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As we get older, we need tokeep track of our bodies far differently than when we were younger. This includes our dental hygiene. Prescription medications can have a big effect on dental health. They can lead to dry mouth which can lead to increased tooth decay. Below you will find some great dental hygiene tips to navigate through the senior years.

Common Dental Issues For Seniors

Certain dental health problems are more common in seniors, they include the following:

1) Tooth Decay. Cavities are caused by plaque bacteria which breakdown the enamel and cause holes in the teeth. Soft diet, dry mouth, limited dexterity, a large number of crowns and fillings to clean around, and high sugars or acids in your diet will increase your chances of decay.

2) Periodontal Disease. Seniors are at an increased risk of periodontal disease. This occurs when plaque builds up beneath your gum line causing inflammation of the tissues and eventually bone loss if allowed to progress. Certain medications cause the gums to swell and bleed and make it more difficult to remove plaque. This may cause gum recession and periodontal disease.

3) Root Cavities. The roots of the teeth can also decay. Once gums recede, the unprotected root surface is very easy for the plaque bacteria to attack. With no enamel to protect it, the cavity can progress rapidly to the nerve of the tooth.

4) Tooth Sensitivity. As we get older, our gums may recede, exposing root surfaces. The roots have nerve endings close to the surface which can become increasingly sensitive to hot, cold, brushing, and sweets. If you experience sensitivity, try a sensitivity toothpaste (like Colgate Sensitive Pro-Health) . If the problem persists, see your dentist, as the sensitivity may be an indication of a more serious condition, such as a cavity or a cracked or fractured tooth.

5) Dry mouth or Xerostomia. Dry mouth is a common condition in the senior population and one that may be caused by medications or certain medical disorders (like radiation therapy for cancer). If this condition is left untreated, it can cause damage to your teeth. Dry mouth occurs when there is reduced salivary flow. Plaque tends to build up when the mouth is dry, putting you at an increased risk for cavities. Your dentist can recommend multiple methods to restore moisture in your mouth, as well as treatments or medications to help prevent the development of cavities. Two products I recommend are Biotene and Listerine Zero.

6) Denture Issues. Many older people wear dentures. If they are not properly cared for, they can cause dental health problems, especially fungal infections such as yeast. A sign of a yeast infection is bright red irritated tissue, itchiness, burning, or a white creamy build up on oral tissues or denture. Just because you have dentures does not mean you do not need a dental examination. You should have an annual check of your denture fit, oral tissues, and oral cancer screening. As well as a jaw x-ray every five years to detect growth or changes in the bone.

Senior Dental Hygiene Tips

-Maintain Regular Brushing. The recommended time to brush is at least 2 minutes. For many of us, we never reach the 2 minute mark at any of our tooth brushing sessions. If you feel like you are having trouble keeping to 2 minute deadline think about the use of a timer or an electric toothbrush that shuts off after 2 minutes of use.

-Use A Plaque Disclosing Solution. This solution allows the patient to see visually if they left any plaque behind and work on areas they are missing. It is a great tool and easy to visualize the areas you need improvement on.

-Maintain Regular Dental Visits. This goes for the old and the young. Maintaining regular dental visits can catch small problems before they become bigger issues. This will save you time and money and possibly pain down the road.

-Add A Mouthwash Rinse To Your Dental Hygiene Protocol. It is a good idea to use an oral rinse that does not contain alcohol. As we get older, our teeth can become sensitive, alcohol rinses can be uncomfortable to use for those with sensitive teeth.

-Floss Daily. Flossing your teeth can help prevent plaque from building up between teeth. Flossing should be done at least once a day. We also recommend the use of floss mate. A variety of companies (Butler GUM floss mate or REACH access flosser), make these products and are easily found at the local drug store. These products work well in patients with minimal or reduced dexterity.

-Quite Smoking.  In addition to increasing your risk of many systemic diseases, smoking can increase your risk of tooth decay, gum disease, and oral cancer. There are a variety of methods available to quit to make it as painless a possible.

Conclusion

There are many health challenges to deal with as we age, but maintaining good oral hygiene and monitoring to your dental health can keep your smile sparkling for many years to come.




We generally do not make smart, healthy choices when snacking. Snacking usually occurs at a moment of weakness between meals at a moment of hunger between meals. This often means choosing a sugary snack which can have harmful effects on our dental health. Sugary snacks may taste great and be filling at the moment, but they are poor choices for our dental health and our overall health. Not only will the sugar lead to tooth decay, but it will effect our health negatively in other ways as well. Sugar causes you to “carb crash”, making you feel tired after the sugar high wears off, makes your body need to over produce insulin, dries your mouth out, and can allow us to gain significant amounts of weight if we are not careful. Smart choices are the key if you are to snack between meals.

How Sugars Attack Our Teeth

Our mouths are filled with natural bacteria that reside there all the time. The introduction of sugary and starchy foods into the mouth allows these bacteria to have a source of food. The byproduct of this feeding is the creation of an acidic environment in the mouth. The acids produced are powerful enough to break down the enamel (outer shell of our teeth) on our teeth. This breakdown of enamel is how tooth decay begins. If you simply choose to eat healthy foods, then your chances of exposure to these acids is reduced.

Smart Snacking

The key is to make smart choices when snacking. Before you grab for a snack, check what is in the food you have chosen. Is it chock full of sugar? If it is, think twice. Another choice would be better for your teeth. And it is important to remember that certain kinds of sweets are more harmful than others. Sweets that are chewy or gooey tend to spend more time sticking to the surface of your teeth. Because sticky snacks stay in your mouth longer than foods that you quickly chew and swallow, they increase the chance for the development of tooth decay.

The time of day that you snack is important also. Do you choose to nibble on sugary snacks at various points of the day, or do you usually just choose a small dessert following dinner? Damaging acids will form in your mouth every time you choose to eat a sugar filled snack. The acids continue to affect your teeth for at least 20 minutes before they are neutralized and can’t do any more harm. So, the more times you eat sugary snacks during the day, the more often you feed bacteria the fuel they need to cause tooth decay.

If you eat sweets, it’s best to eat them as dessert after a main meal instead of several times a day between meals. Whenever you eat sweets — in any meal or snack — brush your teeth well with a fluoride toothpaste afterward. Practice good oral hygiene. Brushing and flossing following snacking will go along way towards helping reduce our risk for tooth decay.

Best Snacks For Good Dental Health

-Fresh fruits and raw vegetables. The fruits can include oranges, tangerines, pineapple, melons, and pears. While the vegetables can include broccoli, tomatoes, celery, cucumbers, and carrots.

-Whole Grains. This can include whole wheat, rye, pumpernickel bagels, baked tortilla chips, pretzels, plain bagels, wheat crackers with cheese, and even some unsweetened cereals.

-Milk and dairy products. This includes milk, cheese, yogurt, and cottage cheese.

-Meat, nuts and seeds. This can include fresh turkey, deli meats (like Ham and Roast Beef), sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, and other unsweetened nuts.

Tips To Make Snacking Healthy

-Choose sugary foods less often

-Avoid sugary sweets between meals

-Timing Is Key. Avoid sweets between meals. If you do choose to snack between meals get in the habit of brushing and flossing following snacking to keep the acids  to a minimum

-Eat a variety of low or non-fat foods from the basic food groups

-Drink plenty of water during and after snacking

-Maintain Good Dental Hygiene. Brush your teeth with fluoride toothpaste after snacks and meals

Conclusion

Our dental health and overall health are intertwined. Making smart choices can have a positive effect on both our teeth and our bodies. Choose wisely and maintain good dental hygiene by seeing your dentist regularly to avoid issues of tooth decay and to maintain a happy, healthy smile for years to come.




Periodontal disease is a slow, progressive disease that can destroy you oral and systemic health. Many of the hallmark symptoms of periodontal disease sneak up on us and are often ignored at least initially. It is important not to ignore these signs and symptoms as periodontal disease is the #1 cause of tooth loss. Periodontal disease comes in many different forms including aggressive, chronic, necrotizing periodontitis, and periodontitis associated with systemic diseases.  Each of these types of periodontal disease has its own distinct characteristics and symptoms, and all require prompt treatment by a dentist to help halt subsequent bone and gum tissue loss. Risk of periodontal disease increases with age. For younger people, dental caries are a more important risk for tooth loss, while for older people, periodontal disease is the more important risk factor.

Risk Factors Of Periodontal Disease

-Age. Studies have shown that over 70% of all Americans aged 65 and older have some form of periodontal disease.

-Tobacco Use (including smoking). We are well aware of the health effects of smoking on our overall health. These diseases include various types of cancer, lung disease, and cardiovascular (heart) disease. Research has also shown that tobacco use also increases a persons risk for periodontal disease.

-Family History (Genetics). Some people are more susceptible to periodontal disease than others. This is because of our genetic makeup.

-Stress. Studies have shown that stress can make it more difficult for the body to fight off infection, this includes periodontal diseases.

-Prescription Drugs (Medications). Some drugs, such as oral contraceptives, anti-depressants, and certain heart medicines, can affect your oral health. Just as you notify your pharmacist and other health care providers of all medicines you are taking and any changes in your overall health, you should also inform your dentist.

-Bruxism (Teeth Grinding). Bruxism can put excess force on the supporting tissues of the teeth and could speed up the rate at which these periodontal tissues are destroyed.

-Presence Of Systemic Disease. Many systemic diseases can interfere with the inflammatory process. These include cardiovascular (heart) disease, diabetes, and rheumatoid arthritis.

-Poor Diet/ Nutrition. A diet low in important, essential nutrients can compromise the body’s immune system and make it harder for the body to fight off infection. Because periodontal disease begins as an infection, poor nutrition can worsen the condition of your gums.

Periodontal Disease Signs And Symptoms

-Bleeding Upon Brushing, Flossing, Or Even Eating. This is one of the most common signs that periodontal disease is active. It is often overlooked as not a big deal. Periodontal disease is an inflammatory disease. As the bacteria and toxins build up in the mouth, the body responds by activating the inflammatory process, rushing our cells to stop the attack. This will cause the gum tissues to become inflamed and red. It is important to also note that bleeding gums can also be the sign of something more sinister like leukemia and blood platelet disorders.

-Unexplained Pain Or Swelling. Periodontal infections present in this manner. When an oral infection occurs, it is essential that you get to a dentist as soon as possible for evaluation and treatment. If the infection is left unchecked it will cause damage to the gum tissues and the bone supporting your teeth. It can also be carried to other parts of the body through the blood stream affecting your overall health.

-Persistent Halitosis (Bad Breath). Bad breath can occur from many things but peristent bad breath can mean progressive periodontal disease . As the gum tissues are destroyed, the areas where the oral bacteria can flourish will increase causing a foul odor in the mouth. There are other causes of chronic halitosis that should also be ruled out by your dentist prior to treatment.

-Change In Your Smile Or Loose Teeth. As periodontal disease progresses, your teeth will loosen and move out of position. This will effect the way your teeth fit together and even alter your smile.

-Teeth Become Longer In Appearance. As periodontal disease progresses it will lead to destruction of the bone and gum tissues. This will show up as gum recession. Once the gum tissues pull back they expose more of the tooth and root, making them appear longer than before.

-Pus Drainage. This goes along with the periodontal infection mentioned previously. An active periodontal infection will create pus which can ooze out from between the teeth and gums causing a bad taste and bad breath (malodor).

Periodontal Disease Prevention

Dental and Periodontal Examinations

Your dentist will complete a thorough examination with x-rays and periodontal charting. Notations about the visual condition of the gum tissue will also be recorded. In its earliest stages the gum tissue is usually red, puffy, and painless or slightly tender at this point. Plaque and tartar will more than likely be present to some degree. A periodontal probe will be used to measure around the teeth to see if your periodontal disease has progressed and to what degree. It is important to note that once bone loss has occurred you now have a more advanced form of periodontal disease.

Following the examination, your dentist will recommend a course of treatment for your periodontal disease. This will include a professional cleaning along with extra home care instructions. The goal in treatment is to reduce the inflammation and not allow progression of the disease. An antibacterial rinse (example, Listerine) may also be recommended for at home use. Your dentist may also recommend repair of misaligned or crooked teeth to aid you in your home care efforts. Your dentist may also recommend a more frequent schedule(every 4-6 months) to control your periodontal disease.

Following removal of plaque and tartar, bleeding and tenderness of the gums should begin to subside within 1-2 weeks after professional cleaning and careful dental hygiene. Warm salt water or antibacterial rinses can also reduce gum inflammation. Taking an over the counter anti inflammatory medication can also aid in pain and inflammation reduction.

Healthy gums should look pink and firm with no bleeding upon brushing, flossing, or eating. Good oral hygiene must be maintained for your whole life, or periodontal disease will come back and possibly advance past the gingivitis form into advanced periodontal disease (also called periodontitis).

Steps to prevent periodontal disease should include:

-Routine dental visits. Usually recommended every 3- 6 months for examination and professional cleaning.

-Maintain At Home Dental Care. Brushing after every meal and flossing at least once a day.

-Rinsing with an antiseptic rinse as recommended by your dentist. Choose one with the American Dental Association (ADA) seal of approval.

Consult your physician if the bleeding is severe or chronic, gums continue to bleed even after dental treatment, or you have other unexplained symptoms along with the bleeding from your gums. These could all be the sign of a more serious condition than periodontal disease and should be checked out as soon as possible.

Conclusion

Preventing periodontal disease is up to the patient. Luckily, it is preventable with diligence and effort. Maintaining good dental hygiene and seeing your dentist regularly will lead to a lifetime of healthy smiles.

Summer is just around the corner which means school is out and traveling for many families. It is easy to overlook dental hygiene when on the road and forget to pack the essentials to maintain healthy teeth and gums. Below you will find some essentials to pack to ensure you keep up your dental hygiene while having fun on the road.

Dental Hygiene Essentials To Pack

-New Toothbrush. Start fresh and bring a new toothbrush on your trip. Then simply throw it out at the end of the vacation.

-Toothbrush Holder. This is a simple and cheap way to maintain a sanitary environment for your toothbrush.

-Travel Sized Mouthwash and Toothpaste. Not only will these follow the newer TSA regulations for air travel, they will make it easier to pack as well.

-Sugar Free Gum (preferably one with Xylitol). Being on the road it is not always easy to brush after meals or snacks. Keeping gum with you will allow you to freshen your breath and keep your mouth as clean as possible.

-Pain Medication. This can include Motrin or Aleve. Nice to have in case of a dental emergency while on vacation.

-Wax. Another good item to have in case of a dental emergency. If you accidentally chip a tooth, the wax can be used to cover the jagged edge of the tooth.

-Floss. Do not forget to floss at least once per day.

-Package of Colgate Wisps. This handy dental hygiene tool acts as toothbrush as well as a toothpick. These can help remove foreign objects lodged between your teeth.

-Plastic sandwich or freezer bag. Ever open your suitcase to find a tube of toothpaste or mouthwas exploded all over your clothes? It’s not a pleasant surprise. This can be prevented by putting your dental hygiene products in a sealed plastic bag.

-Electric Toothbrush/Charger. If you use an electric toothbrush make sure to pack the entire kit including the charger so you do not run out of juice while traveling.

-Waterpik Flosser Travel Size. The waterpik is an excellent adjunct to any dental hygiene program. If this is a product you use at home, then you would not want to leave without it.

Dental Hygiene Tips While Traveling

-Do not forget to brush after every meal. If you are unable to brush immediately, rinse with water after every meal.

-Limit snacking.

-Carry sugar free gum with xylitol to chew if you are unable to brush.

-Always brush and floss before bed.

Dental Hygiene Conclusion

Maintaining dental hygiene on the road can be quite challenging. Carrying your routine on the road is essential to stave off any dental issues down the road.