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The History and Mythology of the Tooth Fairy

May 23rd, 2017

While the last baby teeth generally aren’t lost until age ten or 11, most children stop believing in the tooth fairy by the time they're seven or eight. Of course, children are more than happy to play along with the game when there’s money at stake! While it is impossible to know what the tooth fairy does with all those teeth (are they labeled and stored like museum pieces in a giant fairytale castle?), it is possible to trace the history and myth of the tooth fairy to several cultures and traditions. Dr. Douglas Wirth and Dr. Derek Wirth and our team learned about some interesting myths about the tooth fairy!

The Middle Ages

Legend has it that Europeans in the Middle Ages believed a witch could curse someone by using their teeth, so it was important to dispose of baby teeth correctly. Teeth were swallowed, buried, or burned. Sometimes baby teeth were even left for rodents to eat. Despite being pests, rodents were valued for their strong teeth; it was generally believed a tooth fed to a rodent would lead to the development of a healthy and strong adult tooth.

Eighteenth Century France

The tooth fairy myth began to show more characteristics of a conventional fairytale in 18th century France. La Bonne Petite Souris, a bedtime story, tells the strange tale of a fairy that changes into a mouse to help a good queen defeat an evil king. The mouse secretly hides under the evil king’s pillow and defeats him by knocking out his teeth.

Scandinavian Lore

So, why does the tooth fairy leave money under the pillow? The idea of exchanging a tooth for coins originated in Scandinavia. Vikings paid children for a lost tooth. Teeth were worn on necklaces as good luck charms in battle. While the idea of exchanging a tooth for coins quickly spread throughout the rest of Europe, a fierce, horn-helmeted Viking is far cry from the image of a fairy collecting teeth.

While the tooth fairy as children know her today didn’t make an appearance until the 1900s, tooth myths and rites of passage have existed in numerous cultures since the dawn of time.

What is gingivitis, and how can I treat it?

May 16th, 2017

Gingivitis is an early stage of gum disease that results when bacteria in your mouth cause inflammation in your gums. This is a common condition, and you can treat it effectively if you are aggressive. Otherwise, it could develop into more advanced gum disease, or periodontitis, and you could lose one or more teeth.

Watch for symptoms of gingivitis so you can ask Dr. Douglas Wirth and Dr. Derek Wirth for help as soon as you need it. Strategies for treating gingivitis include thoroughly cleaning your teeth and assessing the scope of your gingivitis and how serious the problem is.

Gingivitis: Early Gum Disease

Your mouth contains many bacteria that form plaque, which is a sticky substance. You can get rid of plaque by brushing well, but if you don’t, it can build up on your teeth and form tartar. Bacteria can make your gums inflamed and cause pain and bleeding, or gingivitis. Other symptoms include loose teeth, bad breath, receding gums, and sensitive teeth. You’re at higher risk for gingivitis if you’re a smoker, if you have a weakened immune system, or if you have diabetes.

Assessment and Diagnosis

If you think you recognize the symptoms of gingivitis, contact our Oak Harbor, WA office to make an appointment. We will ask you about your risk factors for gingivitis and examine your teeth and mouth for signs of red and swollen gums. We may also measure the pockets around your teeth. If they are larger than usual, your gingivitis may be more advanced. Finally, will take some X-rays to get a picture of the bone structure of your jaw.

Deep Cleaning

You can’t get rid of the tartar on your teeth just by brushing at home. Instead, you need a deep cleaning consisting of scaling and root planing. Scaling involves scraping the plaque off of your teeth, both below and above the line of your gum. In root planing, the rough surfaces of your teeth where tartar is more likely to build up are smoothed. A laser may be used to make the procedure more effective, more accurate, and more comfortable.

What's the connection between gum disease and diabetes?

May 9th, 2017

People who have diabetes are usually familiar with many of the other health risks they face, including damage to the nerves, eyes, heart, and kidneys. But did you know that if you have diabetes you also have a much greater chance of developing gum disease? It's true, and like other diseases related to diabetes, the risk potential severity of gum disease is directly related to how well blood sugar is controlled.

The Causes

In diabetics, there are two primary mechanisms that increase the risk of developing gum disease, also called periodontal disease:

  • Bacterial growth: Bacteria love sugar including the glucose found in blood and bodily fluids. Elevated levels of sugar in saliva can provide a very hospitable environment for bacterial growth. The risk may be elevated if your gums bleed.
  • Circulatory changes: In diabetes, the blood vessels become thick, making it more difficult for blood to carry oxygen to the gums and to carry away harmful waste products. This decrease in circulation can weaken the mouth's natural resistance to decay. If you smoke, circulation can become even more compromised, significantly increasing your risk of periodontal disease.

Preventing Gum Disease

If you're diabetic, the number-one key to preventing gum disease is to make sure you do all you can to keep your blood sugar under control. In fact, studies show diabetics who have excellent control of their blood sugar levels have no more risk for gum disease than those who don't have diabetes. Here are some other tips to keep your gums healthy:

  • Floss your teeth gently, curving the floss so it can gently reach just below your gum line to remove plaque and food particles. Rinse your mouth when you're done flossing.
  • Use a soft-bristle brush to brush teeth twice daily, using small circular motions. Avoid pressing too hard on tooth surfaces.
  • Brush your tongue gently to remove germs that can hide there.
  • Use an anti-bacterial mouthwash to kill germs that are hard to reach.
  • Keep track of how well your blood sugar is controlled and let Dr. Douglas Wirth and Dr. Derek Wirth know at each visit.
  • Be aware that having diabetes may mean it takes you longer to heal after undergoing oral surgery.

Most importantly, be sure to visit our Oak Harbor, WA office for regular checkups and tell Dr. Douglas Wirth and Dr. Derek Wirth about your diabetes so you can be sure to get the care you need. Follow these steps, and you can enjoy healthy teeth and gums for years to come.

Is soda really bad for your teeth?

May 2nd, 2017

You take a sip of soda – and someone remarks, “That’s going to ruin your teeth!”

Is that true? Is sweet soda the enemy of a healthy smile? The answer, unfortunately, is that one glass might not hurt your teeth, but drinking soda regularly can do some real damage.

Sodas are one of America’s favorite drinks. The American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry says about half of us drink soda regularly, averaging 2.6 glasses each day.

That’s a lot of soda considering the drinks are acidic, full of sugar, and have little or no nutritional value. It may surprise you to learn that it’s actually the acidity of cola, not the sugar, which poses the biggest threat to teeth. Over time, repeated exposure to soda wears down tooth enamel, leaving teeth stained and less able to prevent cavities.

As enamel wears away, teeth can become discolored, take on a rough texture, and become highly sensitive to hot or cold. Your teeth may start to tingle, and brushing or flossing can cause pain. If not checked by dental care, teeth may start to erode, becoming thinner and more likely to crack. It’s a pretty high price to pay for a glass of soda.

Of course, sodas are not the only culprits in tooth erosion. Coffee, wine, and some fruit juices are also acidic, though these drinks tend to have less acidity that a typical soda.

So what can you do to protect your teeth?

1. Cut back – way back – on acidic drinks.

2. Add more water to your daily diet in place of sodas.

3. Use a straw when you drink.

4. Don’t confuse diet soda with a healthy alternative. Diet drinks are just as acidic as regular sodas.

5. Rinse your mouth with water after drinking soda. The rinse may remove some acid from your teeth, although abstaining from the soda would do more good.

6. Hold off on brushing your teeth after drinking soda. Brushing too hard can weaken enamel that is already covered in acid.

7. Pay attention to your teeth, both how they look and how they feel. Let Dr. Douglas Wirth and Dr. Derek Wirth know if you see signs of discoloration or erosion, or feel tingling. Make an appointment at our Oak Harbor, WA office if you feel tooth or gum pain when eating or drinking.

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