The Tooth Fairy and the Mouse

When a growing child loses his or her first tooth, what should you do with the tooth? In America of course, the parents put it under the child’s pillow for the Tooth Fairy to collect in the middle of the night. On the face of it, the Tooth Fairy seems like a cute but insignificant little tradition. In actuality, it reflects a rite of passage that extends across just about all cultures worldwide.

The specific traditions regarding what to do with children’s baby teeth vary from country to country. Sometimes the tooth is thrown somewhere—up into the sun, into a fire, or over a roof. Sometimes it’s buried. Sometimes it’s hidden where animals can’t find it, and other times it’s given (either symbolically or literally) to an animal to take or swallow. In some cases, the mother swallows the tooth, and in other cases the child does.

The loss of the child’s tooth signifies the boy or girl is taking an early step into adulthood. This step can be scary for the child, and ritualizing the disposal of the tooth can bring comfort. Other children are excited about losing their first tooth, because they can’t wait to grow up. However the kid feels about it, all cultures agree that doesn’t seem right to let the moment pass without performing some sort of custom.

The animal most associated with these traditions is a mouse. Mice have strong teeth that continually grow, and parents wish to transfer the idea of strong, healthy teeth to their children. In France, it’s not a fairy but La Bonne Petite Souris, or “The Good Little Mouse,” who sneaks under kids’ pillows to trade a tooth for cash or candy. In Spain, the mouse is named Raton Perez (or some variation on this). He looks under the pillow too, but sometimes, the tooth is left in a glass of water on the nightstand. In the morning the water and tooth are gone and replaced by coins or a small gift. In South Africa, instead of under a pillow the tooth is left in a slipper on the floor, sometimes with a piece of cheese.

Asian countries, from China to Japan to Vietnam to India, favor the tradition of throwing the tooth somewhere, and while it’s in the air, they might ask for the tooth to be replaced by the tooth of, yes, a mouse. In Iraq and Egypt and other Middle Eastern countries, the tradition is also to throw the tooth.

Some of these traditions can be traced back hundreds and hundreds of years, but the Tooth Fairy tradition in America is relatively new. Its first appearance in print appears in 1927, and it is believed to have started a few decades before that. Americans at the epoch were becoming enamored with the figure of a kindly, motherly fairy, as seen in everything from Glenda the Good Witch in The Wizard of Oz to fairy godmothers in classic Disney movies. The Tooth Fairy herself seems to be a mixture of this sort of fairy and European mouse traditions.

How about the money she leaves? Well, since losing a baby tooth symbolizes the path to adulthood, the giving of cash is part of that transition. Money belongs in the realm of adulthood, not childhood. A child can make his or her own decisions about what to do with the Tooth Fairy’s gift, whether buying something independently of Mom or Dad or saving it for the future.

February 28th is National Tooth Fairy Day, but the next time a child you know loses a tooth, you can hide it for the Tooth Fairy to find, give it a mythical mouse, or throw it into the sun

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Staying Healthy Month

January Is For Staying Healthy

If you set New Year’s goals that include great plans for a healthy lifestyle, you now have a bit of help in keeping those goals. Over the past several years, many people and organizations have come to recognize January as National Staying Healthy Month.

The month has even been broken out into specific weeks. It begins with “Diet Resolution Week” and “National Lose Weight/Feel Great Week.” These are followed later in the month by “Healthy Weight Week,” “Sugar Awareness Week,” and “National Fresh Squeezed Juice Week.”

What does staying healthy really mean? If you poke around the Internet, you’ll find a whole bunch of different ideas, but all of them can be grouped under two simple categories: physical and mental health. Usually, people concern themselves primarily with their physical condition, but many studies have shown that mental and emotional health should receive even more focus.

Here are some tips for maintaining your mental health:

  • Feel good about yourself, and recognize that those beautiful faces and bodies you see everywhere in our culture aren’t realistic. For example, a “Barbie” type of body build would require that you be 6 feet tall. Magazine photos of models are all photoshopped. TV and film actors, including the men, are typically helped by make-up artists and skilled lighting professionals.
  • Develop and maintain relationships. Being with friends or family brings support and enrichment to your life, which is important to your health.
  • Enjoy yourself. Be sure to find time for hobbies and activities that are fun. Finding time to do things you enjoy is critical to a healthy lifestyle.
  • Stop thinking about the past and future. Immerse yourself in the present by noticing your surroundings. Take the time to observe the world when you’re out in nature or even when you’re somewhere like the grocery store or on the bus. Do an online search into this concept of “mindfulness,” and adopt it into your daily life.

Of course, your body demands attention. Here are some tips for maintaining your physical health:

  • Get enough sleep each night. Most adults need 8 hours of sleep a night.
  • Take small steps to exercise by being physically active for 30 minutes each day. That could be accomplished in small increments (like ten minutes per activity). All activities count, including walking, dancing, yoga, gardening and even running a vacuum cleaner.
  • Even if you don’t want to diet, figure out what makes you overeat at times. Perhaps mood swings or stress make you want to fill your mouth. Find other ways to deal with these situations that don’t involve eating.
  • Add more fruits, vegetables and whole grains to your diet. Limit your intake of salt, sugar, and fat.
  • Never go hungry. Skipping a meal makes most people eat too much at the next.
  • Drink lots of water.
  • Avoid the sun’s harmful rays, especially between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. Clouds and water don’t protect you, but sun screens (sun protection factor of 15 or higher) do guard against UVA and UVB rays.

Following these tips will help you maintain a healthy lifestyle. Staying healthy by choosing to eat properly, by incorporating exercise into your life, and by maintaining your mental equilibrium is not easy, but it’s very rewarding. Keep the momentum going into February, March, and through the rest of 2015.

8 Holiday Safety Tips to Keep in Mind This Year

Keeping the family safe during the holiday season requires some forethought and some carefully considered decisions. In order to ensure safety throughout this holiday season, here are a few tips to help reduce the chance of fires and other accidents.

Consider a Fire-Resistant Tree for Indoors

An artificial tree may not have the romance as a real one, but they can look quite realistic and offer many advantages. They can be reused, don’t shed needles, and are fire resistant. If you’re concerned about a fire in your home, look into a fire-resistant tree.

Cut a Few Inches Off Your Christmas Tree Trunk

Cutting a few inches from the trunk of your Christmas tree is a way to remove dry wood, which can catch fire in a home or confined space.

Water Your Christmas Tree Regularly

Always be sure to water your Christmas tree regularly to ensure it doesn’t dry out and become a fire hazard.

Choose Decorations and Ornaments Wisely

If you have young children in the house, avoid breakable ornaments or those with loose beads or baubles that can become a choking hazard. Again to reduce fire risk, steer clear from ornaments and tree decorations that require live flames or intense bulb wattage.

Only Use Outdoor Lighting For the Outdoors

When stringing lights outside, only use outdoor lighting and setups that are designed for outdoor weather.  Using the right equipment is necessary to prevent shorts and other electrical hazards.

Turn Off All Lights When Vacating the Home

Any time you are vacating your home during the holiday, be sure to disconnect holiday lights as well as electrified characters and decorative ornaments. Unplugging all electronics and decorations while you are gone helps reduce fire risks.

Consider Using Lighting Timers for the Holiday Season

If it’s too difficult for you to unplug everything every time you leave the house, consider using lighting timers to turn things off automatically for you.

 

Dental Hygiene History

The First Doctor to Preach Dental Hygiene

Everyone today cleans their teeth (or at least knows that they should). We do it at home with a daily regimen of brushing, flossing and rinsing, and then we supplement home care with periodic professional dental cleanings. But the idea that it’s important to clean your teeth is a fairly new one in the annals of history. The very concept of modern dental hygiene is only around 100 years old and was launched into being by a Connecticut dentist named Alfred Civilion Fones.

Dentists in the early 20th century were primarily occupied with pulling out rotten teeth. They didn’t concern themselves much with preventing teeth from becoming rotten to begin with. Furthermore, at the time it was still a recent discovery that bacteria have something to do with tooth decay. But Fones knew from his experience and insight that cleaning teeth of plaque, bits of food, and other matter would be instrumental in preventing decay, in making gums healthier, and in allowing his patients to keep their teeth.

He recruited and trained his cousin, a woman named Irene Newman, to work in his office where she cleaned patients’ teeth and scraped plaque. Essentially, she was the first dental hygienist. The idea actually was pretty outlandish at the time, that people would go to the dentist for preventative cleanings, but it was hard to argue with Dr. Fones’ excellent outcomes. The idea of dental hygiene began to catch on, so in 1913 Fones opened the first school of dental hygiene ever, located in his town of Bridgeport, Connecticut. He’s the one who also coined the very term “dental hygiene.”

Almost three dozen women enrolled in the school’s first year. After finishing two years later, the graduating class went out in the world and cleaned teeth at dental offices and in public schools. Soon enough, the practice of dental hygiene developed official standards. Laws were passed to regulate the field, and Newman became the president of the first dental hygiene association in 1917.

The dental hygiene school closed, however, because Fones preferred to spend his time traveling to preach the gospel of dental hygiene instead of focusing on a small set of students. He spoke at dental schools with his data as support to convince others in his profession of the preventative benefits of clean, well-maintained teeth. Other dental hygiene schools opened, and the one Fones first founded eventually re-opened as well.

Fones and Newman thought public outreach to be an important aspect of their work. They encouraged hygienists to go into schools and communities to clean teeth professionally and to teach people how do to it at home. So this evening when you’re brushing your teeth, remember that this habit that is ingrained in your daily routine might not even be part of your life if it weren’t for the efforts of a doctor and his cousin 100 years ago.

Setting Goals

What Are Your Goals for the New Year?

The new year is both a time for reflection and a time for looking forward. What did you accomplish in 2014? More importantly, what do you hope to accomplish in 2015? If you’re really serious about creating and sticking to New Year’s resolutions, it’s best to create some concrete goals.

But before you start to formulate your goals, take some time to think about what you really want from your life in the near future and the long-term. Do a little brainstorming. Jot down some ideas on paper (or type them on a keyboard) without stopping to censor yourself. Do this exercise as you think about questions like, How can my life be better?, How can I improve?, and What do I imagine my life could be like?

Now you can set goals around those desires. Many people who are successful at setting and attaining goals swear by the SMART method. They say that goals should be:

  • S – Specific
  • M – Measurable
  • A – Attainable
  • R – Relevant
  • T – Time-bound

As an example, a poorly stated goal would be “I want to lose weight in the new year.” A better version would be, “I want to lose 10 pounds by the end of March 2015.”

 

How does the second version check out against the SMART method? Let’s see:

  • Specific – Yes. It specifies the amount of weight to be lost.
  • Measurable – Yes. Weight loss can be measured.
  • Attainable – Most likely, depending on where the person’s starting weight is.
  • Relevant – Yes, as long as it matches up with a larger ambition such as “I hope to feel more fit in the new year.”
  • Time-bound – Yes. It specifies an end date of March 31.

 

Think About Systems Instead of Goals

While many people swear by setting goals, goals can have some downsides, after all. If you set a goal and fail at meeting it, you will feel bad about yourself or lose motivation. The overall point of New Year’s resolutions is build yourself up, not tear yourself down.

 

And if you do reach your goal, it may not lead to lasting change. Using the example above about losing 10 pounds by the end of March, suppose the person who made this goal meets it. What happens then on April 1? The person may abandon whatever habits helped them reach that goal and put the weight back on.

 

For other goals, the problem can be that the results are out of your hands. Suppose someone might set a goal to get a raise in 2015. That raise, however, isn’t up to them. Their boss could refuse.

 

For these reasons, it may be better to establish systems instead of goals. A system could be:

  • Eat under 2,000 calories a day and exercise three times a week (to help lose weight)
  • Create weekly reports of accomplishments to send to my boss (to advocate for promotions and raises)

 

Like well-formed goals, systems need to be specific, relevant, and attainable.

Select Some Software

With the rise of the smart phone, a host of apps can help you define, track, and achieve your goals. Some teach you tricks to build new habits. Others offer ways to share goals with friends because telling others about your goals can help keep you on track. And if you don’t have a smart phone or prefer to use a standard computer, there are plenty of other goal-tracking websites out there.

 

Goals or systems? Apps, web-based software, or pen and paper? The way you define your goals and meet them is up to you. Setting and reaching goals is not an area where one size fits all, but no matter who you are, you can take steps to improve your life in the new year. Happy 2015!

 

 

What Braces Were Like

When Grandma Wore Braces

If you asked your grandparents about what braces were like in the good old days, they would tell you those days weren’t so good.

Although rudimentary orthodontics have been around for a long time, straightening teeth only became a professional endeavor in the twentieth century. If your grandmother had braces in the 1940s, they were probably made of gold, because its softness made it malleable. But that softness meant frequent visits to the orthodontist for painful readjustments. And gold was more expensive than it is today.

In the 1950s, wearing braces became really popular, even a status symbol. Check out pictures in high school yearbooks from those days, and you can count dozens of metal mouths. Typical braces were thick bands of stainless steel that wrapped completely around each tooth, covering most of the enamel. Just a thin, white sliver of teeth showed above the band, and brushing those bands and wires was a laborious task. Wires loosened easily, and patients had to go at least once a month to the orthodontist for painful tightening. What’s worse, treatment times were often 4 to 8 years, while today most patients wear braces for 1 to 3 years.

Why were treatment times so long? Orthodontists didn’t have good diagnostic tools. They were just beginning to use X-rays, but even with them, doctors had to do a lot of guesswork. They used rulers and protractors to make drawings and plan their work, cutting and pasting images that they thought would fit an individual’s face structure. Because they were operating on educated guesses, they frequently had to make adjustments to their plans. Now, orthodontists have in their diagnostic arsenal panoramic X-rays, moldings of bite impressions, 3-D modeling and other sophisticated tools. These allow them to create a predictable treatment plan.

Back then, orthodontists extracted new permanent teeth when there was no space for them to grow straight in the patient’s mouth. Braces couldn’t create space, so removal was the only solution. Today, if a child is first evaluated at a young age (7 to 9) when facial bones are more plastic, the orthodontist can use a variety of devices to widen or reshape the dental arch so that the patient can retain all of his or her permanent teeth.

In the old days, rubber bands were frequently used to attach braces on the upper teeth to those on the lower. Shaped like tiny miniature doughnuts, the user would struggle to get them on and they would often pop off in the process, flying across the room, or they would break when stretching them to fit onto the braces. Patients back then had to carry packages of rubber bands to be sure they had enough, and they had to be removed to eat and then new ones put on.

Today, there are no more rubber bands, no more night-time head gears which held retainer type devices in place. Bands no longer cover teeth. They are much smaller, lighter in weight and come in many colors. Other modern options include lingual braces that attach to the teeth on the inside of the mouth or Invisalign, clear removable aligner trays that are changed every two weeks.

Wires are no longer stainless steel. They are typically heat-activated nickel titanium that warm to body temperature as they move teeth in anticipated directions. They don’t need adjustment as frequently as steel wires.

When it comes to orthodontics, things have improved a lot since the time grandma and grandpa were young. Braces now are less noticeable, offer greater comfort, need fewer orthodontic adjustments, and work more quickly.

Holiday Safety Tips

8 Holiday Safety Tips to Keep in Mind This Year

Keeping the family safe during the holiday season requires some forethought and some carefully considered decisions. In order to ensure safety throughout this holiday season, here are a few tips to help reduce the chance of fires and other accidents.

Consider a Fire-Resistant Tree for Indoors

An artificial tree may not have the romance as a real one, but they can look quite realistic and offer many advantages. They can be reused, don’t shed needles, and are fire resistant. If you’re concerned about a fire in your home, look into a fire-resistant tree.

Cut a Few Inches Off Your Christmas Tree Trunk

Cutting a few inches from the trunk of your Christmas tree is a way to remove dry wood, which can catch fire in a home or confined space.

Water Your Christmas Tree Regularly

Always be sure to water your Christmas tree regularly to ensure it doesn’t dry out and become a fire hazard.

Choose Decorations and Ornaments Wisely

If you have young children in the house, avoid breakable ornaments or those with loose beads or baubles that can become a choking hazard. Again to reduce fire risk, steer clear from ornaments and tree decorations that require live flames or intense bulb wattage.

Only Use Outdoor Lighting For the Outdoors

When stringing lights outside, only use outdoor lighting and setups that are designed for outdoor weather.  Using the right equipment is necessary to prevent shorts and other electrical hazards.

Turn Off All Lights When Vacating the Home

Any time you are vacating your home during the holiday, be sure to disconnect holiday lights as well as electrified characters and decorative ornaments. Unplugging all electronics and decorations while you are gone helps reduce fire risks.

Consider Using Lighting Timers for the Holiday Season

If it’s too difficult for you to unplug everything every time you leave the house, consider using lighting timers to turn things off automatically for you.