Posts for category: Oral Health
Most of us care for our teeth without much assistance, save from our dentist. But that can change as we get older. A senior adult sometimes needs the help of a family member or a close friend, even with the basics of personal oral care.
At the same time, an older adult's other pressing health needs can be so overwhelming for their caregiver that their oral health needs move to the back burner. But the condition of a person's teeth and gums is directly related to overall health and well-being, especially later in life—it deserves to be a high priority.
First and foremost, caregivers should focus on daily oral hygiene to prevent tooth decay or gum disease, the two most prevalent diseases capable of severely damaging teeth and gums. Dental plaque, a thin bacterial film accumulating on tooth surfaces, is the top cause for these diseases. Removing it daily helps lower the risk for either type of infection.
Older adults may begin to find it difficult to brush and floss on a daily basis. Caregivers can help by adapting the tools of the job to their situation. Adults with diminished hand dexterity might be better served with a power or large-handled toothbrush, or switching to a water flosser for flossing. If they're cognitively challenged, it might also be necessary to perform these tasks for them.
Because of medications or other oral issues, older adults have a higher propensity for chronic dry mouth. Saliva neutralizes acid and supplies antibodies to fight infection, so not having enough can make the mouth environment more conducive to harmful bacteria. Caregivers should interact with their loved one's doctor to help reduce dry mouth through alternative medications or products to improve saliva flow.
An older person may also have dental work like crowns, bridges or dentures that protect their oral health and improve dental function. Be sure they're seeing a dentist to regularly check their dental work and make adjustments or repairs as necessary.
Good oral health is important in every stage of life, but particularly in our later years. Watching out for an older adult's teeth and gums can make a big difference in their overall quality of life.
If you would like more information on dental care for senior adults, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more about this topic by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “Aging & Dental Health.”
When you smoke, you're setting yourself up for problems with your health. That includes your teeth and gums—tobacco has been linked to greater susceptibility to both tooth decay and periodontal (gum) disease.
Smoking in particular can have a number of adverse effects on your mouth. Smoke can burn and form a thickened layer of the mouth's inner membranes called a keratosis. This in turn can damage the salivary glands enough to decrease saliva production, making for a drier mouth more hospitable to harmful bacteria.
Nicotine, the active chemical ingredient in tobacco, can cause the mouth's blood vessels to constrict. This causes less blood flow, thus a slower flow of nutrients and antigens to teeth and gums to ward off infection. Taken together, smokers are more likely than non-smokers to suffer from dental disease.
The impact doesn't end there. The conditions in the mouth created by smoking make it more difficult for the person to successfully obtain dental implants, one of the more popular tooth replacement methods.
Implants generally enjoy a high success rate due to their most unique feature, a titanium metal post that's imbedded into the jawbone. During the weeks after surgery, bone cells grow and accumulate on the implant's titanium surface to create a lasting hold.
But the previously mentioned effects of smoking can interfere with the integration between implant and bone. Because of restricted blood flow, the tissues around the implant are slower to heal. And the greater risk for dental disease, particularly gum infections, could cause an implant to eventually fail.
Of the rare number of implants that fail, twice as many occur in smokers. By removing smoking as a factor, you stand a much better chance for implant success. If you're considering implants and you smoke, you'll fare much better if you quit smoking altogether.
If you can't, at least stop smoking a week before implant surgery and for a couple of weeks after to increase your mouth's healing factor. Be sure you also keep up daily brushing and flossing and regular dental visits.
Smoking can increase the disease factor for your teeth and gums. Quitting the habit can make it easier to restore your oral health.
If you would like more information on the impact of smoking to oral health, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more about this topic by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “Dental Implants & Smoking.”
Boomers, Gen X, Millennials, Gen Z—we're all different. But regardless of our particular birth generation, we do have one thing in common: we're all getting older. Sooner (Boomers) or later (Gen Z), we're all going to face some challenging realities related to aging—including regarding our teeth and gums.
Even if you've enjoyed optimal oral health throughout your life, aging can still have an impact. As we recognize Older Americans Month this May, here are some potential issues you might face as you get older with your teeth and gums, and how you can start minimizing those issues now.
Wearing. After tens of thousands of meals, you can expect your teeth to show some wear. The question is, how much. Crunching ice or using your teeth as a nutcracker accelerates normal wear, as can an unconscious teeth-grinding habit. It's important, then, to keep an eye on dental wearing and adjust your lifestyle habits (or get help with them from your dentist) to minimize the rate of wear.
Discoloration. Teeth naturally yellow as we get older, but just like dental wearing, there are things that can make it worse: Drinking coffee, tea, or red wine, smoking, or neglecting oral hygiene. Restricting foods that cause staining, quitting smoking, and renewing your brushing and flossing habit (along with regular dental cleanings) can help keep staining to a minimum.
Dental disease. Fifty percent of people over 30 will contend at some point in their lives with gum disease—and that percentage mushrooms to 70 percent after age 65. And, it's not just gum disease—older adults have a higher risk for tooth decay, as well as oral cancer. Besides practicing good oral hygiene habits, it's especially important to visit your dentist regularly for checkups, and to eat a healthy diet of whole foods and less processed, sugar-laden foods.
Disability. Our ability to take care of ourselves can diminish as we get older, which could have an effect on our oral health. Both physical disability and cognitive decline may make it harder to brush and floss, or to keep up with regular dental care. Along the way, you may need to make adjustments to your oral hygiene routine like using larger-handled or power toothbrushes, flossing picks, or water flossers. And if the time comes, seek out help from a caretaker or loved one to help you keep up with your oral care.
A long and happy life isn't challenge-free and your oral health may well be one of those challenges. But with a continuing focus on good personal and dental care, you can meet those challenges with a healthy mouth and a beautiful smile.
If you would like more information about the effects of aging on oral health, please contact us or schedule a consultation. To learn more, read the Dear Doctor magazine article “Aging and Dental Health.”
Preventive maintenance (PM) can help extend the longevity of many things we own, from automobiles to electronic devices. But preventive maintenance is also useful for more than tangibles like cars or computers—your teeth and gums, for instance. Performing oral PM can help keep your mouth healthy and help you avoid costly treatments in the future.
In recognition of National Dental Care Month this May, here are 5 preventive maintenance tips to keep your teeth and gums in tip-top shape.
Daily oral hygiene. Dental plaque is a thin, bacterial film on tooth surfaces that's most responsible for dental disease. Accumulations of plaque and its hardened form, tartar, can trigger tooth decay or gum disease, both of which have the potential to rob you of your teeth. Daily brushing and flossing to remove plaque buildup is a great PM investment in your oral health.
Plaque disclosure. If you do brush and floss every day, how effective are you? One way to find out is to use a plaque disclosing agent, a product containing a special dye that only activates when it comes in contact with bacterial plaque. After applying it, you can see any plaque you've missed highlighted with a bright color, providing you valuable feedback toward improving your hygiene practice.
Dental cleanings. Even if you're a ninja at brushing and flossing, there's always a chance of missing some plaque. It can then calcify into the aforementioned tartar, which is impossible to remove with only brushing and flossing. Semi-annual cleanings by your dentist removes residual plaque and tartar, helping to boost your already low risk for tooth decay or gum disease.
Prompt treatment. When you hear a "knock" or some other odd occurrence with your car, it's wise to have it checked ASAP to avoid more extensive damage. The same goes for your mouth. Symptoms like dark spots on teeth, slow-healing mouth sores, or swollen, reddened and bleeding gums should prompt you to make an appointment with your dentist. The sooner you do, the quicker we can treat the problem at the least amount of expense.
Sports protection. Disease isn't the only threat to your mouth—a hard blow to the face or jaws can cause severe injuries that could reverberate for years to come. You can prevent injuries by wearing appropriate safety equipment during contact sports or similar activities, including helmets fitted with face shields or athletic mouthguards.
Most dental problems don't happen overnight—they're often the result of a lack of attention to your teeth and gum health. But adopting a PM mindset for your mouth could help you avoid serious issues—and expenses—down the road.
If you would like more information about best ways to take care of your oral health, please contact us or schedule a consultation. To learn more, read the Dear Doctor magazine article “10 Tips for Daily Oral Care at Home.”
You know what people say: "Protect your tooth enamel, and it will protect your teeth." Then again, maybe you've never heard anyone say that—but it's still true. Super strong enamel protects teeth from oral threats that have the potential to do them in.
Unfortunately, holding the title of "Hardest substance in the human body" doesn't make enamel indestructible. It's especially threatened by oral acid, which can soften its mineral content and lead to erosion.
That doesn't have to happen. Here are 5 things you can do to protect your enamel—and your teeth.
Don't brush too often. Brushing is essential for removing bacterial plaque, the main cause for dental disease. But more isn't always good—brushing too frequently can wear down enamel (and damage your gums, too). So, limit daily brushing to no more than twice a day.
Don't brush too soon. Oral acid normally peaks at mealtime, which can put your enamel into a softer than normal state. No worries, though, because saliva neutralizes acid within about an hour. But brushing before saliva finishes rebuffering could cause tiny bits of softened enamel to flake off—so, wait an hour after eating to brush.
Stop eating—right before turning in for the night, that is. Because saliva flow drops significantly during sleep, the decreased saliva may struggle to buffer acid from that late night snack. To avoid this situation, end your eating or snacking at least an hour before bedtime.
Increase your calcium. This essential mineral that helps us maintain strong bones and teeth can also help our enamel remineralize faster after acid contact. Be sure, then, to include calcium-rich foods and calcium-fortified beverages in your diet.
Limit acidic beverages. Many sodas, sports and energy drinks are high in acid, which can skew your mouth's normal pH. Go with low-acidic beverages like milk or water, or limit acidic drinks to mealtimes when saliva flows more freely. Also, consider using a straw while drinking acidic beverages to lessen their contact with teeth.
Remember, enamel isn't a renewable resource—once it's gone, it's gone. Take care of your enamel, then, so it will continue to take care of you!
If you would like more information on caring for your tooth enamel, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more about this topic by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “6 Tips to Help Prevent the Erosion of Tooth Enamel.”