History of the Dentist: 1720, 1820, 1920, 2020

Are you the type of person who gets excited or nervous before your dentist appointment with Dr. Brunacini, Dr. Karagiorgos, or Dr. Smith? Although it’s completely normal to have a few butterflies before you sit in the exam chair, you should be excited that you’re not sitting in a dental office in 1720–you might not have had any teeth when you left! At FDA, we are committed to patient comfort no matter the century. But what was it like being a patient of dentists 100, 200, or even 300 years ago? Let’s take a look! 

1720: Fake Smiles 

The 1700’s saw the first professionals trained in the treatment of teeth. However, a combination of disease, high-sugar diets, and very few fresh fruits and vegetables meant most people suffered from slow and painful tooth decay and loss. Because of this, 18th century dentists were focused on tooth extraction and not tooth preservation.

The tools used for extracting teeth were not elegant–and anesthetic technology had yet to be invented. Forceps, pliers, hot coals, and string were all common tools of the dental trade. In fact, specially-trained dentists only serviced the wealthy; middle and lower class folks frequently visited their local blacksmith if they had a toothache. 

With tooth loss running rampant, false teeth were extremely common. Ivory and porcelain were popular materials for making a set of false teeth– but nothing could beat genuine human teeth! It was common practice to pay people (especially children and teenagers) for their teeth. Although it seems incredible now, during a time when poverty was common, a penny for an incisor or molar was a tempting offer for many people!

1820: Comfortably Numb

Three important scientific discoveries during the 19th century propelled dentistry towards the science and practice of preserving smiles. 

American dentist Horace Wells first applied the anesthetic effects of nitrous oxide in a tooth extraction, leading to more comfortable dental visits and pioneering other anesthetic techniques. 

A few states away, Charles Goodyear was experimenting with techniques to make a flexible rubber, which he called Vulcanite. Dentist Thomas W. Evans took Goodyear’s vulcanite and created a rubberized denture–a much more cost effective option compared to ivory or porcelain. Dr. Evans eventually created a set of vulcanite dentures for Mr. Goodyear. 

Last but certainly not least, 19th century microbiologist Dr. Willoughby D. Miller was the first dentist to suggest that bacteria in the mouth was to blame for tooth decay. So began the never-ending fight against cavities! 

1920: Setting the Standard

The 19th century laid the groundwork for the modern practice of dentistry, and the 20th century continued to build on that foundation.

The use of x-ray technology on teeth affirmed dentistry’s commitment to tooth preservation. Dr. Frederick McKay devoted his dental practice to the study of fluoride’s effects on enamel health–ultimately leading to the fluoridation of city water across the United States. 

Dental schools took definite shape in the 20th century; the American Dental Association started the practice of formal licensure for clinics and practice; modern dental tools such as tarter scrapers and removers were invented and standardized across the practice. 

2020: Helping Hands

As you can see, the 21st century is the best place to be when it comes to dental care. The largest shift from the 20th to the 21st century was the introduction of dental hygienists as integral members of the dental practice. 

We are grateful for our incredible team of hygienists, they help us provide you with the best oral health care.  We’re also happy that all of our dentists are kind, talented, and trained medical professionals–not blacksmiths with pliers and a spare moment! We pride ourselves on providing not just great dentistry, but compassionate and stress-free oral health care!

We look forward to seeing you at your next 21st century dentist appointment. Be sure to read through our COVID Protocol page to make sure that you’re prepared for your appointment!

Trick or Trivia! Bizarre and Spooky Dental Facts

Vampires and jack-o-lanterns and ghosts…oh my!  Halloween is upon us and that means candy and costumes.  While it’s always a good time to think about your dental health, Halloween is also a good time for dental trivia!  Why? Because we love these scary and fun facts more than all those sweet treats that get stuck in your teeth and cause cavities.  We decided to ask around the office for everyone’s favorite dental trivia to see if we can trick you this Halloween!

What is the hardest substance in the human body?
Tooth enamel is the hardest substance in the human body.  Wow!

How much of your life is devoted to brushing your teeth?
The average American spends 38.5 days brushing their teeth over the course of their lifetime.  Compare that to an average of  9,125 days spent sleeping and 188 days in the shower.

What’s the scariest Halloween candy?
Sour candy–it  has the same pH as battery acid.  Yikes!

Do we really eat that much candy at Halloween?
Yes!  A typical child’s bag of Halloween candy has 11,000 calories.  Also, if you laid out all the candy corn that’s sold each year, it would wrap around the earth 4.25 times.  That’s a lot of candy!

What does a vampire fear most?
Tooth decay!  Ok, so that was a joke, but did you know that people get vampire teeth implants?  Sorry, we do not offer this service at FDA.

Did we trick you?  We hope you have fun this Halloween!  Remember, to give your teeth a real treat this holiday and everyday by following these tips:

  • Avoid hard and sticky candies that linger in your mouth.  The longer sugar stays in your mouth, the more your teeth are at risk of tooth decay.
  • Eat candy shortly after meals when your mouth is already producing saliva.  This helps rinse out the sugars and bacteria.
  • Brush & floss your teeth twice a day.
  • Come in for regular check-ups!  Call us at 207.781.5900.

Happy Halloween from all of us at Falmouth Dental Arts!  

Image courtesy of: www.pinterest.com

The Lowdown on Teeth Grinding

Have you ever wondered if you grind your teeth at night? If you did, how would you know? Has one of your loved ones told you that they’ve heard you grinding your teeth?

If so, you’re not alone: teeth grinding, aka bruxism, is a fairly common phenomenon across the US. Depending on the individual, it can be related to more or less serious health concerns, but no matter which category you fall into it’s disconcerting to realize that this is all happening to you while you’re at rest and without your knowledge. Don’t worry though, there are things you can do! We want to go over the causes behind bruxism with you today, as well as ways you can help prevent it in your life.

What’s behind bruxism?

Up to now, the theory has been that tooth grinding is closely associated with stress or anxiety. This may be the case for some, but what about others? For example, babies have been observed grinding their teeth –or gums– in utero, which raised questions in the scientific community. Since this discovery, another possible cause behind bruxism emerged: is it possible that grinding is a survival response?

Recent research suggests that it is. The grinding that researchers observed during their experiments appeared to be the body’s natural survival response to bypass symptoms of sleep apnea.

Though many may not know it, our bodies require all of our muscles to be relaxed for the brain to achieve deep sleep. When relaxed, the tongue takes up almost double the amount of space, which can obstruct the airway and respiration. This results in more trouble for some people than others.

Researchers observed sleeping individuals with blocked airways suddenly start grinding their teeth, which – interestingly enough – reopened their airways and allowed them to breathe normally again. Among other potential tested solutions was a CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure) machine, which served to restore full airway functionality and allowed sleeping participants to stop grinding their teeth and breathe properly.

So is grinding good or bad?

In the sense that bruxism is a response that saves your life if you stop breathing, bruxism is good. But in the sense of dental longevity, it’s bad. Bruxism can lead to damage of your teeth and jaw, and can bring about tooth sensitivity and chronic jaw pain. Headaches and periodontal tissue damage can also be related to bruxism.

Aside from oral health, tooth grinding disrupts normal sleep patterns. Did you know that all the great benefits of a full night’s rest only exist for you if you’ve made it to the deep sleep stage? So if you’re grinding your teeth regularly at night, you may not receive sleep-related benefits like improved memory, fat burn, muscle build, and tighter skin.

Teeth grinding can also serve as a red flag for sleep apnea, a serious sleep disorder in which breathing repeatedly stops and starts. Untreated sleep apnea can increase your risk of high blood pressure, stroke, cancer, diabetes, depression, and obesity.

What can I do if I grind my teeth while sleeping?

Talk to us if you suspect you’re grinding your teeth at night. Some of the symptoms to look for include: wear on your teeth, flattened tooth surfaces, abfraction (which is a loss of tooth structure along the gum line that is not related to tooth decay), sore jaw muscles or TMJ pain, or a jaw that clicks.

While we don’t make a diagnosis about your quality of sleep, we can help you figure out if you are grinding your teeth by examining your mouth for these signs. Your medical doctor might then encourage you to get a sleep study to figure out whether your bruxism is related to sleep apnea or not.

If you suspect your grinding is stress-related, there are a number of things you can do to decrease your chances of tooth grinding at night. Starting an exercise regimen or attending stress counseling might help, but here are a few easily implemented tips to help you reduce your chance of bruxism:

  • Limit caffeine and alcohol before bed.
  • Try not to chew on objects that aren’t food – chewing gum included. Chewing on items like pens, pencils, and chewing gum stimulates tension in your jaw.
  • Try to recognize when you are tensing or clenching your jaw throughout the day. When you notice, place the tip of your tongue between your teeth; this encourages your jaw muscles to relax.
  • Grab a warm washcloth and hold it to your cheek (in front of your earlobe) as you fall asleep. The warmth helps relax your jaw muscles.

Think you’re grinding at night? Need more tips? Ask us your questions about bruxism at your next appointment!

5 Reasons to be Thankful for Your Teeth this Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is a holiday centered on giving thanks. There are so many things to be grateful for, but have you ever thought of being thankful for your teeth? It may sound like a silly idea, but oral health is a big part of our overall health. Our mouths and throats directly affect the rest of our bodies. It’s important to maintain proper oral care to keep our teeth and gums healthy. Health aside, what are some other reasons to be thankful for your teeth? Here are a few:


  1. Teeth aid digestion. The process of digestion begins when you start chewing food and producing saliva in your mouth. In other words, the act of chewing actually aids digestion. Teeth allow us to chew foods into smaller pieces to ease swallowing and the absorption of nutrients into our bodies. Teeth especially give us the ability to eat tougher foods like steaks and corn on the cob. Give thanks for your teeth this Thanksgiving for aiding digestion.


  1. Teeth help you speak. The act of speaking would be fairly challenging if we didn’t have teeth. Think about how hard it would be to pronounce words. Your tongue touches your teeth when you speak certain words, which makes your enunciation clear to listeners. Thank your teeth for the gift of forming speech this holiday season.


  1. Teeth shape your face. Oddly enough, teeth shape our faces. Without teeth, our faces would appear shorter and sunken in. That’s one of the reasons why our faces change as our adult teeth come. This is due to what’s known as Vertical Dimension of Occlusion (VDO). People can lose VDO if they grind their teeth, lose teeth, or experience drifting teeth. When teeth shift around, this changes the shape and length of our faces. So thank your teeth for making you look the way you do!


  1. Teeth keep jawbones strong. Ever wonder why our jawbones are so strong? Thank your teeth for that too! Teeth force our jawbones to work hard by anchoring them. If we didn’t have teeth, our jawbones would weaken and shrink from lack of use, which can lead to injuries like fractures. This Thanksgiving, thank your teeth for keeping your jawbones strong and durable.


  1. Teeth bring confidence. Think about how you smile when you have your picture taken, greet new people, or laugh. Most people smile with their mouths open. This is because teeth give many people confidence. Smiles are contagious and are often the key factor in what makes us look attractive and friendly to others at first glance. Most people notice teeth first and foremost, making them a fairly important physical quality of our appearances. This Thanksgiving, smile wide in your family pictures and remember to thank your teeth for giving you that confidence.


Thanksgiving is a festive time of year to give thanks for all aspects of life. Thanking your dentist and yourself for maintaining good oral health is yet another reason to be thankful this year. As always, remember to brush and floss to keep your teeth clean and strong. Most importantly, if you need to schedule an appointment, simply call us at (207) 781-5900. Happy Thanksgiving!

Tricky Treats: The Worst Candies for Your Teeth

1. Chewy Candies

Examples: Now & Laters, Mary Janes, Bit’O’Honeys

Chewy candies are number one on this list for a reason. Serious bite pressure is needed to break up chewy candies into manageable bites. That itself can damage your teeth. Once in your mouth, chewy candies adhere to the crevices between your teeth. The sugary stuff is likely to get stuck in between your teeth—right where you are most vulnerable to cavities. If you do choose a chewy treat, make sure to floss after.

2. Sour Sweets

Examples: Warheads, Sour Patch Kids, Sour Skittles

Q: How do they make that lip-puckering sensation?

A: With lots and lots of acid. Sour candies are highly acidic. Most also contain a substantial amount of sugar. This means a double whammy for your tooth enamel. The acid weakens enamel while abrasive sugar rubs it away, leading to tooth decay and possibly even tooth loss.

3. Lollipops

Examples: Dum-Dums, Tootsie Pops, Blow Pops

Lollipops aren’t significantly sweeter than other candies, but the way they are typically consumed lands them on this list. Lollipops take longer to eat than most candies. The longer sugar sits on your teeth the worse it is for your enamel.