George Washington’s Weakness: His Teeth

 

April 28, 2014

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When George Washington opened his mouth 225 years ago this Wednesday at New York’s Federal Hall to take the oath of office as the first president of the United States, he wore awkward-fitting, painful, face-disfiguring dentures. For years, he had suffered from dental problems; that morning he had swollen, burning gums and only a single original tooth in his mouth. He wore this particular set of dentures during the last nine years of his life. They clacked and creaked open and shut on tight wire springs.

Folklore notwithstanding, Washington’s false teeth were not wooden. He obtained them from horses, donkeys, cows-and human beings. (According to his account books, in 1784, emulating some of his affluent friends, he bought nine teeth from unidentified “Negroes” – perhaps enslaved African-Americans at his beloved Mount Vernon; the price was 122 shillings,)

Washington strove, in life, to resemble a monument. This was important to his self esteem and, he believed, to the dignity and credibility of his fledgling nation, to him, the dentures were a mortifying sign of weakness. (For years, Washington’s dentures were kept out of public view to avoid marring his image: they are now a popular attraction at Mount Vernon’s excellent Museum.)

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He once pleaded with his dentist, John Greenwood, by letter, to avoid any change to the denture “which will, in the least degree force the lips out more than now do, as it does this too much already.” Members of his cabinet sadly noted how rarely the tight-lipped president smiled or laughed. Others insisted that his embarrassment about his dentures, which sometimes caused him to hiss as he he spoke, made him reclusive.

The French Mathematician and philosopher Pascal once said that had Cleopatra’s nose been shorter, “the whole face of the world would have been changed. “Had Washington kept his original mouthful of gleaming white teeth, the commanding president might have been even more effective in using the force of his personality on Hamilton, Jefferson, and other combative Americans he dealt with in the 1790s. These dentures also underscore the axiom that anyone nostalgically longing to reside in some earlier century should ponder what daily human life was like before modern dentistry.

 

Michael Beschloss

@BeschlossDC

 

 

 

Have You Looked at Your Tongue Lately?

Originally posted on Change Your Choices:

I had a routine cleaning at the dentist yesterday and it seems each time I go they add something to just the usual scraping and flossing.  They not only check pulse and blood pressure, they now do a screening for oral cancer.  As the dentist was pulling on my tongue  and taking a look around my mouth, I thought about oral/mouth cancer and wondered if it is really a big deal because I never hear about it.  Breast, testicular, and lung cancers  seem to get the most attention but they really aren’t the most common nor the most deadly of cancers, they just have organizations that are really good at getting the word out. Famous people who have had oral cancer: Jack Klugman, George Harrison, Eddie Van Halen, Rod Stewart, Roger Ebert, Babe Ruth.

In doing some research, it turns out that close to 37,000 Americans are diagnosed  with oral or

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Little kids and Toothbrushing

 

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Little kids are really interesting. As dental patients they are a real challenge. Some of you may be aware that I have a few grandkids. One I’ll refer to as little “Miss M.” She is a petite little two year old who has a personality that fills a room. She definitely knows what she wants and what she does not want. To watch her parents brush her teeth it is clear that that activity falls into the column of things she doesn’t want. She puts up a fuss and is exasperating. It is easy to want to give up and not force her to co-operate. After a jaunt to the pediatric dentist and some help from a dental anesthesiologist I have been rather insistent that bedtime brushing was not something to compromise. It was just a week before Miss M and her family moved to Los Angeles that I found decay in her mouth. We recently visited the LA branch of the family and I was curious her she was doing. Her Mom is doing the brushing duties because she doesn’t fuss AS MUCH for her as she does for her dad. We were only there a few evenings and the first one I saw Miss M putting up a fuss while her mom brushed her teeth. The second night I tried my hand at the job. The ordeal was as smooth as silk. No fussing. She was not even a problem when I turned on the children’s Sonicare. Kids often do not like the ultrasonic vibrations. For me Miss M was perfect. No fussing at all. I, of course thought it was very funny and smugly loved the bragging rights.

The real take away. The fussing is a learned behavior. I don’t think my son or daughter-in-law are rougher than me but somewhere in Little M’s life she didn’t like the process or maybe got hurt and crying continues to accompany the activity. I was lucky do brush her teeth a little differently or have the Grandpa magic or something. Those dear little ones don’t communicate very well. I’m glad it went well when my creds were one the line.

Infants first dental exam should occur around 1 1/2 to 2 years of age. Even though they may not be very co-operative. We take baby steps. I was surprised to find decay in Little M’s mouth. I’m glad we caught it when we did. Dental heath is so important.

You’ve Lost That Numbing Feeling…Thanks To OraVerse.

OraVerse (1) For years in dentistry I have heard comments about how patients wish they were not numb for such a long time after having dental procedures done. We now have a reversal agent that reduces the length of time time that patients stay numb. It is given by injection in the same way that local anesthetic is done. The costs are typically $20-40 per appointment and it is not covered by dental benefits, however it IS  covered by our office’s “Illumasure” program.

Ask us about it.

 

Obamacare Part 2

Over the past few months we have noticed a difference in the way insurance companies respond to our attempts to deal with our patients problems. I believe this to be an unintended consequence of Obamacare. Insurance companies used to be much more helpful. We used to be able to call and have them tell us, for example, what their coverage is for various plans. Now we are often find that they will not talk to us and referred to their website. When there are more complicated situations to iron out, we have been told that all the information is on the website when it is not. They change their processing policies and don’t bother to inform us so it is difficult for us to give information to you, our patients. I am not pleased with these changes.

Dental Insurance and the End of the Year

There is presently a lot of insecurity about what the state of our health insurance (including dental benefits). We do know that many people let their dental benefits go unused every year. At the first of January most plans start a new year with the benefits reset. We are currently booking appointments into December. Please give us a call and use those benefits for your oral health.

If you do not have dental insurance look at our Illumisure program on our website. With that there is no maximum that applies to your oral health.

Introducing Illumisure!

We are very excited to introduce Illumisure. It is a dental club that is an alternative to dental insurance. We have searched many years for something like this to help patients be able to obtain dental care when they do not have access to a dental insurance group plan. Here it is!!

Patients can easily sign up online or we can help you at the office. There is a activation fee of $50.00. After that a monthly payment (amount is determined by how healthy your gums are). That payment covers your regular cleanings, exams, and radiographs. There is also a 15% discount on any other services beyond that.

There is no middleman to interfere between your doctor/ patient relationship, no need for pre-determination, no annual maximums, no downgrading fees to an amalgam fee when we are doing composite, and no exclusions for cosmetic or elective care, and no deductible.

If you are interested, please go to my office website “imakeyoursmile.com” and click on the Illumisure button, You are also welcome to give us a call or drop by the office. With the turmoil that Obamacare has caused in our medical insurance industry there may be people losing their dental insurance in the future.