Have you ever wondered how you can trust your dentist and their staff? Or perhaps you’ve considered a change of careers and pondered the dental field — or you’ve got a teenager to encourage who wants to become a dentist. Often overlooked and undervalued, those in the dental field have as much — and sometimes more — education behind their profession as those in the general health fields. Whether you’re curious what kind of training your dental hygienist has received or what it takes to become an oral surgeon, look no further.
Dental assistants often act as an extra set of hands around the office. You might encounter a dental assistant cleaning and sterilizing tools, taking X-rays, explaining post-treatment instructions or performing other duties that help dentists and hygienists more smoothly transition from patient to patient.
The education and licensing requirements for dental assistants vary by state. In New Jersey, dental assistants without any formal education are limited in their duties — they may not be allowed to perform more advanced tasks and might only be doing behind-the-scenes prep work around the office.
Registered dental assistants in New Jersey have at least a high school diploma and are accredited through a state-issued exam. Registered dental assistants also must have completed either an apprenticeship or a certified training program. Assistants who take X-rays must have completed a course and passed an additional exam. Continuing education is required every two years.
Oral hygienists can perform all the duties of an assistant, but they are also trusted to work one-on-one with patients. Oral or dental hygienists may perform cleanings, do routine exams, prep and administer anesthesia before a treatment and even apply decay-preventing treatments.
Licensure and education requirements are left up to each individual state. In New Jersey, dental hygienists have at least an associate’s degree, though some hold bachelor’s degrees in the field. All oral hygienists in New Jersey must complete both a written and a practical exam. If administering anesthesia, they must have additional education and take another written exam. Dental hygienists are required by the state to complete at least 20 continuing education credits every two years to maintain their license, with an additional four hours in anesthesiology education to maintain that certification.
Toothbrushes seem to be simple objects at first glance: bristles on a stick. Modern advances in technology that make brushing your teeth easier and more effective elaborate on the idea, adding mechanical and electronic components to aid in keeping your teeth and gums healthy. As ubiquitous as toothbrushes are, though, they didn’t always look the way they do now. Throughout history, oral care implements have taken different forms — some of which seem downright outrageous by today’s standards.
For as long as humans have existed, we’ve been putting things in our mouths in pursuit of food, medicine or enjoyment. While the first commercially sold chewing gum is credited to John Curtis in 1840, it’s likely that chewing gum has existed in some form or another for as long as people have roamed the earth. Nearly every ancient civilization has a version of gum made from tree resin or tar.
And while chewed-up gum is often thought to be of little value to anyone, researchers at the University of Copenhagen have used someone’s old chewed-up, dried-out “gum” to unlock clues about our ancestors.
There’s an obscure, fun holiday for nearly every occasion, and celebrating your favorite dental professionals is no exception. Two holidays that give you an excuse to say “thank you” to the people behind your stellar smile exist in the month of March: National Dentist’s Day and Dental Assistants Recognition Week.
It’s hard to imagine that human teeth have changed throughout history, but they have. Some of our earliest human ancestors — the people who were people before the Homo sapiens existed — dating back seven million years had remarkably different dentition than we do today. While some early hominids, such as Australopithecus afarensis, had the same number of teeth as we do, they were spaced differently due to differences in the size and shape of the jawbone.
Despite these differences in structure, it was thought that early humans didn’t consume nearly as much hard, woody plant matter (like seeds, nuts and shells) as they could have. But new research points to quite the opposite — that tougher plant matter made up a large portion of early human diets without causing painful or undue wear and tear on the earliest hominids’ teeth.
High school students everywhere know that teeth can tell them things about the diet of the creatures that used them. Pointy teeth like canines might be for tearing meat, where flat, crushing teeth like molars are useful for grinding up fibrous plant materials. As it turns out, there’s even more that fossilized teeth can tell us about our distant past and our path to today’s mouth. (more…)
It’s a well-known thing that bacteria cause plaque on teeth, but what you might not realize is that something as common as teeth can also sometimes harbor microorganisms that have caused some of the worst plagues humanity has faced. Bubonic plague (not the same as plaque!) for example, has popped up many times even within the somewhat limited span of written history, generally with devastating ends.
They didn’t call it the Black Plague because it was a good time and made you look fabulous. Oh no, bubonic plague was disfiguring and, worse, highly contagious. Humans haven’t seen a massive outbreak like those of the Dark Ages recently, but that doesn’t mean plague is a thing of the past. It actually continues to persist globally!
It seems like every day there’s a new celebrity sporting a diamond in their teeth or a decorative gold grill. While it might seem like a new fad amongst the high-fashion elite or those searching for Instagram stardom, cosmetic dental adornments are anything but. In fact, enhancing teeth with precious gems, metals and more has a long history — and one we’d be wise to learn from when it comes to the risks and downsides of having a blinged-out smile. (more…)
How you look as you age is determined by a number of factors largely out of your control — genetics, environmental exposure to hazards and toxins and underlying health issues, to name a few. Along with maintaining a healthy lifestyle, there are a few things you can do to ensure you age like a fine wine, rather than an organic banana relegated to the bottom drawer of the fridge. One of those things is making sure your teeth and gums are well taken care of.
Have you ever wondered what it would be like to live in ancient Egypt? This oft-romanticized time had some not-so-beautiful features, including its dental work. Still, the fact that ancient Egyptians were making great strides in learning to take care of teeth is nothing short of astounding. It was a time with no pain-free dentistry– never mind cosmetic procedures that give you a beautiful smile like Invisalign or teeth whitening. Practitioners had a rudimentary understanding of anatomy and used some downright painful practices. One thing was the same, however. Then, as now, you’d have to be proactive about your dental health — except now it’s much easier to schedule a regular dental appointment!