 and 2015. (It was bumped to the #2 slot in 2016 by the dental specialty of orthodontics).

So it’s really no wonder that a kid with a bright future would choose dentistry as a profession. If you know someone like that, the American Dental Association has a webpage that provides information about dental careers: http://www.ada.org/en/education-careers/careers-in-dentistry/. And be sure to read Dear Doctormagazine for the latest information on how dentists can help people with all kinds of issues. But meanwhile, don’t feel too bad for Kris Bryant — if he changes his mind about baseball… there’s still plenty of time for him to go to dental school.

A U.S. President’s “Fishing Trip” Hid His Treatment for Oral Cancer

A U.S. President’s “Fishing Trip” Hid His Treatment for Oral CancerWashington D.C. can get sizzling hot in the summer — even when it isn’t an election year. That’s as true now as it was 100 years ago, before the advent of air conditioning. So when President Grover Cleveland announced he’d be out of town for a few weeks in the summer of 1893, it was no big surprise. The President made plans to sail on a friend’s yacht to his summer home on Cape Cod, and perhaps do a little fishing on the way. What he didn’t say was that while on board ship, he would undergo a secret operation to treat his oral cancer.

Why all the secrecy? For one thing, as author Matthew Algeo explains in his book The President Is a Sick Man, the U.S. economy was in a perilous state, and Cleveland worried that news about his health would upset Wall Street even further. What’s more, the stigma surrounding a cancer diagnosis was far worse than it is today, and there were few effective treatments. In fact, not even a decade before, oral cancer had claimed the life of president Ulysses S. Grant.

Several weeks before the trip, Cleveland (who made no secret of his fondness for alcohol and fine cigars) had noticed a swelling on the roof of his mouth. When he finally had it examined, the diagnosis was oral cancer. That’s when he secretly arranged the excursion, and recruited a team of six dentists and doctors to perform the operation onboard the yacht. All swore to remain silent… and not even the Vice President was let in on the plan.

The procedure was performed in the yacht’s salon, which had been converted into an operating room, on July 1, 1873. The medical team first anesthetized President Cleveland, and then removed a part of his upper jaw, along with five teeth. The 90-minute operation was successful, and left no noticeable scarring on his face — even sparing his distinctive moustache. In the next few weeks, as the President recovered, he was fitted with a rubber prosthesis that allowed him to eat and speak normally. After his treatment, Cleveland lived another 15 years… and in all that time, no one was the wiser.

Almost no one, that is. A few months afterward, a reporter named E.J. Edwards got wind of the clandestine operation, and published a story about it. But Cleveland, who had a reputation for honesty, denied it, and the story was discredited. The truth didn’t come out until 1917, when one of the doctors set the record straight in The Saturday Evening Post. That published account marked the end of one of the best-kept secrets of the U.S. Presidents — at least, so far as we know…

Scouting for Smiles

10/16/2016  |
Scouting for SmilesSince it was founded in 1907, the worldwide Scouting movement has encouraged countless young people in their physical, mental and spiritual development. Established about 100 years later, America’s ToothFairy: National Children’s Oral Health Foundation seeks to keep children from experiencing the problems of preventable dental disease. Recently, these two youth-oriented organizations teamed up to get kids involved in the fight for improved oral health.

Now, Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts can earn colorful patches for learning about oral health, sharing their knowledge with fellow scouts, and reaching out to educate their communities. It’s a great way to build leadership skills while performing a valuable public service — and it’s one more way to help fight tooth decay and gum disease.