An Ounce Of Prevention...Costs Less Than A Pound Of Cure!

Despite the passage of the American Health Care Act ("Trumpcare") – with its promise of comprehensive healthcare coverage and reform – does this REALLY mean we're on the brink of a healthful revolution in the United States?

A recent study conducted shows, despite having healthcare coverage either provided through employers or privately contracted, a startling percentage of Americans still suffer from lack of basic medical care! In a survey released by the Kaiser Family Foundation, approximately one third of Americans had problems affording recommended healthcare from their physicians – and one in five had current medical debt in excess of $1000. 

Whether an inability to afford prescriptions, opting-out of rehabilitative physical therapies or foregoing preventative – or more importantly, chronic-condition-mandated doctor office visits, Americans find themselves having to choose between their health and basics like food and shelter. This adds up to 75 MILLION adults who struggle to pay their medical bills and almost half this number, 32 million, have reported taking a hit on their credit scores due to unpaid medical bills.

In fact, this issue has found a voice among popular culture with a network TV show addressing the subject this week! The show "New Amsterdam" – set in a fictional New York City hospital based on the memoirs of a doctor who worked at Bellevue for over a decade – highlighted the cost savings of preventative and primary care in this week's episode. A patient, who could have been helped with a relatively-minor injury, ended up in the public hospital ER with an advanced infection which required dual surgical procedures, IV antibiotics and post-discharge care...costing THOUSANDS of dollars more than the initial wound care would have been!

So, we can only hope increased access to healthcare coverage can bring us to a "healthier" place in our country. And a key component of the AHCA, "expanded services," represents one of the most significant leaps forward we can take, understanding the importance of that proverbial "ounce of prevention" preached for centuries! 

You knew we'd finally get here...the Dentist's office! In a world where the “prevention road” leads us to better health, a trip to your neighborhood Dentist, like Best Choice Dental, can take you a LOT further than you might imagine. 

As you have heard us say repeatedly, your mouth is the gateway to your body. See, all those little "biotics" in your mouth (that we'll discuss in another column), can – and DO – travel to the rest of your body. However, without ever going beyond your neck, your Dentist can read indicators of up to 120 DIFFERENT MEDICAL CONDITIONS, just by performing a complete oral examination! 

Those little "pockets," which form between a tooth and your gum, provide those bacteria DIRECT access to your bloodstream…and now, the rest of your body. But, what we didn't talk about was how those gaps get there in the first place. These periodontal (Dental-speak for anything related to your gums) pockets are indicators of gum disease – and surprisingly enough, ONE IN TWO Americans suffers from some degree of periodontal disease! 

Now, this is where it gets REALLY interesting! Gum disease and its resulting inflammation have been linked to cardiovascular disease, diabetes, pancreatic cancer, pre-term births, heart disease, arterial blockage, strokes...and this is just our "Lucky 7 List." 

And your gums don't tell the whole story, either. Your tongue carries all sorts of indicators, your Dental professional has been trained to read. Those bumpy taste buds can provide the perfect nesting place for microscopic bacteria and if you forget to brush your tongue when you perform your twice-daily routine, then you're giving those germs a free pass! But, just by looking at your tongue, your Dentist will be able to see all sorts of problems – including why your partner continues to complain about your sleep-jarring snoring. 

Additionally, Texas Dentists must screen for oral pathologies, which can detect the early stages of cancer. And, your Dentist works as a true healthcare partner with your primary care physician or any specialists you may visit. Together, they can go a long way to ensuring your overall health.Which brings us back around to where we began...access to adequate healthcare. 

Currently, about 31 MILLION Americans don't have Dental healthcare. Many experts call this "the unspoken epidemic" and something we hope the American Health Care Act addresses. But weighing the investment of a comprehensive oral exam versus the possible costs of allowing a serious medical condition to go undetected, that ounce of prevention certainly costs a LOT less than the eventual "pound of cure!" 

In ALL Their "Crowning" Glory!

This week began with a royal flush of “birthday” frenzy, as the longest-reigning monarch of the British Empire celebrated her 93rd birthday...and, in June all of the British Empire will "officially" honor Her Royal Highness! But, that's not the ONLY royal birthday this week, as young Prince Louis (third child of future King and Queen, William and Catherine) turns one year old this Tuesday. And, of course, the entire Empire is definitely "chuffed" over the impending birth of Her Majesty's newest great-grandchild, Baby Sussex, expected VERY soon. But, this week ALSO marked some other “royal” landmarks! 

This week, 63 years ago, "The King" of Rock & Roll, Elvis Aron Presley took a major first step toward his eventual "throne" as – 12 weeks after its original release – "Heartbreak Hotel" became Presley's first number-one pop hit single. While Presley and rock-and-roll were still "iffy" territory for the major music labels, his self-titled debut album released earlier this month (which included "Heartbreak Hotel") proved this "new music" could mean BIG bucks! It became the FIRST rock and roll album to top the "Billboard chart" – a position it held for 10 weeks – and the first RCA Victor pop album to earn more than $1,000,000 and just in 1956 it sold over ONE MILLION copies, not to mention that the "Heartbreak Hotel" single went on to become his best-selling recording EVER…with 10 MILLION copies worldwide and the gold records to go with it! 

So, today as we salute these royals, let's take a look at all the glitz and glam that accompany these VERY different cultural icons – including a detour into some 24-karat "golden" and lofty realms.What might Elvis and these royals have in common? Well, persistence immediately comes to mind! While told he had absolutely NO musical aptitude and "couldn't sing," Elvis' innate ambition carried him to the top of the “Billboard” charts…where he still holds the record for the most Number 1 hits. But our royals have also consistently shown determination throughout their lives – leading to some REAL royal payoffs! 

Gold records aside, Elvis still did his level-best to keep up with his British counterparts. Obviously, our Queen and the Princes have literal access to the REAL "Crown Jewels," festooned with gold and gems. But, The King also enjoyed a 24-karat lifestyle and his love of "bling" was well-documented! 

Today, his famous "Gold Cadillac" sits on display in the Country Music Hall of Fame in Nashville, where tourists can view his over-the-top opulence – much like visitors to England can view royal treasures. Our "King" would settle for nothing less than the FULL "royal treatment" with 24-karat gold plated detailing on his prized Cadillac limousine, complete with a real gold television, wet bar, telephone and personalized name plate – all in a 1960 Series 75 Fleetwood!

The luxurious customization continued on the exterior where no less than 40 COATS of a specially-developed paint gave it a golden luster. The finish consisted of actual ground diamonds and fish scales and became dubbed Diamond Dust Pearl…leading us down a rather unique path! 

Since this IS a Dental column, you can't expect us to completely ignore teeth...frequently referred to as our “Pearly Whites!” But, the "bling" comparisons don't stop here. As we all know, gold has been used for years in Dental procedures – long before the advent of gold grilles. We might remember our grandparents' gold fillings, but the use of gold by Dentists dates back to the Etruscans in 166 A.D. when this advanced civilization employed gold "crowns" and fixed bridgework! 

It's easy to see where the term "crown" first originated, since these Dental appliances sit atop the tooth…just as a royal crown sits atop a ruler’s head. Even today, gold is considered THE "Gold Standard" in Dentistry, with gold crowns and fillings providing the very best in durability and fit...and are even called "high noble!"

The lofty comparison continues, with an even more unique connection. Around the turn of the 20th Century a relatively unknown Dentist, practicing in Detroit, invented a unique Dental appliance we continue to use today – with very few changes! Circa 1901, Dr. George H. Land created the very first porcelain crown jacket, enabling modern Dentists to completely cover the tooth with an aesthetically-pleasing protective crown. Later scientific advances would allow this innovation to gain widespread use.

And while his revolutionary invention failed to earn Dr. Land widespread recognition within his profession, his legacy did not end here. As a devoted family man, he remained close to his only daughter and completely doted on the grandson she bore him. Young Charlie, named for his grandfather, became the apple of his grandfather's eye. Crafting handmade toys in his kiln and lavishing him with attention, Dr. Land fervently hoped his namesake would follow in his footsteps as a Dentist. 

While he did inherit his grandfather's extraordinary mechanical aptitude, young Charles chose to pursue a different path, first as an engineering student at the University of Wisconsin, then dropping out after his second year to follow his REAL passion. He began as a daredevil barnstorming pilot, then entering the United States Army to train as a pilot (right HERE in San Antonio), little Charlie had found his true calling.

Unfortunately, his grandfather never lived to see where this adventure led his grandson. Piloting a little plane, called the Spirit of St. Louis, Charles A. Lindbergh flew nonstop across the Atlantic from America to Europe…and into the history books!

And, here we are, right back where we began "across the pond"...with the Queen of England, Prince Louis, Prince Harry's forthcoming heir, and the “King” of Rock & Roll! So, we at Best Choice Dental celebrate our high-flying royalty…in ALL of their crowning glory. Thanks to modern innovations, you don’t need to be a “royal” to wear your OWN golden – or porcelain – crown! 

Springtime Is For...TRANSPLANTING?!?

As the glorious Texas bluebonnets dot our highways and byways, it can only signal ONE thing – SPRINGTIME! And, along with the blossoms (and the allergies they bring), April also heralds the beginning of baseball season, Fiesta and Spurs playoffs. However, in addition to everything else, you may not realize April is National Donate Life Month...which leads us to the idea of transplanting!

Yes, we DO transplant seedlings and other botanicals, hoping they will take root and grow – just like our goals with any medical transplant. Then, a #ChoiceCusbits trivia tidbit, posted on our Facebook Page last week, got us thinking about the whole idea of transplants....which led to quite a bit of surprising research into the subject. It was a REAL eye-opener!

Usually when we think about medical transplants, the "biggies" immediately come to mind: heart, kidneys, maybe a liver. Yet, this doesn't even scratch the surface! And, another common misconception holds that "transplants" are a relatively new medical innovation. WRONG! Check this out...

Anecdotal evidence goes all the way back to Roman Catholic accounts of Third-Century saints Damian and Cosmas replacing the gangrenous or cancerous leg of Roman deacon Justinian, with the leg of a recently-deceased Ethiopian. However, more likely early accounts deal with skin transplantation, with the first reasonable documentation occuring in the Second Century BC, as Indian surgeon Sushruta used autografted skin transplanted for a nose reconstruction. Not surprisingly, the success or failure of these procedures is not well-documented. 

Not to be deterred by a lack of success, experimentation continued. Centuries later, in the 1500s, Italian surgeon Gasparo Tagliacozzi performed successful skin autografts. And "autografts" definitely proved the source of ANY early successes; autografts come from the patients, themselves, whereas transplants performed between two patients of the same species are called allografts. Obviously, the rejection issue plagued those early allograft transplants from non-matching donors.

But, Is It A "Match"?

The advent of type-matching, along with advances in anti-rejection medications, allowed transplantation to take a GIANT leap forward. In fact, today we have successfully transplanted most major organs, including the heart, kidneys, liver, lungs, pancreas, intestine and thymus. And this doesn't even include tissue transplants. "Tissues" include bones, tendons (both referred to as musculoskeletal grafts), corneae, skin, heart valves, nerves and veins. 

Worldwide, kidneys are the most commonly transplanted organs, followed by the liver and then the heart. However, corneae and musculoskeletal grafts are the most commonly transplanted tissues –  outnumbering organ transplants by more than tenfold. And unlike most organ transplants, which must occur within 24 hours of the last heartbeat, harvested tissue (with the exception of corneae) can be preserved and stored for up to FIVE YEARS!

With all these obstacles, you might imagine no further major transplant breakthroughs occurred until the 20th Century...and you would be off by a couple of decades! Those centuries of work finally culminated with the first successful human organ transplant – in the "modern" sense (implanting organ tissue to replace an existing organ) – a thyroid transplant performed by Swiss surgeon (and later, Nobel laureate) Theodor Kocher in 1883! The next leap forward did not come for almost 20 years, in 1905 when Eduard Zirm successfully completed the first human corneal transplant at the Olomouc Eye Clinic, in the now-Czech Republic.

But that initial thyroid transplant soon became the model for a whole new therapeutic strategy: organ transplantation. By 1900, the idea of successfully treating internal diseases by replacing a failed organ through transplantation, actually gained general acceptance among the medical community. And that thyroid gland became the model for transplants of adrenal and parathyroid glands, the pancreas, ovaries, testicles and kidneys. Additional strides were made in surgical techniques in the early 1900s by French surgeon Alexis Carrel, along with Charles Guthrie, who transplanted arteries or veins.

And while Carrel continued to experiment – successfully moving kidneys, hearts, and spleens – that's when he also became one of the first to identify the rejection issue, which remained a major stumbling block for decades. Without a track record of substantial improvement and success, organ transplantation was largely abandoned after World War I. However, major steps in skin transplantation DID occur during that war, notably in the work of Harold Gillies. And Gillies' assistant, Archibald McIndoe, carried on their work well into the World War II in the form of – if you'll  pardon the pun – cutting-edge reconstructive surgery. 

Exploring New Frontiers

See, successful human transplants have a relatively long history of the required operative skills LONG before the necessities for post-operative survival were discovered. Rejection and its side effects were always the key problem. However, with the discovery of various tissue matching strategies and different immunity-suppressant agents in the late 1940s and early 1950s, transplantation grew by leaps and bounds!

Now, at this point we could explore an entirely different side of the transplant concept...TEETH. But, this is such a bizarre and fascintating history we've decided to explore that topic in an entirely separate post! In the meanwhile, let's circle back to where we started: that #ChoiceCusbit...

"Did you know, your TEETH contain STEM CELLS?!? That’s right...according to SingularityHub, some Dentists are using Dental stem cells to actually REGROW TEETH – allowing us to biologically REPLACE ADULT TEETH for the first time in HISTORY!"

And we're not just talking teeth, here. Not only are genetic specialists growing "designer" organs specifically matched to that one patient, but stem cells are proving a remarkable resource for additional medical uses. Add in the space-age techniques for using 3D printers to take biological material to PRINT ACTUAL ORGANS and we know we're living in wondrous times! However, until we start printing or growing new teeth for you, we want to remind you that an ounce of prevention is ALWAYS worth of a pound of transplanted cure!

There's Nothing "Rough" About THESE "Diamonds!"

As we bid farewell to March, with its blustery winds, spring training and beautiful hills of Texas bluebonnets, we also want to pay tribute to the fact March celebrates Women’s History Month. So, before this month ends, let’s take a look at some possibly-overlooked women who have shaped our world and tip our ball caps to their accomplishments! 

You’ll notice we mentioned spring training and the reference to ball caps, which leads us to a name that may be unfamiliar to anyone who’s not a big-time, big-league baseball fan: Edith Houghton. 

This woman, who reached the 100-year-old landmark in 2012, sadly left us in early 2013...just shy of her 101st birthday. But, in her 100 years, Edith certainly made her mark on the world of baseball! As a 10-year-old girl, Edith Houghton’s talents on the baseball diamond had already been discovered and her star began to rise as a PROFESSIONAL PLAYER on the Philadelphia Bobbies all-girls team. Mind you, this was in 1922…WELL before the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League featured in the movie “A League Of Their Own.”  As starting shortstop for her team, she traveled extensively – even playing against men’s college teams and touring in Japan, earning the team the then-hefty price of $800 per game in that country! Today, the uniform she wore in those Japanese games resides in Coopertown, in the Baseball Hall of Fame. 

She went on to play for other pre-War women’s professional teams, including the New York Bloomer Girls and the Hollywood Girls, who demonstrated their baseball prowess against local men’s teams across the country. Interestingly enough, at the time the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League was formed during World War II, Edith did not play for the organization, choosing instead to enlist in the U.S. Navy WAVES! 

However, her talents did see some action while in the Navy, as she played for the WAVES baseball teams. While the history of the AAGPBL now has entered the public consciousness – thanks to their exhibit in Cooperstown and the Geena Davis/Tom Hanks movie – very little seems to be known today about the WAVES' baseball legacy. 

So far, we have to admit Edith Houghton’s accomplishments definitely deserve notice…however, this is where her story REALLY gets interesting! Upon returning from the war, at the age of 35 she yearned to make her career in the sport she so dearly loved. Yet, we all know that prospects for women in baseball began to dim after the war, when the returning veterans once again took their place on the fields. 

Undaunted, Edith approached Bob Carpenter, then-owner of the Philadelphia Phillies, about becoming a professional scout for the team. While this may have been unconventional for the era, the information about players and teams she had carefully compiled during her travels left no doubt she had the right stuff!

For the record books, at this moment Edith Houghton became the first woman professional scout for Major League Baseball and earned a permanent place in baseball history.  She successfully continued in this role from 1946 until 1952, taking only one break to once-again serve in the military during the Korean War.

We know…what on earth does this have to do with Dentistry?! Be patient – it’s coming! Thanks to pioneering women like Edith Houghton – and some trailblazers in the Dental profession – today, women can follow their dreams wherever they may lead. At Best Choice Dental, we proudly have women in our Dental practice, offering gentle, compassionate oral hygiene and personalized care to our patients…INCLUDING any little girls who may one day grow up to be Dentists, too! Visit us again for our next post, for a glimpse into the role women have played in Dental history and some of the paths they have opened for female Dentists – past, present and FUTURE! 

Pi R Square?!?

In observance of Pi Day (3/14...get it), it brought to mind the old joke: Pi R Squared – No, Pie R Round! However, this led to some mental meanderings – not of apple, pumpkin, cherry, lemon icebox or French silk chocolate, but of our enigmatic numerical friend: Pi. 

Every student at some point learned that calculating the circumference of a luscious pecan pie required the use of the mathematical constant "Pi." And, while the quantity of that yummy Mississippi Mud Pie is definitely finite…as of this writing, the other kind of Pi appears to be infinite. Mathematicians have calculated out to a million places and the Pi goes on! 

Obviously, Pi has little to do with Dentistry – other than the extraordinary amount of math required to successfully complete a Dental degree! Which leads us to our topic du jour: Dentistry by the numbers. So, let’s take a look at some fun Dental statistics: 

  • A complete set of children’s “baby teeth” includes 20 – which don’t even have numbers but are designated by letters: A-T; 
  • Adults, if they get a full set of Wisdom Teeth or third molars, have 32 teeth which do carry numbers, starting at the upper right back molar (#1) and end at  the lower right back molar (#32); 
  • Someone with too much time on their hands calculated in 1996, Americans purchased almost 3 MILLION MILES of Dental floss; 
  • When you sneeze, the air rushing out of your mouth can reach a speed of over 600 MILES PER HOUR
  • One in every 2000 babies is born with one or more teeth which have already emerged; 
  • On average, an adult laughs about 15 TIMES A DAY and a child laughs ABOUT 400;
  • When you chew, your jaw muscles can exert up to 200 POUNDS of force (PSI) to bring your molars together for chewing; 
  • Imagine ALL the teeth, of all the creatures that dwell on land, then contemplate the fact there are over 100 FISH TEETH in the ocean for every single tooth on land!
  • And...speaking of water, the average human, in their lifetime, will produce 25,000 QUARTS of saliva – enough to fill 2 swimming pools! 

  • The Dental plaque that builds up on your teeth, contains anywhere between 300 & 600 DIFFERENT types of bacteria, which adds up to BILLIONS of germs living in your mouth;
  • Fingers crossed, the average person will use 154 TOOTHBRUSHES and 292 TUBES OF TOOTHPASTE in their lifetime;
  • ...Which actually brings us to another number actually Pi-related: it would take more than 255 MILLION TOOTHBRUSHES to circle the globe just ONE time;
  • You use 15 DIFFERENT MUSCLES in your face to laugh; 
  • The average American buys 1.5 TOOTHBRUSHES a year...but, we give our patients theirs for FREE;
  • The lifespan of a taste bud is only 10 DAYS;
  • The residents of more than 22 countries, each take in over 120 pounds of sugar, per person, each year – including the United States – which leads us to this interesting “Dentistry by the Numbers” tidbit of information… 
  • Depending upon sugar intake – not necessarily economics or level of development – some countries, such as China, have entire communities that are completely cavity-free, while the country with THE HIGHEST CAVITY RATE IN THE WORLD is right the United States of America! 

And here we’ve arrived back where we started – Peanut Butter Pie and the effects of a “moment on the lips” lasts A LOT longer in your mouth than on your hips! So, we’re going to give you just ONE more NUMBER to think about teeth – the phone number of Best Choice Dental, where our caring Family Dentists are just waiting to see patients, from 6 months to 106 years old, and give you the 4-1-1 on YOUR teeth! 

Fighting "Tooth & Nail"...LITERALLY!

Have you ever wondered about the origin of a particular phrase? You know, those ones we use without giving it a second thought: "Top dog"... "Use it or lose it"... "Give that man a cigar" (one we will explore in another post!)... "Fighting tooth and nail." Well, an "interesting" event occurred this week, which started us thinking about the role Dentistry has played on the battlefield in modern history!

The image this statue recreates has been counted among the MOST iconic photos of the 20th Century – a sailor in Times Square spontaneously celebrating VJ Day. This 1945 Alfred Eisenstaedt image has been solidly imprinted on the brains of multiple generations! Yet, just a few days ago, we saw a sad end to an era, when this sailor – George Mendonsa – died on Sunday, February 17, just two days short of his 96th birthday. 

No one, other than Mendonsa's family and friends, probably would have taken note of his passing, had he not happened to be at the right place, at the precise right moment, to be captured by a legendary photojournalist. However, there is ANOTHER interesting fact about this picture many people still don't realize!

When asked to describe this photo, most people say something about VJ Day, Times Square, the sailor... or the "nurse." Guess what, she wasn't a nurse... Greta Zimmer Friedman had actually been a DENTAL ASSISTANT! Her uniform simply led both Mendonsa – and the majority of people worldwide – to assume she was a nurse in the war. Not only did she represent the 340,000+ women who served in the war as pilots, nurses and in a surprising spectrum of positions, her profession as a Dental Assistant tangibly demonstrated another breakthrough during World War II. 

We can trace wars and battlefield tales as far back as any recorded history. And, many of our modern idioms owe their origin to those battles, such as the particularly-appropriate phrase "fighting tooth and nail." Observing the "weaponless" status of wild animals – who only have their teeth and nails to use in a fight – this phrase can be traced to several literary references of the 1500s. Yet, one of these key "weapons" had largely been ignored or undervalued on the battlefield until modern times... Dentistry!

In a rather comprehensive and surprising history of Dentistry's evolving role in the battlefield (, one first-hand account – augmented by extensive research – clearly details the evolving role of Dentists within the armed forces: 

"Following the Dentists Act of 1878 and the formation of the British Dental Association, some pressure was put upon the medical establishments of the Army and the Navy to improve the dental care of their men, but it was many years before the need was recognised. Dental disease was not then considered a problem by commanders. Little was done until dental disease was seen to have distinct military significance... Subsequently, in 1920, the Royal Navy Dental Branch was formed and in 1921 The Army Dental Corps. Dental treatment for the RAF was provided by the Army Dental Corps until the RAF Dental Branch was formed in 1930.

"At the start of the Second World War, additional dental officers were recruited in considerable numbers. Most were established on the larger bases or ships but all three services used mobile units in caravans to look after their smaller and more remote formations... In most cases the mobile units were supplied with field kits carried in panniers and they operated under canvas. Later, the RAF was fortunate to be equipped with prime mover mobile units: large Fordson trucks that operated in North Africa and Europe. 

"(They) landed in Normandy with their mobile unit and for four months they followed the advance until they reached Brussels. The invasion force was equipped with one mobile dental unit for each armoured division, two for each infantry division and three for each corps. Working and living under canvas, each unit comprised a dental officer, a dental clerk/assistant, a dental technician and a driver with a three-ton truck."  

 So, apparently, up until World War II, we WEREN'T fighting "tooth and nail"... and let's face it, nails alone just don't get the job done!  Fortunately, not only do we have the lasting photographic legacy of that victory in 1945, but also the enduring and continuing advances of Dentistry on the battlefield! And today, while we mourn the passing of "the sailor," we can still appreciate the unique piece of DENTAL history this also represents.

"Tees" & Teeth Share MORE Than 3 Letters!

For being the shortest month of the year, February sure has a LOT happening in these 28 short days! Not only do we celebrate #NationalChildrensDentalHealthMonth, but also honor #BlackHistoryMonth, in addition to ALL the Valentine's Day hearts, flowers and love. top it all off, we began this week with #InventorsDay on the 11th.

So, we decided to show a little love to those unsung Dentists who invented some surprising NON-DENTAL things we all know! And there's no better place to start than with Dr. George F. Grant, an African-American dentist. , invented the golf tee. Born in 1847 in Oswego, New York, Grant worked for his hometown Dentist – Dr. Albert Smith – first by running errands, then "bitten" by the Dentistry bug, Grant's mentor took notice and expanded his responsibilities into the laboratory, then later as a chairside assistant position. 

At the age of 19, Grant left his hometown for Boston. He quickly found work as a Dental assistant and honed his skills until accepted into the Harvard School of Dental Medicine at 21. And, as much prestige as Harvard still carries, at the time Grant entered it was the FIRST university-based Dental program in the nation! In 1870, Grant graduated with honors, as only the second African American in the U.S. and to earn a degree in Dentistry.

After graduation, he was invited to join the university faculty in the Department of Mechanical Dentistry – a precusor of the eventual claim to fame we're discussing today – also making him the FIRST African-American member of the Harvard University staff. He took his love for innovation not only into his Dental profession, but literally extended it "outside" the laboratory and classroom!

Taking his true passion for physics onto the Franklin Park golf course just outside Boston, (only the second public course in the United States), Grant could indulge his love for the growing sport among the a day and age when private clubs were openly segregated by both class and race. Observing the common practice of teeing golf balls off a pinched mound of sand – something Grant noted led to erratic play, even among golfers with a consistent game.

Taking to his own homemade golf course, he tinkered with various prototypes for months to create a tee based on his Dental knowledge. In December of 1899, he received U.S. Patent 638,920 for a tee combining a short wooden spike with a flexible rubber peg for the golf ball to perch on...and Doctors today STILL appreciate the value of his contribution!

"Fairy Floss" By Any Other Name...

Not to be left out of the fun, another Dentist can be credited with one of the more surprising innovations. William James Morrison, a Dentist and inventor from Nashville, Tennessee, earns credit for the first cotton candy machine! In 1897 he and his friend, confectioner John C. Wharton, worked together to produce a machine (which they called the “electric candy machine”) to melt sugar in a spinning central chamber. Then, using forced air, the melted sugar was pushed through a wire screen into the encircling metal bowl. The result: that lighter-than-air, sweet confection now available at public venues worldwide.

Dubbed "Fairy Floss" by its inventors, what we now know as cotton candy made its American debut during the seven-month-long St. Louis World’s Fair in 1904. They sold their confection in boxes, priced at 25 cents apiece. And their spun sugar immediately found an eager audience, as evidenced by the 65,555 BOXES Morrison and Wharton sold. Kinda makes you wonder if Dr. Morrison was trying to drum up some new business!

Holy Grapes! 

The career of another inventor took a rather unexpected path to his particular claim to fame – via the ministry! Born in Glastonbury, England on New Year's Eve 1825, Thomas Bramwell Welch moved to the United States when his father emigrated in 1834. He excelled in the Watertown, NY public schools and at the age of 17 he joined the Wesleyan Methodist Connexion – founded that same year (1843). 

After completing his seminary studies, Welch ministered to several parishes before his voice no longer allowed him to fulfill those responsibilities. However, their loss was medicine's gain! First pursuing a medical degree in New York, he eventually turned his talents to Dentistry. Yet, through these multiple transitions, Dr. Welch maintained a staunch adherence to his Wesleyan faith, which included among its bedrock tenets a "strong opposition to the manufacturing, buying, selling, or using intoxicating liquors..." 

This led to an interesting conundrum – led by the first edition of their Wesleyan Methodist Discipline expressly requiring that "unfermented wine only should be used at the sacrament" of the Lord's Supper (Communion). How to keep the juice from neither spoiling or fermenting? Using his scientific knowledge, Dr. Welch invented a pasteurization process for grape juice that kept it from fermenting. Welch’s intention was to create a non-alcoholic wine that could be used for church sacraments and he actively urged congregations to use "Dr. Welch's Unfermented Wine." It wasn't until two of his sons – who also followed in their father's Dental footsteps and grape juice interest – "officially" launched Welch's Grape Juice Company in 1893...leading to generations of purple teeth!

Now THAT'S A Hair-Raising "Dental" Visit

Honestly, we DO understand that even the thought of a visit to the Dentist can send waves of fear through the majority of people. But, it could be a LOT worse! You could find yourself sitting in Alfred P. Southwick's chair. A prominent Dentist in 1881, Dr. Southwick also served on a committee  to try and find a kinder, more humane alternative to hanging. 

When out one evening, he happened to observe an intoxicated man who mistakenly touched a live generator terminal and subsequently died. This led Dr. Southwick to conclude that electrocution was a more humane form of legal punishment than other methods, such as beheading by a guillotine, hanging or suffocation.

This is when an idea took root – to use a device he worked with on a daily basis: the dentists chair! His intimate familiarity with how the chairs worked for people, as a dentist, he began to see how they could be adapted for this "unique" use. As the only chairs during that time with the versatility and functionality required to fulfil the role adequately, Southwick designed the first electric execution device to restrain the condemned and incorporate the required electrical connections.

As a true believer in the "humane" nature of his device, over the next decade Dr. Southwick worked tirelessly to promote the passage of laws mandating electrical execution, and the first electrical execution law went into effect on January 1, 1889, when a man convicted of killing his mistress was electrocuted. 

And while you may STILL experience anxiety the next time you slip into the Dentist's chair, take heart in the fact only a smiling Dental professional will greet you...not some hooded executioner!

So, the next time you indulge in some cotton candy or pour a chilled glass of grape juice or tee-up your ball on a well-manicured golf course, think about the Dentists who made life a little more interesting – and SMILE!

Prevention - The Best Plan To Beat Dental Problems

Many of us wait until last moment to visit their dentist and usually have to deal with serious dental problems that might lead to losing their teeth. That's why, prevention should be the best treatment you offer your teeth. Visit your dentist at least twice a year and detect any dental problems in time, before you need advanced interventions.

Your oral hygiene should not be limited to brushing and flossing. Although helpful, these activities won't guarantee a healthy smile. You need to visit your dentist for professional dental cleanings so you can remove plaque, a sticky bacterial film that destroys your enamel. Plaque will eventually turn into tartar, if you don't let your dentist remove it in early stage, which will pave the way for dental decay and gum disease.

So, make an appointment today with one of our dentists and stay ahead of any dental problem.