Archives for May 2013

Dentistry and Art: Edward Hughes A First Visit to the Dentist

In the past, I have posted about 2 baroque masterpieces on dentistry (here and here) as well as a dental sketch of Mickey Mouse. So a time period somewhere in between the 1600s and 1900s made sense for another Dentistry in Art posting. The painting below is titled A First Visit to the Dentist by the English painter Edward Robert Hughes. This involves a child patient and was painted in 1866.

Painting by Edward Hughes A First Visit to the Dentist 1866
This scene appears far more civilized than what was portrayed in the Baroque paintings by Caravaggio and Gerard van Honthorst. Perhaps this is due to the difference in the era (this painting was created nearly 250 years after those). Or perhaps because the patient is an innocent young child. Or maybe it is because the procedure (a tooth extraction) has not yet occurred.

As a dentist who routinely treats children in my office in Orange, CT, I can attest that Edward Hughes captured quite brilliantly the expression on the young girl’s face. She knows exactly that something bad is about to happen – she just doesn’t quite know what. Her left hand is holding her left jaw and her mother is both consoling her but also getting ready to move her daughter’s hand out of the way. The dentist is holding the forceps behind his back – a trick I do all the time as well!

Another contrast is the fact that the dentist actually looks like a dentist! He does not look like a sadistic man as portrayed in Caravaggio’s and van Honthorst’s paintings. And while we are still not in the era of gloves or novocaine, it is a much more pleasant environment in which to receive dental treatment than previously portrayed.

I hope everyone else enjoyed this dental painting as much as I did.

Dental MythBuster #7 – Pregnant Women Shouldn’t Visit the Dentist

Photo showing no pregnant women allowed at the dentist

Pregnant women should go to the dentist. Photo courtesy Flickr Creative Commons.

This dental myth originates from the numerous calls we get to our office where an expecting patient states “I’m pregnant and I heard I shouldn’t go to the dentist.”

This also happens to be the second dental myth that involves either pregnant or post-partum women. In Dental Mythbuster #6, I dispelled the notion that an in-utero or nursing baby “sucked” the calcium out of the mother’s teeth leading to cavities.  In this post, I bust the myth that pregnant women either don’t need or should not receive dental care.

Pregnancy and Gums

During pregnancy, there are numerous hormonal changes that affect a woman, including changes to the gum tissue (called gingiva). Specifically, a woman’s hormones make her gum tissue extra sensitive to plaque and calculus around the teeth. As a result, inflammation around the gums develop. This inflammation is called gingivitis.

Photo or Picture of pregnancy gingivitis inflamed gums due to hormones while pregnant

Inflamed Gums showing Pregnancy Gingivitis. A regular dental cleaning without numbing during the pregnancy will address the gingivitis.

Pregnancy gingivitis affects between 50% to 75% of expecting mothers in the United States. Gingivitis left untreated during pregnancy can lead to gum and teeth problems after the pregnancy. There is also research to suggest that untreated gum problems can lead to preterm birth.

Most importantly, a regular dental cleaning without local anesthesia during pregnancy is totally safe. In my dental office in Orange, CT, I speak to the treating obstetrician if there is a concern. But after treating thousands of moms-to-be over the past several years, pregnant women can and should receive regular cleanings throughout the pregnancy. In fact, many dental insurance companies will pay for extra cleanings during pregnancy!

Pregnancy and Teeth

Cavity on tooth dental decay on pregnant mother on mom that is expecting

Cavity on one of my patients who delivered 11 months earlier.

It is well established that expecting and post-partum mothers are at higher risk for cavities (dental decay). I outlined this in a previous Dental MythBuster.  Untreated dental decay can lead to more serious problems including infections, dental abscesses, and significant pain – all conditions that can place both the mother and the unborn child at significant risk.

Just like with a cleaning, I always check with the patient’s obstetrician. Cosmetic or elective dental treatment is always postponed until after the pregnancy.  But procedures that address serious teeth problems – certain fillings, treatment of abscesses, root canals – can and should be done. On many occasions  I have had to treat a pregnant patient in severe pain or with a serious dental abscess – now that is a problem that can impact the pregnancy!

What to expect at the Dentist when you’re expecting

In this Dental MythBuster, I’ve shown that pregnant women should see the dentist. When I see a pregnant patient at her first cleaning since learning she is expecting, my hygienists and I always review what to expect with her teeth and gum tissue over the course of the pregnancy.  If any treatment is needed, we frequently consult with her obstetrician.

So, be sure to continue your regular dental checkups when you’re expecting. Your gums and teeth will thank you for it!