Leap forward in dental technology in Kingston

Hey, hobo man, Hey, dapper Dan, You’ve both got your style,

But, brother, you’re never fully dressed without a smile!
—“You’re Never Fully Dressed  Without A Smile,” Annie

Kingston dentist Dennis Oppenheimer has been practicing for 13 years in the Hudson Valley, and he’s always loved his work. (Full disclosure: he’s my dentist, and he rocks.) Since learning and adopting Fastbraces technology in 2013, however, Oppenheimer has become a kind of evangelist for this rising method of straightening teeth. For former braces-wearers who suffered excess discomfort and lengthy treatment and want better for their friends and loved ones, or any adult who desires straight teeth but worries the process might be too painful and/or time consuming, his pitch for Fastbraces, for which his office is the only local provider, is worth listening to.

“It’s completely changing braces,” he says. “It’s one of the few things I’ve looked at in continuing education that really excited me. Compared to traditional braces, it takes half the time, it’s half the cost, and there’s no removal of teeth. At first, I thought, ‘What’s the catch?’ There isn’t one.”

Fastbraces is the brainchild of orthodontist Dr. Anthony Viazis. In the late 1980s, Dr. Viazis was just entering his orthodontics residency. “He was researching why braces fail,” Says Oppenheimer. “Why teeth move back when braces are taken off.”

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Doggie wisdom

I believe that people with dogs are for the most part physically and emotionally healthier than people without dogs. A quick Internet search will tell you as much. One can find dozens of studies proving that interacting with dogs can lower blood pressure, reduce stress hormones, strengthen the heart and release oxytocin.

The number of scientifically proven health benefits of pet ownership is rising faster than the number of chew toys strewn around your house. Here are a few of my personal favorites.

Health pluses aren’t confined to the result of the extra exercise you get walking your dog or playing hide-and-seek with your cat. The bond that you and your pet develop is also part of the equation. “Owning a pet gives you a sense of purpose and belonging that can increase feelings of positivity and lower stress levels, all of which translates to health benefits,” says Allen McConnell, PhD, a psychology professor at Miami University.

One Japanese study found pet owners made 30 percent fewer visits to doctors. An Australian study of 6000 people showed that owners of dogs and other pets had lower cholesterol, blood pressure and heart-attack risk compared with people who didn’t have pets. In a study at the State University of New York at Buffalo, women asked to solve a math equation with their dogs nearby experienced less stress than women who worked near a human pal.

“When you interact with a friendly animal, your blood pressure lowers and your muscles relax,” explains Stanley Coren, PhD, a psychology professor and neuropsychological researcher at the University of British Columbia who has published nine books on the connection between people and animals.

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Spas have many health benefits


Spas have been known as places of healing for thousands of years and continue to promise relaxation, rejuvenation and a renewed sense of purpose. At the basic level, local day spas offer therapeutic treatments like massage, body treatments and facials, which can help you take care of your body and improve your sense of well-being. At the highest level, overnight spas can even help you cope with medical issues or with a major life setback like divorce and death.

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Sacred space


When her daughter had cancer, author Abigail Thomas began teaching memoir writing to cancer patients at Benedictine Hospital in Kingston. Inspired by a visit to the oncology support program, Thomas offered to give a five-week writing workshop. Four years later, the workshop is still going strong.

Craig Mawhirt, one of the original students, felt isolated while recovering from cancer on his vocal cords. Joining the group helped him rejoin the world. “What saved me was writing and everything that goes with that,” he said. “You feel like you’re creating, you’re doing something, you’re important.” Now cancer-free, he continues to attend the workshop every week.

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A wholistic path through depression


I found myself staying in bed all day, not wanting to see anyone, not wanting to go anywhere. I had little energy and low self-confidence. I felt shame and embarrassment that I wasn’t functioning like I thought I should be.

A fourth-year undergraduate in university, I thought I might be suffering from some kind of memory impairment. I went into an exam which I had studied for, and couldn’t understand a word on the test paper. I couldn’t remember anything I had crammed into my brain for the past three days.

My professors kindly let me postpone that exam and gave me indefinite extensions on two papers after I confessed I was feeling suicidal.  “No exam or undone paper is worth killing yourself over!” one understanding teacher said.

Despite overwhelming anxiety at my ability to perform or even talk to anyone at a conference I had committed to go to, I forced myself to get on the plane. I was shaking in terror of failure. I traveled 3000 miles to be at the conference near where my mother and little brother had moved to, across Canada, after the divorce from my father.  Visiting friends in their 22nd floor Toronto apartment, I wanted to throw myself off their balcony.

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