Posts for category: Oral Health
Oral Health Information and Tips for Older Adults
Effects of aging and medications. Ways to prevent and treat common issues.
It may come as a surprise to you that in contrast to losing your hair, losing your teeth is not a part of growing older. However, getting older does put us at a disproportionate risk for oral health problems which frequently results in tooth loss. As an older patient, oral health risks increase because of a few common reasons. Continue reading below where we address these issues and how to deal with them…
- After retiring, you may be at a loss of insurance coverage for dental procedures…
The kind of routine dental care that seniors need most—checkups, cleanings and fillings—is not covered by Medicare and out-of-pocket dental expenses are costly. It is important to maintain a consistent oral hygiene regimen in order to minimize the chance that major dental work needs to be done. 6-month cleanings and taking x-rays at your dental appointments are very important in protecting both your health, and your wallet. These procedures are much less costly than major dental work and help prevent the big issues from arising. By taking the necessary steps needed to prevent major issues, your mouth, and your wallet will be immensely grateful. The good news is that we have insurance coordinators that can assist you in maximizing any dental benefits you may have. We also offer a senior discount for many of these preventative services.
- Dry mouth….
Dr. Joe and Dr. Ted may refer to this as “xerostomia”. Dry mouth may be a natural result of aging, but it is also a common side effect of more than 400 medications. On the surface, dry mouth may not seem like such a big deal, but in reality it has detrimental effects on your teeth. The reason for this is that saliva plays a very important role in protecting teeth from decay. Saliva has a plethora of important antimicrobial components which help protect teeth and gums from infection. When there is a lack of saliva, teeth are more prone to infection causing bacteria. A good way to combat dry mouth and the tooth decay that comes with it is to use XyliMelts or another type of lozenge specifically designed for dry mouth. It is also advisable to drink lots of water and to brush after every meal, not just in the mornings and nights. If you find that you are prescribed medication that causes dry mouth, you can always ask Dr. Joe or Dr. Ted to provide suggestions for alternative medications which do not have the dry mouth side effect.
- Arthritis makes brushing and flossing difficult…
More often than not, technology is a wonderful thing. If traditional brushing and flossing are extremely difficult for you, the electric toothbrush is a great alternative. It is proven that some electric toothbrushes such as Sonicare and Oral-B do an even better job at removing plaque than traditional toothbrushes. If traditional flossing is a problem as well, a bag of floss picks can be purchased inexpensively at most pharmacies or supermarkets. A more effective, but also more expensive option is to buy a “water pick” which enables you to floss using water pressure.
- Periodontal Disease
One of the most common dental issues persistent in older patients is periodontal disease. If you find that you are diagnosed with severe gingivitis or periodontal disease it is extra important to brush and floss every day. Brushing and flossing is more effective when done with an electric toothbrush and a “water pick”. Dr. Joe and Dr. Ted can also prescribe special toothpastes or gels that help combat dental disease, as well as a daily treatment of high-fluoride anti-bacterial rinse.
- Missing teeth or ill-fitting dentures make it difficult to eat…
Your mouth is continuously changing over time, especially if you have missing teeth. As your mouth changes, your denture may not fit snugly, making it difficult to eat foods that are very important to your diet. Difficulty eating means you will likely eat less and also consume more foods that are highly processed, easier to chew, less nutritional, and worse for your overall health. If you find that problems with your teeth or denture are causing you to eat less, it is recommended that you schedule an appointment with us to have your denture readjusted. The dentist can also place a softer material on the gum side of the denture so they are more comfortable. If traditional dentures are not working out, ask Dr. Joe or Dr. Ted about implant supported dentures. Implants attach to the jaw bone, and a special denture snaps onto the implants. These implant-supported dentures fit more snugly, and they look and feel like real teeth!
The staff at Gargano Family Dentistry are always happy to answer questions about your oral health. Give our office a call at 203-239-2356 or visit our website: www.garganofamilydentistry.com
IS A KILLER HIDING RIGHT UNDER YOUR NOSE ??
Each year in the U.S. alone, approximately 48,250 individuals are newly diagnosed with oral cancer. Unfortunately at this time the majority are found as late-stage disease. This accounts for the very high death rate; about half those diagnosed will not survive more than five years. The Oral Cancer Foundations says that “while smoking and tobacco use are still major risk factors, the fastest growing segment of oral cancer patients is young, heathy, nonsmoking individuals due to the connection to the HPV virus. The good news is that a dentist or hygienist can see or feel the precancerous tissue changes which might lead to a cancer. The examination will only take 3 to 7 minutes of your time and is always done as part of a comprehensive, routine dental visit. Everyone over the age of 18 should be screened annually. The visual and tactile exam is inexpensive, painless and quick.
Who should get screened?
Every adult. Oral cancer can often be caught early, even as a pre-cancer. With early detection, survival rates are high and the side effects from treatment are at their lowest. Like other screenings you engage in such as cervical, skin, prostate, colon and breast examinations, oral cancer screenings are an effective means of finding cancer at its early, highly curable stages. Make them part of your annual health check-ups.
What are the risk factors?
There are two distinct pathways by which most people come to oral cancer. One is through the use of tobacco and alcohol, a long term historic problem and cause, and the other is through exposure to the HPV16 virus (human papilloma virus version 16), which is now the leading cause of oropharyngeal cancers in the US, and the same one, which is responsible for the vast majority of cervical cancers in women.
Signs & Symptoms:
* RED AND/OR WHITE DISCOLORATIONS OF THE SOFT TISSUE OF THE MOUTH
* ANY SORE WHICH DOES NOT HEAL WITHIN 14 DAYS
* HOARSENESS WHICH LASTS FOR A PROLONGED PERIOD OF TIME
* A SENSATION THAT SOMETHING IS STUCK IN YOUR THROAT WHEN SWALLOWING
* UNEXPLAINED NUMBNESS IN THE MOUTH
* EAR PAIN THAT OCCURS ON ONE SIDE ONLY
* A SORE UNDER A DENTURE, WHICH EVEN AFTER ADJUSTMENT OF THE DENTURE, STILL DOES NOT HEAL
* A LUMP OR THICKENING THAT DEVELOPS IN THE MOUTH OR ON THE NECK
Early Detection Saves Lives
Your dentist is your number one chance for early diagnosis of oral cancers. At each routine dental exam, we perform an oral cancer screening, looking for any suspicious lesions or melanomas. In the event we discover an area of concern, we will refer you to a surgeon for a biopsy to rule out cancer.
In honor of Oral Cancer Awareness Month, Gargano Family Dentistry will be offering free oral cancer screenings during the month of April. If you have any questions about oral cancer or you have not had a recent dental exam, please don’t hesitate to get in touch with us. Call 203-239-2356 or 203-239-0678 to make an appointment for your complimentary screening or to schedule your next comprehensive dental exam.
For more information about oral cancer, please log onto The Oral Cancer Foundation’s official website at www.oralcancer.org.
Some people are lucky — they never seem to have a mishap, dental or otherwise. But for the rest of us, accidents just happen sometimes. Take actor Jamie Foxx, for example. A few years ago, he actually had a dentist intentionally chip one of his teeth so he could portray a homeless man more realistically. But recently, he got a chipped tooth in the more conventional way… well, conventional in Hollywood, anyway. It happened while he was shooting the movie Sleepless with co-star Michelle Monaghan.
“Yeah, we were doing a scene and somehow the action cue got thrown off or I wasn't looking,” he told an interviewer. “But boom! She comes down the pike. And I could tell because all this right here [my teeth] are fake. So as soon as that hit, I could taste the little chalkiness, but we kept rolling.” Ouch! So what's the best way to repair a chipped tooth? The answer it: it all depends…
For natural teeth that have only a small chip or minor crack, cosmetic bonding is a quick and relatively easy solution. In this procedure, a tooth-colored composite resin, made of a plastic matrix with inorganic glass fillers, is applied directly to the tooth's surface and then hardened or “cured” by a special light. Bonding offers a good color match, but isn't recommended if a large portion of the tooth structure is missing. It's also less permanent than other types of restoration, but may last up to 10 years.
When more of the tooth is missing, a crown or dental veneer may be a better answer. Veneers are super strong, wafer-thin coverings that are placed over the entire front surface of the tooth. They are made in a lab from a model of your teeth, and applied in a separate procedure that may involve removal of some natural tooth material. They can cover moderate chips or cracks, and even correct problems with tooth color or spacing.
A crown is the next step up: It's a replacement for the entire visible portion of the tooth, and may be needed when there's extensive damage. Like veneers, crowns (or caps) are made from models of your bite, and require more than one office visit to place; sometimes a root canal may also be needed to save the natural tooth. However, crowns are strong, natural looking, and can last many years.
But what about teeth like Jamie's, which have already been restored? That's a little more complicated than repairing a natural tooth. If the chip is small, it may be possible to smooth it off with standard dental tools. Sometimes, bonding material can be applied, but it may not bond as well with a restoration as it will with a natural tooth; plus, the repaired restoration may not last as long as it should. That's why, in many cases, we will advise that the entire restoration be replaced — it's often the most predictable and long-lasting solution.
Oh, and one more piece of advice: Get a custom-made mouthguard — and use it! This relatively inexpensive device, made in our office from a model of your own teeth, can save you from a serious mishap… whether you're doing Hollywood action scenes, playing sports or just riding a bike. It's the best way to protect your smile from whatever's coming at it!
If you have questions about repairing chipped teeth, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more by reading the Dear Doctor magazine articles “Artistic Repair of Chipped Teeth With Composite Resin” and “Porcelain Veneers.”
Are bleeding gums something you should be concerned about? Dear Doctor magazine recently posed that question to Dr. Travis Stork, an emergency room physician and host of the syndicated TV show The Doctors. He answered with two questions of his own: “If you started bleeding from your eyeball, would you seek medical attention?” Needless to say, most everyone would. “So,” he asked, “why is it that when we bleed all the time when we floss that we think it’s no big deal?” As it turns out, that’s an excellent question — and one that’s often misunderstood.
First of all, let’s clarify what we mean by “bleeding all the time.” As many as 90 percent of people occasionally experience bleeding gums when they clean their teeth — particularly if they don’t do it often, or are just starting a flossing routine. But if your gums bleed regularly when you brush or floss, it almost certainly means there’s a problem. Many think bleeding gums is a sign they are brushing too hard; this is possible, but unlikely. It’s much more probable that irritated and bleeding gums are a sign of periodontal (gum) disease.
How common is this malady? According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, nearly half of allÂ Americans over age 30 have mild, moderate or severe gum disease — and that number increases to 70.1 percent for those over 65! Periodontal disease can occur when a bacteria-rich biofilm in the mouth (also called plaque) is allowed to build up on tooth and gum surfaces. Plaque causes the gums to become inflamed, as the immune system responds to the bacteria. Eventually, this can cause gum tissue to pull away from the teeth, forming bacteria-filled “pockets” under the gum surface. If left untreated, it can lead to more serious infection, and even tooth loss.
What should you do if your gums bleed regularly when brushing or flossing? The first step is to come in for a thorough examination. In combination with a regular oral exam (and possibly x-rays or other diagnostic tests), a simple (and painless) instrument called a periodontal probe can be used to determine how far any periodontal disease may have progressed. Armed with this information, we can determine the most effective way to fight the battle against gum disease.
Above all, don’t wait too long to come in for an exam! As Dr. Stork notes, bleeding gums are “a sign that things aren’t quite right.” Â If you would like more information about bleeding gums, please contact us or schedule an appointment. You can read more in the Dear Doctor magazine article “Bleeding Gums.” You can read the entire interview with Dr. Travis Stork in Dear Doctor magazine.
If you've suddenly noticed your smile looking more “toothy,” you may have a problem with your gums. They may have lost their normal attachment to your tooth and begun to shrink back — or recede.
Millions of people have some form of gum recession. The most common cause is periodontal (gum) disease, but it's not the only one. You may be more susceptible to gum recession because of heredity — you have thin gum tissues passed down to you from your parents. You may also be brushing too hard and too often and have damaged your gums.
Healthy gums play an important role in dental health. The crown, the tooth's visible part, is covered with a hard, protective shell called enamel. As the enamel ends near where the root begins, the gums take over, forming a tight band around the tooth to protect the roots from bacteria and acid.
Receding gums expose these areas of the tooth meant to be covered. This can lead to another tell-tale sign — tooth sensitivity. You begin to notice pain and discomfort while you consume hot or cold foods. And because it leaves your teeth and gums looking much less attractive, it can affect your confidence to smile.
Fortunately, though, we can help restore receded gums. If you have gum disease, it's imperative we treat it as early as possible. We do this by removing plaque, a thin film of bacteria and food particles that triggers the infection. We use special techniques and hand instruments to remove plaque and calculus (hardened plaque deposits) from all tooth surfaces including along the roots.
Gum disease treatment can help stop and even reverse gum recession. In some cases, though, the recession may have advanced too far. If so, we may need to consider surgically grafting donor tissue to the recessed areas. Depending on the site and extent of recession, this can be a very involved procedure requiring microscopic techniques.
The best approach, though, is to take care of your gums now. Daily brushing and flossing removes harmful plaque; regular dental visits take cleaning a step further and also give us an opportunity to detect disease early. By looking out for your gums now you might be able to avoid gum recession in the future.