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Posts for tag: oral health

IfYoureCaringForanOlderAdultMakeTheirOralHealthaTopPriority

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.”

SmokingPutsYourOralHealthatRiskNowandintheFuture

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.”

4RiskAreasThatCouldAffectYourLong-termOralHealth

Good oral health doesn't just happen. It is often the byproduct of a long-term care plan developed by a patient with their dentist. The plan's strategy is simple—stay well ahead of any potential threats to teeth and gum health through prevention and early treatment.

We can categorize these potential threats into 4 different areas of risk. By first assessing the state of your current oral health in relation to these areas, we find out where the greatest risks to your oral health lie. From there, we can put together the specifics of your plan to minimize that risk.

Here, then, is an overview of these 4 risk areas, and how to mitigate their effect on your oral health.

Teeth. Healthy teeth can endure for a lifetime. But tooth decay, a bacterial disease that erodes enamel and other dental tissues, can destroy a tooth's health and longevity. Our first priority is to prevent decay through daily brushing and flossing and regular dental cleanings. We also want to promptly treat any diagnosed decay with fillings or root canal therapy to limit any structural damage to an affected tooth.

Gums and bone. Teeth depend on the gums and bone for support and stability. But periodontal (gum) disease weakens and damages both of these supporting structures, and may lead to possible tooth loss. As with tooth decay, our highest priority is to prevent gum disease through daily hygiene and regular dental care. When it does occur, we want to aggressively treat it to stop the infection and minimize damage.

Bite function. Misaligned teeth and other bite problems can diminish oral health over time. A poor bite can impair oral function, leading to structural dental damage. Misaligned teeth are also harder to clean and maintain, which increases their risk for dental disease. Correcting these problems through orthodontics or bite adjustment measures can help alleviate these risks.

Appearance. How your smile looks may or may not be related to your mouth's health and function, but an unattractive smile can affect your emotional health, and thus worthy of consideration in your overall care plan. Improving appearance is often a mix of both cosmetic and therapeutic treatments, so treating a tooth or gum problem could also have a positive impact on your smile.

If you would like more information on long-term dental care strategies, 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 “Successful Dental Treatment.”

MaintainYourDentalCareDuringPregnancyForYouandYourBaby

Hearing the words, "You're going to have a baby," can change your life—as surely as the next nine months can too. Although an exciting time, pregnancy can be hectic with many things concerning you and your baby's health competing for your attention.

Be sure, then, that you include dental care on your short list of health priorities. It may seem tempting to "put things off" regarding your teeth and gums. But there are good reasons to keep up your dental care—for you and your baby.

For you: a higher risk of dental disease. Hormonal changes during pregnancy can trigger outcomes that increase your dental disease risk. For one, you may encounter cravings that include carbohydrates like sugar. Bacteria feed on sugar, which can cause both tooth decay and gum disease. This change in hormones can also trigger a form of gum disease called pregnancy gingivitis.

For your baby: dental-related complications. Some studies show evidence that a mother's oral bacteria can pass through the placenta and affect the baby. This may in turn spark an inflammatory response in the mother's body, creating potential complications during pregnancy. Other research points to what could result: Women with diseased gums are more likely to deliver premature or underweight babies than those with healthy gums.

Fortunately, you can minimize dental disease during pregnancy and protect both you and your baby.

  • Keep up regular dental cleanings and checkups during pregnancy;
  • Limit consumption of sweets and other sugary foods;
  • Brush and floss every day to remove dental plaque, which feeds bacteria;
  • See your dentist at the first sign of swollen, painful or bleeding gums;  
  • And, inform your dentist that you're pregnant—it could affect your treatment plan.

Although it's wise to put off dental work of a cosmetic or elective nature, you shouldn't postpone essential procedures. Both the American Dental Association and the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists approve of pregnant women undergoing therapeutic dental work.

Dental care during pregnancy shouldn't be an option. Maintaining your oral health could help you and your baby avoid unpleasant complications.

If you would like more information on dental care during pregnancy, 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 Care During Pregnancy.”

SomeOsteoporosisTreatmentsCouldImpactDentalCare

Millions of Americans live with osteoporosis, a degenerative bone disease that can turn a minor fall into a potential bone fracture. Literally meaning "porous bone," osteoporosis causes the natural marrow spaces in bone tissue to progressively grow larger and weaken the remaining bone.

Many osteoporosis patients take medication to slow the disease's process. But due to the dynamic nature of bone, some of these drugs can have unintended consequences—consequences that could affect dental care.

As living tissue, bone is literally "coming and going." Certain cells called osteoblasts continuously produce new bone, while others called osteoclasts remove older tissue to make way for the new. Drugs like bisphosphonates and RANKL inhibitors interrupt this process by destroying some of the osteoclasts.

As a result, more of the older bone remains past its normal lifespan, helping the bone overall to retain strength. But ongoing research is beginning to hint that this may only be a short-term gain. The older, longer lasting bone is more fragile than newer bone, and tends to become more brittle and prone to fracture the longer a patient takes the drug. This tissue can also die but still remain intact, a condition known as osteonecrosis.

The femur (the large upper leg bone) and the jawbone are the bones of the body most susceptible to osteonecrosis. Dentists are most concerned when this happens in the latter: Its occurrence could lead to complications during invasive procedures like oral surgery or implant placement.

Because of this possibility, you should keep your dentist informed regarding any treatments you're undergoing for osteoporosis, especially when planning upcoming dental procedures like oral surgery or implant placement. You might be able to lower your risk by taking a "drug holiday," coming off of certain medications for about three months before your dental work.

As always, you shouldn't stop medication without your doctor's guidance. But research has shown drug holidays of short duration won't worsen your osteoporosis. If you're already showing signs of osteonecrosis in the jaw, a short absence from your prescription along with antiseptic mouthrinses and heightened oral hygiene could help reverse it.

Fortunately, the risk for dental complications related to osteoporosis medication remains low. And, by working closely with both your dentist and your physician, you can ensure it stays that way.

If you would like more information on osteoporosis and your dental care, 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 “Osteoporosis Drugs & Dental Treatment.”



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