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Serving Las Vegas and Henderson, Nevada since 1999.

As we get go down the inevitable path of aging, health problems arise that we never expected. This includes oral health changes that can be kept at bay with proper care. Below you will find a list of some of the common dental health issues seniors face.

Common Dental Health Issues For Seniors

-Xerostomia (Dry Mouth). This occurs when salivary flow is reduced. This can occur from many factors such as medications, Sjogren’s syndrome, or even from radiation therapy to the head and neck area. Saliva is the body’s natural defense against the bacteria and food debris that can build up in our mouths. Without proper flow, tooth decay and periodontal disease has an increased chance of developing creating problems for your oral health.

-Darker Smile. This is a  cumulative effect of thinning enamel (exposing more of the underneath layer, the dentin) and a lifetime of eating and drinking stain causing food and drink. For many a simple teeth whitening can bring back the bright, white shine for others it may require more extensive cosmetic dentistry.

-Decay Along The Roots Of Teeth. As we age and are not as diligent over time with our dental hygiene, the gum tissue surrounding our teeth can recede as we lose bone. This recession will expose portions of the tooth known as the root. These areas are much less protected and more vulnerable to developing tooth decay. Simce this area is thinner, this tooth decay can progress rapidly leading to tooth sensitivity and possibly the need for root canal therapy.

-Changes In Taste. We have all heard the sayings how our tastes change as we get older. We make different choices in our nutrition as we get older. Other items that can contribute changes to our taste sensation include disease, medications, and even dentures.

-Periodontal Disease. This is not just a disease for young or old. It affects both equally but tends to rear itself more in the older population. This is due to usually slow progression of the disease. It is important to note keeping periodontal disease at bay will stave off tooth loss as we age. A full smile is a youthful looking one.

-Tooth Loss. This can occur for many reasons including periodontal disease, trauma, or untreated tooth decay. It is important to replace lost teeth whenever possible as it prevents your bite from shifting creating issues with your Temperomandibular Joint (TMJ).

-Temperomandibular Joint Disorder. This is generally a slow developing disorder. Hence, it seems to be more likely in an older person than a younger one. The bones and the disc in this joint will break down over time from bad habits like teeth grinding or even chewing hard candy over a long period of time.

-Denture Induced Stomatitis. This is simply an inflammation of the tissues beneath a denture. This is caused by dentures that do not fit properly, poor oral hygiene, or can even be caused by a fungus (Candida Albicans, also known as thrush).

What Can Be Done To Combat These Issues For Seniors?

The main thing is to maintain dental hygiene throughout life. This includes brushing at least 2x per day, flossing at least 1x per day, and using an antibacterial rinse. Dental hygiene tends to become more difficult for many as they age due to arthritis. This makes hands dexterity and strength an issue. Luckily, there are many wonderful products on the market to help with these situations. And it is also important to keep up with your scheduled dental visits for examinations (including oral cancer screenings) and professional cleanings. Doing the right things can be hard sometimes but doing them will pay off over the long run leading to a happy, healthy more youthful looking smile as we age.

Gingivitis is simply inflammation of the gum tissue in the mouth. It is a reversible, non-destructive form of periodontal disease. While there are many causes of gingivitis, the

Gingivitis Marielaina Perrone DDS

Gingivitis Can be Prevented!

number one cause is poor dental hygiene.

Gingivitis can arise as -a side effect to medication, surges in hormones, mouth breathing, dry mouth,poor nutrition, disease state, tobacco use, or poor oral hygiene. When hygiene is insufficient, bacteria in dental plaque release acids that stimulate the inflammatory response by the body. This in turn cause the gums to appear puffy, red, and bleed easily upon brushing. It takes some work to restore the gums back to a healthy state. Frequent professional cleaning along with regular tooth brushing and flossing can help to remove plaque and keep it from building up on the teeth and gums.

Signs Of Gingivitis

-swollen, shiny, and tender gums

-blood on toothbrush while brushing

- pink toothpaste when spitting out

-pus around teeth

-bad breath

-gum redness

-visible tartar deposits

-bad taste in mouth

-gums bleed easily

-gum ulcers

Other Causes Of Gingivitis

-Medications. Many prescription and over-the-counter medications come with the side effect causing dry mouth or xerostomia, and sometimes gum overgrowth. Saliva is important to help keep your teeth clean by controlling the growth of bacteria as well as maintaining a neutral environment to prevent tooth decay. That means that the less saliva you have, the greater your risk for gingivitis (and tooth decay!). Many common medications including antidepressants, blood pressure meds,  asthma inhalers, and cold medications can reduce the amount of saliva in your mouth. Seizure medications, and some blood pressure medications can cause the gum tissue to grow. This extra tissue, makes it more difficult to keep clean. It is important you always read the side effects for any medications you are taking to ensure you take the proper steps like drinking more water and brushing more often following meals.

-Infection/ Disease: Various types of viral infections or fungal infections can cause periodontal disease. Oral Thrush is an example. Thrush occurs when a type of fungus that occurs normally in the mouth gets out of control and forms lesions that can infect the tongue and gums. Also, an infection caused by the herpes virus can cause

Gingivitis Marielaina Perrone DDS

periodontal disease. It is important to get these infections under control as soon as possible as they are quite treatable in most cases. There are also other diseases that can effect the oral tissue, such as oral cancer, and diabetes.

-Nutrition: If you follow a fad diet or a diet that is severely lacking in calcium and vitamins B and C, you may be at increased risk for periodontal disease.

-Mouth Breathing: leaving the mouth open to breathe while awake or sleeping, dries the mouth substantially. Oral dryness  allows gingivitis to occur more readily.making healing more difficult

-Tobacco use: Smoking directly effects the gums by decreasing blood circulation and thereby increasing inflammation. Smokeless tobacco cause irritation in direct response to the product eroding the tissue.

-Hormone surges: Hormonal imbalance during puberty, menstruation, pregnancy, and menopause can cause gingivitis. The drastic hormone changes allow gum tissues to become inflamed quite readily.

Possible Complications From Gingivitis

In most cases, if gingivitis is properly treated and the patient follows good dental hygiene there will be no complications. However, if left untreated, gingivitis can worsen and develop into a more advanced version of periodontal disease called periodontitis. This form of periodontal disease is quite destructive and will cause loss of bone and eventually loss of teeth.

Possible complications from gingivitis can include:

-Abscess in the gum tissues.

-Abscess in the jaw bones.

-Infection in the jaw bone or gum tissues.

-increased susceptibility to heart disease.

-Loss of esthetic gum contours. The points of gum tissue between the teeth disappear, leaving behind a “black triangle”. Red, jelly-roll margins at the gum line of the tooth. Pink stippling disappears.

-Periodontitis.

-Recurrent gingivitis.

-Trench mouth, or ANUG.  Ulcerations of the gums caused by bacterial infection.

Gingivitis can cause damage in other areas of the body if allowed to remain untreated. The bacteria from the gums can enter the bloodstream and cause infections elsewhere. Periodontal disease has been linked to heart disease, stroke and erectile dysfunction. It may also cause the delivery of premature infants as well as low birth weight infants to gingivitis-infected mothers. Those with diabetes may have problems controlling blood sugar levels if they also suffer from gingivitis.

Prevention of Gingivitis

Gingivitis may be prevented or cured by following some simple preventative measures:

-Brush teeth, gum line, and tongue daily. Teeth should be brushed at least twice a day. Both morning and night and after meals when possible.Gingivitis Marielaina Perrone DDS

-Use a soft bristled toothbrush, which is less likely to damage teeth or gums. Replace toothbrush every three months or sooner if needed.

-Use a fluoride toothpaste.

- Do not snack in the middle of the night. Chew gum after daytime snacks.

-Floss at least once a day.

-Rinse with an effective mouthwash, such as listerine.

-Visit the dentist at least once every six months for cleaning and examination to keep gingivitis away.

-Avoid sugary foods, tobacco and drinking excessive amounts of alcohol.

Conclusion

Gingivitis is very treatable. The first step, is understanding what is making it occur. Following a regular dental hygiene regimen will keep gingivitis at bay and not allow it to progress to periodontal disease. A few minutes a day is all it takes to maintain a healthy teeth and gums. Remember to visit your dentist regularly for dental examinations and professional cleanings to avoid the onset of gingivitis.

 

Medications are any chemical substance used in the treatment, cure, or prevention of disease. It can also be used as a supplement to enhance a person’s physical or mental well being.

Over the course of our lives we will all, most likely, take some form of medication. The medications can just be a simple over the counter pain reliever or something prescribed by your physician for a more serious medical condition. Did you know many of these medications also affect your oral health?

Prescribed and over-the-counter drugs, vitamins, minerals, and herbal supplements can all cause oral health issues. Some of these issues include, dry mouth, inflammation, overgrowth of the gums, changes in taste and bone loss.

Oral Health Side Effects of Medications

Some of the most common oral health side effects include:

1) Xerostomia or Dry Mouth. Medications that can cause dry mouth by decreasing salivary flow include: antihistamines, decongestants,  high blood pressure medications, medicine for Parkinson’s disease, pain medication, and antidepressants. There are hundreds of medications that list dry mouth as a side effect. Xerostomia is quite common,and needs to be monitored for your oral health to be maintained. Without proper salivary flow, you will be more likely to develop more tooth cavities and periodontal infections.

Tips to Combat Dry Mouth

-Drink lots of water throughout the day to keep your mouth wet and moist. This will also help to rinse your mouth throughout the day to minimize tooth decay and bacteria buildup.

-Stop using or cut down on caffeinated drinks, sugary beverages, alcohol, and tobacco. All of these contribute to dry mouth.

-Chew gum to promote salivary production. Recommend a sugarless gum or one with xylitol.

-Avoid salty and spicy foods. This can not only dry you out further but cause some discomfort as you are unable to wash the spices away as quickly without the proper amount of saliva.

-Use a humidifier at bedtime. Many people feel this helps to keep their mouths moist through the night.  Works well for mouth breathers.

-Use an artificial saliva rinse, and dry mouth specific products. These will allow you to keep your mouth moist and avoid the problems mentioned above. Biotene is a good example of such products.

2) Abnormal bleeding. Medications known as blood thinners can cause prolonged bleeding of tissues in your mouth. These include aspirin and anticoagulants (such as Heparin). These medications work by lowering the ability of the blood to form clots. They are helpful in preventing heart attacks and strokes but they can cause excessive bleeding especially during any type of oral surgery, or even after a deep cleaning. It is therefore very important to tell your doctor or dentist if you are taking this type of medications.

3) Change in taste. Many drugs can give you a metallic or bitter taste. While others can totally change the way you perceive taste of different foods. Some good examples of these medicines are as follows:

-Heart medications. Such as beta blockers or calcium channel blockers.

-Flagyl (metronidazole). This is an antibiotic.

-Nicotine skin patches. These patches are used for people who want to quit smoking.

The only option for these patients usually is to deal with the side effects of the medication or ask your physician if there is some other medication that can work in its place.

4) Inflammation, gum overgrowth, mouth sores, or changes in color of the soft tissues in your mouth. These can include blood pressure medications, immunosuppressive drugs, oral contraceptives, and some chemotherapy drugs. If you are having issues with these drugs let your dentist know. You may need to increase your oral hygiene regimen to maintain a healthy mouth.

5) Tooth Cavities. Various medications contain sugar. Many children’s medications have a high amount of sugar in them to improve taste. Too much sugar as we know can lead to tooth cavities. Sugar can also be found in cough drops, antacid tablets, anti fungal lozenges, and many vitamins.

Tips to help lower risk of tooth decay from medications:

-Take the medications at mealtimes, not at bedtime.

-Drink water after taking medications.

-Make you or your children brush or chew sugarless (or xylitol) gum after taking the medication.

-Visit your dentist regularly for dental care.

6) Bone loss. Medications such as corticosteroids (like prednisone) and anti-epilepsy drugs can lead to bone loss. Medications used in the treatment of osteoporosis (bisphosphanates) can lead to a rare condition called osteonecrosis of the jawbone. This results in destruction of the bone. Symptoms can include painful, inflamed gums, loos teeth, jaw numbness, fluid in the gums or jaw, and bone that becomes exposed.

If you are taking medications for osteoporosis be sure to tell your dentist. The dentist may be able to prescribe you an antibiotic or non steroidal anti inflammatory drug (NSAID) to slow your bone loss.

7) Thrush, or an oral yeast infection. Thrush is caused by a fungus (Candida) and shows up in the mouth as white and red lesions on the tongue and/or surrounding tissues. Taking antibiotics, steroids, or going through chemotherapy can cause thrush. The general course of attack in dentistry is to recommend anti fungal mouthwashes or lozenges. If that does not work, then a stronger anti fungal medication will be needed.

Bottom Line on Medications and Your Oral Health

All of the medications listed above generally serve a greater purpose for the maintenance of your overall health. Therefore these side effects from medications must be dealt with, as we cannot just stop taking these medications. This is why it is so important to be open and honest to all your physicians and dentists letting them know everything you are taking. Your treatment may need to be altered or monitored closely by your dentist. You may not realize the impact your specific medications may have on your oral condition, but your caretakers do.