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.

How implants changed dentistry

Implants are one of the most important developments in dental care over recent years.

They have created opportunities that didn’t exist before for people to improve their dental health and create the smile they want.

Implants were discovered by Swedish scientist and orthopedic surgeon Dr. P.I. Brnemark and they have transformed the quality of life for people who have missing teeth.

The basis of a dental implant is a titanium rod about 1cm long. This is placed inside the jawbone and is designed to serve the same purpose as tooth roots.

Implants can either be used to replace lost teeth or to help keep dentures in place more securely.

One of the reaons implants have changed dental care so much is that, previously, there was often no other way to replace missing teeth permanently.

And there are many people who cannot tolerate removable dentures or don’t want to wear them for some other reason.

The introduction of implants had made a big change in their lives.

Different types of dentist and how they help your oral care

While many people see dentists as the single group of people who look after the health of your teeth and mouth, there are various specialist categories that help you in different ways.

The categorization of a dentist will depend on their education, training and experience.

Here are some of the main specialist areas of dentistry:

Endodontics: Concerned with the dental pulp – the part in the center of a tooth made up of living soft tissue and cells and root canal therapy

Oral and Maxillofacial Pathology: This deals with the identification, and management of diseases affecting the oral and maxillofacial regions

Oral and Maxillofacial Radiology: Deals with the production and interpretation of images and data produced by radiant energy that are used for the diagnosis and management of diseases, disorders and conditions of the oral and maxillofacial region

Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery: Diagnosis and surgical treatment of diseases, injuries and defects of the tissues including extractions, facial surgery and implants

Orthodontics and Dentofacial Orthopaedics: Mainly deals with diagnosis, prevention and treatment of misaligned teeth and modification of midface and mandibular growth

Pediatric Dentistry: Provides preventive and therapeutic oral health care for infants and children through adolescence.

Periodontics: Prevention, diagnosis and treatment of diseases of the supporting and surrounding tissues of the teeth and the maintenance of the health, function and esthetics of these structures and tissues. Most periodonitist place implants

Prosthodontics: Diagnosis, treatment planning, rehabilitation and maintenance associated with missing or deficient teeth and/or oral and maxillofacial tissues. Includes dentures, bridges and the restoration of implants.

Plus, of course, general dentists provide everyday care and many specialist services to maintain your oral health.

How mouth protectors can save your teeth

If you take part in sports that carry a significant risk of injury, you should wear a mouth protector.

Accidents can happen during any physical activity and, if you participate in sports such as football, hockey, basketball, baseball, gymnastics and volleyball, you might be grateful for the extra protection one day.

Something as simple as a misdirected elbow in a game, or a spill off a bicycle, can leave you with chipped or broken teeth, nerve damage to a tooth or even tooth loss.

Mouth protectors usually cover the upper teeth and they can cushion the effect of a blow to the face, reducing the risk of broken teeth and injuries to the soft tissues of the mouth.

In addition, if you wear dental appliances such as braces on your lower jaw, your dentist may suggest a mouth protector for these teeth as well.

A properly fitted mouth protector will stay in place while you are wearing it, making it easy for you to talk and breathe. The three main types of mouth protectors are:

Stock: These are inexpensive and come ready to wear. But they often dont fit very well and they can be bulky making breathing and talking difficult.

Boil and bite: These can also be bought at many sport stores and may fit better than stock mouth protectors. You first soften them in water, then insert them and allow them to adapt to the shape of your mouth.

Custom-fitted: Protectors that are specially made for you by your dentist are more expensive but are likely to fit better than one you buy off the shelf.

Choosing to wear the right mouth protector can help you avoid serious long-term damage to your teeth and mouth.

The facts about oral cancer

Oral cancer is not as well known as other types of cancer but it can represent a life-threatening risk if not identified early.

– It strikes an estimated 35,000 Americans each year
– More than 7,500 people (5,200 men and 2,307 women) die of these cancers each year
– More than 25% of Americans who get oral cancer will die of the disease
– On average, only half of those diagnosed with the disease will survive more than five years
– African-Americans are especially vulnerable; the incidence rate is 1/3 higher than whites and the mortality rate is almost twice as high

Although the use of tobacco and alcohol are risk factors in developing oral cancer, approximately 25% of oral cancer patients have no known risk factors.

There has been a nearly five-fold increase in incidence in oral cancer patients under age 40, many with no known risk factors.

The incidence of oral cancer in women has increased significantly, largely due to an increase in women smoking. In 1950 the male to female ratio was 6:1; by 2002, it was 2:1.

The best way to prevent oral cancer is to avoid tobacco and alcohol use.

Unusual red or white spots can form in and around the mouth. These are often harmless but they can be cancerous or pre-cancerous.

Identifying and removing these early enough is a major factor in reducing the incidence of cancer.

So knowing the risk factors and seeing your dentist for regular examinations can help prevent this deadly disease.