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Straight Teeth Talk: Tools help solve mystery of worn down teeth

By By Mac Lee
April 3, 2012 at midnight
Updated April 2, 2012 at 11:03 p.m.

Dentists now have the ability to track the jaw as it moves through space and can track the muscle activity of the chewing muscles at the same time.

I remember as a kid back in the 1950s and '60s, if we saw a car with an out of state license plate driving through Edna, we would all take notice and wonder what they were doing in our town. Another state was a world away from everything I knew. Things have changed.

The world is small, especially the dental world.

I attended my first of a series of a mini dental residency in West Virginia a couple of weeks ago. There were 20 dentists in attendance. It was somewhat of an international group involving Canada, Russia, France and Czechoslovakia and the United States.

The Russian dentist has dual citizenship and practices in the Northeast, but flies to Moscow for a week every month to see patients. He is a very interesting guy.

Like the other dentists in the room, his specialty is rebuilding broken down teeth and mouths. He probably rebuilds more mouths in a week while he is in Moscow than most dentists do in a year or even a lifetime.

He charges up to 20 percent more in Russia than he does in the U.S. He told some of us at dinner that he has had several patients who appear with body guards and briefcases chained to the wrist, stuffed with cash.

He takes impressions with a computer and sends the information to a U.S. lab via the Internet. He charges more because of the advanced technology and because the Russians can be quite demanding and are used to getting their way. These wealthy Russians want beautiful teeth to smile and eat with.

I told the Czech dentist that my wife's maiden name was Piwonka. With a huge grin, he said Piwonka was a very well known, beautifully smelling flower, but he could not remember the English name for it.

The dentist from France has a practice in Hollywood and is Dr. Phil's dentist plus some other famous people he didn't have permission to talk about. Most of the Canadians were old friends that I do a lot of continuing education with. One of them is a full-time instructor at the Las Vegas Institute, which is quite famous in the dental world. He is Indian, Islamic and originally from East Africa.

We were all there to learn the same subjects; how to put people's mouths back together again and how to treat head and neck pain. Part of the training was dissecting the jaw joint of a human cadaver. It has been more than 40 years since I have done that. I learned a lot, but the smell was just the same as it was back in dental school.

Every dentist in the room, no matter where they were from, had to know some very advanced technical information to even begin to understand the information. For example, dentists now have the ability to track the jaw as it moves through space and can track the muscle activity of the chewing muscles at the same time.

The picture represents this technology. The three up and down lines are tracings of my own jaw movements when I open and close my mouth. It's too hard to describe in an article, but the lines show that on opening, my jaw deviates to the right and then to the left, which is probably because of some joint problems.

So, when our instructor would show scans like this, he could relate it to the cadaver we dissected. Needless to say, it was an extremely interesting weekend.

There is no technology or magic wand when it comes to helping people with major dental problems. There are simply too many variables when dealing with a human being.

The tools are simply an aid in helping solve the mysteries of why people break and wear their teeth down and or have painful head, neck and ear problems.

What does work is to use the latest tools and technology, listen to the person who has the problem and then use all of one's previous knowledge and experience and come up with plausible answers.

Dr. Mac Lee practices in Edna. He is a international speaker to dentists and is an advisor to Dr. Mehmet Oz. To learn more, visit drmaclee.com or call 361-78217191

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