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Health Q&A

Posted October 17, 2012 in Advice Column, Des Moines West

Q: What options do I have for replacing missing teeth?

A: There is nothing more devastating to a smile than lost or missing teeth. There are multiple ways today to replace missing teeth both functionally (biting, chewing, speaking and laughing) as well as cosmetically.

Dental implants are perhaps today’s ultimate tooth replacement systems providing “stand alone” teeth, unconnected to other teeth. While a dental implant replaces the root of a tooth, the crown atop the implant (the tooth you see in your mouth) is an exact replica of a natural tooth. Therefore implants provide for cosmetic tooth replacements, emerging through the gum tissues just like natural teeth, and can be made to match the neighboring teeth exactly. You’d never know they’re not your own, then again — they are.

We are always a bit perplexed when we see the dowdy “before” pictures right next to the great “after” ones. You know, the ones with the new hairdo, the cleanly-shaven guy and the girl with the fresh lipstick smile, but let’s face it — thye do make a difference. These changes truly are cosmetic, and as we have illustrated, dentistry can do its part. But the biggest part is not just how your smile looks, it’s how you feel when you show it. Even if you smile when you’re on the telephone, you will touch the person on the other end of the line.

Information from Dear Doctor magazine, provided by Dr. Dennis Winter, Iowa Dental Arts, P.C., 2901 Beaver Ave., 277-6657.

Q: As a caregiver for my mom, I feel so many conflicting emotions. How can I get my emotions under control?

A: The mixed emotions of caregiving can leave many family caregivers in turmoil. The idea of conflicting emotions is part of any life event and caregiving is just rife with them. Two attributes that set caregiving apart, however, are the intensity of caregiving situations and the lack of planning that generally precipitates the need for care. Here are some tips to overcome the anxiety of the unexpected need for caregiving.
   • Look at your situational concern. What can you control? If your dad is a diabetic, you can control the food you serve and your attitude about his condition. What you cannot control is what he eats.  Other common worries are, “What if my dad dies first? What will I do with Mom?” Try not to worry about the things you cannot control until they happen.
 • Have an outlet. You need someone you can talk with who is nonjudgmental and not a family member — someone with whom to vent.
 • Recognize your limitations. Be realistic about what you can do.  Set priorities and get help when needed.
Caregivers should avoid classifying emotions as good or bad. It is normal to feel many emotions when you’re a family caregiver.
For more resources and ideas to relieve the stress of family caregiving go to www.caregiverstress.com.

Information provided by Anne Peters, Home Instead Senior Care®, 221-0866.

Q: Did George Washington really have wooden false teeth?

A: Our first president was plagued with dental difficulties, losing most of his teeth to periodontal (gum) disease while still in his 20s. Contrary to popular belief, though, Washington never had wooden dentures. They were made from gold, elephant ivory, hippopotamus tusk and human teeth. A set is on display at Mount Vernon, his Virginia home. Modern dentures are commonly made with acrylic and porcelain.

One of Washington’s dentists was a fellow named John Greenwood. In 1790, Greenwood adapted his mother’s foot-operated spinning wheel to create the first-known dental drilling machine. Washington lost his teeth long before 1913, the year the phrase “dental hygiene” was coined in Bridgeport, Conn., where Dr. Alfred Civilion Fones started a school of hygiene. The school remains in operation today as part of the University of Bridgeport.

The earliest known reference of a dentist, by the way, dates to 2600 B.C. An inscription on the tomb of an Egyptian scribe named Hesy-Re calls him “the greatest of those who deal with teeth.” The practice of dentistry has come a long way.

Information provided by Des Moines Dental Group, 708 First Ave S., 967-6611.

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