Diabetes and your dental health: How your dentist can help

If youve been diagnosed with diabetes, its important that you let your dentist know so that they can give you the best care possible.

As more than 15 million Americans have diabetes, your dentist will be familiar with the issues and will give you the specialist care you need.

This is important because diabetes can lower your resistance to infection and slow the healing process.

Its important to tell your dentist:

– If you have been diagnosed with .diabetes
– If the disease is under control
– If there has been any other change in your medical history
– Names of all prescription and over-the-counter drugs you are taking

The most common oral health problems associated with diabetes are:

– Tooth decay
– Periodontal (gum) disease
– Salivary gland dysfunction
– Fungal infections
– Infection and delayed healing
– Taste impairment

If you have regular dental checkups and keep your dentist informed about your status theyll be able to help you reduce and manage these risks.

Making the most of your smile

Your smile is a major factor in the impression people get when they meet you.

And the good news is that you now don’t have to settle for a smile spoiled by stained, chipped, or misshapen teeth.

Advances in dental treatment mean there is a wide range of choices to help you get the smile that you want. Here are some of the options:
– Tooth whitening (bleaching) can help brighten teeth that have become discolored or stained. It can be done in the dental office or with a system the dentist can give you to use at home
– Bonding improves the appearance of teeth that have become chipped, broken, cracked or stained. This is done by bonding tooth-colored materials to the tooth surface
– Enamel shaping involves modifying teeth to improve their appearance by removing or contouring enamel
– Veneers are thin custom-made shells of tooth-colored materials designed to cover the front side of teeth. They are used to treat spaces between teeth and teeth that are chipped, stained or poorly shaped.
– Braces may be needed if teeth are crooked, crowded or do not meet properly – and not just for kids

Even small changes can have a big impact on your smile and so make a huge difference to how you look and how you feel about yourself.

If you’d like an even better smile, your dentist will be able to give you information about the options available.

Maintaining proper nutrition as an older adult

Maintaining proper nutrition is important for everyone, young or old but many older adults find it difficult to eat a balanced diet.

They may avoid meats, raw vegetables and fresh fruits because they have trouble chewing or swallowing.

These problems can be caused by painful teeth, ill-fitting dentures, dry mouth or changes in facial muscles.

Others find their sense of taste has changed, sometimes due to a disease or certain medications.

As a result, older adults often have diets lacking in calcium, protein and other nutrients essential to dental and overall health.

A balanced diet has to be based on the five food groups:
– Milk and dairy products
– Breads and cereals
– Meats and dried beans
– Fruits
– Vegetables

Sometimes a multi-vitamin or mineral supplement will help but its best to use supplements only after discussion with your physician.

If your teeth are stopping you from eating the food you enjoy or that you need for good health your dentist will be able to help you find a solution.

Taking steps to stop oral cancer before its too late

Oral cancer hits more than 30,000 Americans every year but you can minimize the risk by taking steps to ensure its caught early enough.

The first indications of oral cancer may be a very small, but dangerous, oral spot or sore that you are not even aware of.

In a routine examination, your dentist will carefully examine the inside of your mouth and tongue.

If they notice a flat, painless, white or red spot or a small sore, this may be completely harmless. But harmful spots or sores often look the same as harmless ones.

To ensure that a spot or sore is not dangerous, your dentist may choose to perform a simple test, such as a brush test. This collects cells from the lesion which can them be analyzed.

Any positive results from a brush test must usually be confirmed by a biopsy before deciding the next step.

If precancerous cells are found, the lesion can be surgically removed if necessary during a separate procedure.

When caught early enough, the chances of preventing the cancer developing are high but only half of those diagnosed survive more than five years.

Thats why regular dental examinations are so important for your overall health and not just to have good teeth.

How older adults can handle dry mouth and taste problems

Reduced saliva flow that results in a dry mouth is a common problem among older adults.

It is caused by certain medical disorders and is often a side effect of medications such as antihistamines, decongestants, pain killers and diuretics.

Some of the common problems associated with dry mouth include:
– Constant sore throat
– Burning sensation
– Problems speaking
– Difficulty swallowing
– Hoarseness or dry nasal passages

Left untreated, dry mouth can damage your teeth. Without adequate saliva to lubricate your mouth, wash away food, and neutralize the acids produced by plaque, extensive cavities can form.

Your dentist can recommend various methods to restore moisture. For example, sugar-free candy or gum stimulates saliva flow, and moisture can be replaced by using artificial saliva and oral rinses.

Another issue that can affect older adults is a loss of appetite due to a change in your sense of taste. Besides an age-related decrease in the sense of taste and smell, certain diseases, medications and dentures can contribute to a decrease in your sense of taste.

Whether you are suffering from dry mouth or problems with your sense of taste, your dentist will be able to make suggestions to help.

The secrets of avoiding gum disease as an older adult

Gum disease also known as periodontal disease often progresses slowly, without pain, over a long period of time and thats one reason it is common among older adults.

The longer the disease goes undetected and uncontrolled, the more damage it causes to gums and other supporting tissues.

Although periodontal disease is caused by plaque, other factors can increase the risk or severity of the condition, including:
– Food left between the teeth
– Tobacco use smoking and smokeless tobacco
– Badly aligned teeth
– Ill-fitting bridges or partial dentures
– Poor diet
– Systemic diseases such as anemia

Although periodontal disease is common, it can be controlled and, if caught in its early stages, it can be reversed. However, in advanced stages, it may require surgery.

Look out for the following warning signs and see your dentist if you notice any of them:
– Bleeding gums when you brush
– Red, tender or swollen gums
– Gums that have pulled away from the teeth
– Pus between your teeth and gums when the gums are pressed
– Loose teeth or teeth moving apart
– Any change in your bite
– Any change in the fit of your partial dentures
– Constant bad breath or bad taste

Keeping an eye out for these problems and having regular dental checkups can help you stop gum disease becoming a major and expensive problem.

Things to look out for during pregnancy

Every woman wants to maintain their own health during pregnancy and to take whatever steps are necessary to give the baby the best possible start.

There are a few factors in your oral health to look out for during this time.

One consideration is that its common for pregnant women to have the urge to eat between meals. The risk is that frequent snacking on carbohydrate-containing foods can encourage tooth decay.

Bacteria in your mouth called plaque can convert the sugar and starch in your mouth into an acid that attacks tooth enamel. After repeated attacks, tooth decay can result.

So, when you need a snack, try to choose foods that are nutritious for you and your baby such as raw fruits and vegetables and dairy products.

During pregnancy, your bodys hormone levels rise considerably. Gum problems, such as gingivitis, are especially common during the second to eighth months of pregnancy. They may cause red, puffy or tender gums that bleed when you brush.

This is an exaggerated response to plaque caused by higher levels of progesterone in your system. Your dentist may recommend more frequent cleanings at some stages to help you avoid problems.

Occasionally overgrowths of gum tissue, called pregnancy tumors, appear on the gums during the second trimester. These localized growths or swellings are usually found between the teeth and are thought to be related to excess plaque.

They bleed easily and are often surgically removed after the baby is born.

Studies indicate that pregnant women who have severe periodontal (gum) disease may be at increased risk for pre-term delivery, which in turn increases the risk of having a low-birth-weight baby.

So its particularly important to maintain good oral health during pregnancy. Make sure you clean your teeth carefully and visit your dentist regularly.

Should you be concerned about thumbsucking?

Some children suck on their thumbs and parents often wonder if it is harmful.

Sucking on something is a child’s natural reflex. It can help them feel more secure so they start to suck on their thumbs, fingers, pacifiers or other objects.

Since thumbsucking is relaxing, it may also help them sleep.

However, after the permanent teeth come in, sucking may cause problems with the proper growth of the mouth and the alignment of teeth. It can also cause changes in the roof of the mouth.

Whether or not dental problems will result depends on the intensity of the sucking.

A child who vigorously sucks their thumb is more likely to have difficulties than one who rests their thumb passively in their mouth. Young children who suck their thumbs aggressively may even cause problems with their baby teeth.

If you notice changes in your childs primary teeth, consult your dentist.

Usually children will stop sucking their thumbs between the ages of about two and four. They should have ceased sucking by the time the permanent front teeth are ready to erupt.

If your child is continuing to suck their thumbs, here are some tips:

– Praise them for not sucking, instead of scolding them when they are
– If they are sucking because they feel insecure, focus on correcting the cause of the anxiety
– For older children, involve them in choosing the method of stopping

If necessary, your dentist can help by encouraging the child and explaining what could happen to their teeth if they do not stop sucking.

The keys to keeping your mouth healthy

A healthy mouth is a good indication of your overall health and helps you to keep a great smile and continue eating what you want for many years to come.

There are a few steps you can take to make sure your mouth is as healthy as possible:
– Brush your teeth twice a day using a good quality toothbrush
– Renew your toothbrush regularly. It will only keep your mouth healthy if the brush is in good condition and the bristles are strong. You should replace it at least every three or four months
– Clean between your teeth. Your toothbrush can’t reach everywhere and bacteria can linger between the teeth so its important to clean between them every day using floss or an interdental cleaner
– Visit your dentist regularly for professional cleaning and oral examinations

Your dentist will be able to give you tips on what other products you should consider to help improve your oral health.

For example, antimicrobial mouth rinses and toothpastes can reduce the germs in your mouth and reduce the risk of gum disease.

Also, fluoride mouth rinses can help reduce and prevent tooth decay. Studies have shown that using mouth rinses provides valuable protection over and above that provided by fluoride toothpaste alone.

Look out for the ADA seal when buying toothbrushes and other dental products. This is a sign that the product has met American Dental Association standards for safety and effectiveness.

Following these steps can help ensure that you continue to enjoy great oral health.

The secrets of brushing and flossing your teeth effectively

Though many of us say we brush our teeth regularly, you get the best results by making sure you brush properly.

Here are the steps you should follow:

First, place the toothbrush at a 45-degree angle to your gums.

Then, move the brush back and forth gently in short (tooth-wide) strokes.

Brush the outer tooth surfaces, the inner tooth surfaces, and the chewing surfaces of the teeth.

Use the “toe” of the brush to clean the inside surfaces of the front teeth, using a gentle up-and-down stroke.

Finally, brush your tongue to remove bacteria and freshen your breath.

As well as brushing your teeth, you should floss them every day. Heres how to floss for best results.

Break off about 18 inches of floss and wind most of it around one of your middle fingers.

Then wind the remaining floss around the same finger on the opposite hand. This finger will take up the floss as it becomes dirty.

Hold the floss tightly between your thumbs and forefingers.

Guide the floss between your teeth using a gentle rubbing motion. Never snap the floss into the gums.

When the floss reaches the gum line, curve it into a C shape against one tooth. Gently slide it into the space between the gum and the tooth.

Hold the floss tightly against the tooth. Gently rub the side of the tooth, moving the floss away from the gum with up and down motions.

Repeat this method on the rest of your teeth.

Don’t forget the back side of your last tooth.

If you have difficulty handling dental floss, consider other types of interdental cleaner such as special brushes, picks or sticks.

Your dentist or hygienist will be able to give your further tips on how to brush and floss for best results.