Dr. Arthur Ashman, a renowned oral and maxillo-facial surgeon with more than 35 years in the dentistry field, feels comfortable at the podium discussing innovative dental techniques to students at New York University's School of Dentistry as well as professional colleagues at national and international conferences. Ashman has, in fact, presented more than 100 papers on cutting-edge work involving dental implants and the use of synthetic bone graft materials.

However, Ashman, a member of the Y's Men, was equally at ease last week when he shared his extensive knowledge about oral health with fellow members as part of the organization's weekly speaker program.

Temporarily relinquishing his place in the audience, Ashman spoke in layman's terms about the latest trends in dental care that could help alleviate or lessen some of the affects of aging on one's smile.

"It's very exciting where dentistry is going," Ashman said.

Ashman is a former clinical professor at New York University's College of Dentistry and Columbia University's College of Physicians and Surgeons. He is also the founder of the Ashman Department of Implant Dentistry at New York University.

Y's Men members were also interested to learn, though, that Ashman also spent a season pitching for the Brooklyn Dodgers before enrolling in Yale University's undergraduate program. He was also the team doctor for the New York Knicks from 1970 to 1980.

During his introduction, Y's Men Program Director Jeff Hare described Ashman as a "Renaissance man." Along with possessing astute medical skills and athletic talent, Ashman is also an accomplished musician and currently plays in several local bands, including the Westport Community Band.

Ashman's talk on Thursday, though, was about breakthroughs in dental technology involving the use of synthetic bone materials and implants.

"In the 1970s I came up with an idea that's become standard care today," Ashman said.

Keeping in mind that bone loss and shifting teeth naturally occur when a tooth was missing, Ashman said that he designed a way to trick one's body into thinking that the tooth is still there. "This would prevent bone loss," he noted.

Ashman invented a procedure for "ridge preservation" and, when necessary, a way to rebuild the jaw bone through "ridge augmentation."

This technique involves placing a synthetic bone graft into the empty tooth socket immediately following its extraction, Ashman explained during a presentation.

Although there are now several manufacturers, Ashman is responsible for inventing the first Bioplant HTR synthetic bone material.

"In the early 1970s, though, people rejected this," Ashman said. "I was literally laughed at when I got up to the podium to present papers on this subject."

He is currently working on another ground-breaking dental procedure that would allow dentists to immediately put a crown over an implant without having to wait six months, which it typically takes for the bone around the implant to regenerate.

Ashman invented a special light that, when shone on the implant for 30 seconds, would effectively strengthen it enough so it could support the crown, he explained.

Utilizing modern technology, an image of the patient's mouth, which is needed for construction of the crown, would quickly be made using a state of the art computer.

"Within an hour or so, you can go home and you can chew right away," Ashman said, smiling.

During his presentation, Ashman also offered general tips for maintaining healthy teeth.

Although most people are aware of the need to brush and floss regularly, he added that brushing should be done twice a day with a soft brush. Moreover, toothbrushes should be replaced every three to four months.

He also cautioned against using mouthwashes containing alcohol because one of the leading contributors to oral cancer is alcohol and smoking.

Ashman also explained the correlation between eating "sweets" and cavities.

"Bacteria acts on sweets to cause acid which causes decay in our teeth," Ashman said. "If you're going to eat sweet things, and we all know that we do, swish some water around in your mouth right afterwards. This will help to neutralize the acid and avoid getting cavities."

Ashman suggested that people should drink more tap water rather than bottled water, which contains no fluoride. "Children today are seeing an increase in cavities because they are all drinking bottled water," he said. "My four kids never had cavities because we all drink from the tap. Please encourage your children and grandchildren to drink from the tap, too."