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The History and Mythology of the Tooth Fairy

May 19th, 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. Bryan Shanahan 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.

Warning Signs of Impacted Wisdom Teeth

May 12th, 2017

When your wisdom teeth start to emerge it can definitely be painful, but it can be even worse if your wisdom teeth become impacted. Impacted wisdom teeth are trying to erupt but are unable to do so because there is not sufficient room for them to emerge. This usually means that your wisdom teeth are painfully lodged in your jawbone.

While you may not see any real signs of the emerging wisdom teeth when they are impacted, what you can’t see can still definitely hurt you. Some of the indicators of impacted wisdom teeth are listed below.

  • Jaw Pain: Pain in the back of your jaw is a common indicator of impacted wisdom teeth. The pain often concentrates in the area around your gums.
  • Changes in the Mouth: You may notice some changes in your mouth when you have impacted wisdom teeth. Reddish gums, swelling in the jaw, bleeding gums, and bad breath can all be indicators that you are dealing with impacted wisdom teeth.
  • Headaches: If you suddenly start having headaches, especially at the same time as some of the other issues mentioned above, they may indicate impacted wisdom teeth.
  • Chewing Issues: Problems with chewing normally can indicate impacted wisdom teeth. If you are having trouble making the chewing motions because your mouth won’t quite open and close as easily as it used to, impacted wisdom teeth may be the culprit.

The Solution

If you are suffering from impacted wisdom teeth, the best solution is usually going to be removal. This is not a problem that will resolve naturally, and in fact, your pain and other symptoms may worsen as your wisdom teeth become increasingly impacted. At the office of Bryan J. Shanahan, D.D.S., Dr. Bryan Shanahan can review the details of wisdom teeth removal surgery with you and help you determine if this is the best solution for your situation.

Fewer Adults are Visiting the Dentist

May 5th, 2017

Our team at the office of Bryan J. Shanahan, D.D.S. recently learned that in the decade between 2000 and 2010, the amount of adults who regularly visited their dentist declined, according to research released by the American Dental Association's Health Policy Resources Center (HPRC). In fact, the HPRC found that the percentage of adults who had regular checkups every six months declined from 41 percent in 2003 to 37 percent in 2010. The largest decline in dental care occurred in the 35- to 49-year-old age group. That’s down from 43 percent in 2003 to just 38 percent in 2010.

There is some good news, however. While adult visits may have decreased, children's visits were on the rise, particularly among low-income families. More low-income children are visiting the dentist now than they were ten years ago. And the HPRC notes that between 2000 and 2010, dental visits among low-income children increased in 47 states.

Have you ever wondered why the American Dental Association and Dr. Bryan Shanahan recommend that you come in for a dental checkup and cleaning every six months? While daily oral hygiene habits are essential to good oral health, professional dental cleanings at the office of Bryan J. Shanahan, D.D.S. ensure your and your child’s teeth are treated to a deeper level of cleaning. In addition to a thorough cleaning and teeth polishing, regular visits at our Flagstaff, AZ office help us detect and prevent the onset of tooth decay and periodontal (gum) disease. During your visit, we’ll check the health of your mouth, teeth, gums, cheeks, and tongue for symptoms of any oral disease. We will also check old fillings and restorations, as these can wear away over time from constant chewing, clenching, or grinding at night.

If you are predisposed to oral diseases due to age, pregnancy, tobacco use, or medical conditions such as diabetes or dry mouth, Dr. Bryan Shanahan may recommend you visit our office more often than every six months.

If you are overdue for your next checkup and cleaning, please give us a call to schedule an appointment!

What is a cavity?

April 28th, 2017

Cavities are the reason why most people fear going to the dentist. But they’re also the reason you should be visiting Dr. Bryan Shanahan on a regular basis.

Specifically, cavities are the breakdown of teeth caused by acid from food, bacteria, and plaque that inhabit the inside of the mouth. While many people simply think that cavities only form on top of a tooth, Dr. Bryan Shanahan and our team at the office of Bryan J. Shanahan, D.D.S. want you to know they can actually form on the sides along the gum line and between the teeth, too. This acid will eat away at the tooth, forming a soft hole.

Anybody, either children and adults, can get cavities. In fact, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in the U.S. alone about 16 percent of all children ages six to 19 have untreated cavities, and about 24 percent of adults 20 to 64 years old have them. This is detrimental to overall oral health, because cavities have a tendency to grow over time, potentially spreading to other teeth and causing increased oral pain, possibly even affecting the nerve.

That's why it's important to ensure that you're visiting the office of Bryan J. Shanahan, D.D.S. at least once every six months, so that cavities can be found and filled before they become too problematic and painful. Typically, they're found by doing a routine teeth cleaning, though X-rays or further examination may be necessary to determine the full extent of a cavity. Cavities are treated by removing the area of the tooth where decay has set in and rebuilding the tooth with a metal filling. If the cavity is too large, however, more extreme measures may be necessary, such as placing a crown or performing a root canal.

As we noted above, cavities are why people dread going to the dentist, but also the reason everyone should see the dentist every six months. Additionally, brushing twice daily, flossing, and cutting down on sugar-packed foods can reduce the risk of developing cavities.

For more information on how to best care for your teeth and why it's important to visit the dentist twice a year, please give us a call at our convenient Flagstaff, AZ office today!