While older adults have many of the same symptoms and concerns as younger patients, they are at higher risk for many oral health problems. Other medical issues, financial concerns and less attention to their teeth and gums can all contribute to a decline in oral health, and impact their overall health.
Nearly 1/3 of older adults have untreated tooth decay, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. This is associated with a higher incidence of gum disease, which is associated with diabetes, heart disease, stroke and respiratory disease.
Whether caring for natural teeth or dentures, those 65 and older should continue to follow the same dental regimen they did in their early years. Some of the issues that often arise, and complicate their dental care, include:
- Living on a fixed income
- No access to dental insurance after retirement
- Limited access to transportation
- Denture-induced tissue inflammation
- Dry mouth from medications
- Gum disease and decay of the roots of teeth
- Uneven jaw bone caused by tooth loss
- Thrush - an overgrowth of bacteria in the mouth
- Increased risk of oral cancer
One problem often leads to another. Patients with severe arthritis can’t brush and floss effectively. Those with missing teeth or ill-fitting dentures find it difficult to eat a healthy diet. If taking multiple medications, patients often experience dry mouth, which can make it difficult to chew and eat properly, and lead to cavities and gum disease.
The best solution is to floss and brush your teeth thoroughly twice daily, using a soft toothbrush and fluoride toothpaste. Aim to visit the dentist twice a year for a cleaning and oral exam. The cost of that visit is small compared to the cost of neglecting your mouth. Use an antibacterial mouth wash to reduce the risk of plaque and gum disease. Most importantly get to know your mouth. Pay close attention to any pain or sensitivity. It is better to address a problem sooner than later, especially if something doesn’t feel right.
If patients lack dental insurance, and paying out of pocket is not an option, find out whether Medicare or Medicaid covers your dental visits. Unfortunately, routine dental exams are not always covered, but medically-necessary procedures generally are, so in the case of a serious issue, you may be reimbursed.
The good news is that getting older, in itself, is not the problem, and people are keeping their teeth for longer now than ever before. However, those who take good care of their teeth, understand their limitations, and respond quickly when issues arise, are most likely to maintain their oral health - and their overall health - long term.
Pre- and post-operative instructions are invaluable when you visit an oral surgery office. However, after talking to hundreds of patients each month, our administrative staff has some additional ideas to make your procedure go more smoothly:
Danielle…timing is everything
Plan your surgery for the time of day that fits not only your schedule but your personal preference. Would you rather come in first thing in the morning so you don’t need to think about it all day, or later in the day so you can get things accomplished before your procedure? Let us know when you call to schedule your appointment.
Kathy…ask us first
Don’t google your procedure or read about it on the internet – and don’t listen to your friends’ stories about when they had their teeth out or visited an oral surgeon. Everyone has a different experience, and your doctor is the best person to tell you what to expect based on your specific circumstances.
Brianna… complete paperwork early
Fill out your registration forms at home before your visit, and use our online registration forms if possible to make sure those forms reach our office before you do. If the information you provide is accurate and up-to-date, you will avoid concerns later.
We want patients to feel relaxed – and knowing you’ve provided us will all the information we need means one less thing to worry about.
Sarah… stock up on snacks
Make sure to stock your fridge with soft foods like jello, pudding, ice cream and soup (but avoid hot soup) before you come in for your procedure. That way you'll be prepared when you get home. You should also pick up a package of frozen peas. They mold to your face and make the perfect ice packs!
Bring your favorite music along to listen to in the waiting room, and pick some favorite movies to watch while you relax at home later on.
Remember to bring all your insurance information to your first visit, whether it’s a consult or a procedure. That will give us time to process your claim and verify your information, which can lead to quicker payment.
Karen…have a good caretaker
Make sure whoever cares for you on the day of your procedure understands their commitment and knows what to expect. It’s your day to be cared for, and not to worry about anything.
Pam...food for thought
The doctors will tell you to leave gauze in your mouth when you leave the office, but don’t forget to take out your gauze when you eat or drink. You can replace it afterwards if necessary.
Dawn…hold that call
Leave your cell phone at home or with whoever accompanies you to our office. You may want to wait until later to call or text your friends.
Jan…make yourself at home
Come to the office in your comfy clothes, what you plan to wear on the couch for the rest of the day. Kids can feel free to come in their pajamas. Our office is about comfort, not glamour. Also, don’t wear pullover sweaters or sweatshirts, because you don’t want to irritate your mouth pulling it over your head. Finally make sure you have all your favorite squishy foods on hand at home for after your procedure. It’s a good time to indulge in mac and cheese or whatever you love. Your body needs calories to heal, so eat well.
Elisa… don’t worry
Dress comfortably, and wear comfortable and protective shoes - like sneakers. And don’t be nervous. You’re in good hands.
Tricia W… know your benefits
If you have insurance, it’s important to know what is covered under both your medical and dental plans before you come for your first visit. Checking your benefits in advance will help you better participate in your care, since your treatment may be impacted by your coverage and/or your ability to finance your procedure.
We hope you find this advice helpful. If you have any questions, or need additional information, please contact us.
Although sports are popular all year long, spring time brings a big increase in outdoor activity for both adults and children. While we all want to enjoy the warmer weather, our kids need to be especially careful – and take precautions – when playing sports, biking, skate boarding or using any kind of motorized vehicles.
Just as you automatically fasten a seatbelt in the car, parents must similarly protect themselves and their children during outdoor sports or activities. Helmets, mouth guards and face guards are the best way to protect the head, brain and delicate areas of the face. These devices are continually being reinvented to make them both more comfortable and more effective, so find out what is recommended for your child’s sport or activity, and seek out the newest technology so you know your child is getting the best protection possible.
Not all helmets are created equal. Different sports and activities require helmets of different shapes and materials to provide the best protection of your head and brain. Also, it is important that helmets fit properly, and that straps be adjusted in order to maximize both comfort and effectiveness. Having not just protective gear, but properly-fitting gear, can make all the difference.
For some activities and sports, helmets with face guards are recommended. Catchers in baseball, as well as lacrosse players, will require specialized types of facial protection, so be sure to find out what your child needs in advance.
Mouth guards have come a long way, and the newer versions are made with synthetic materials that are sturdy, lightweight, and make it easy for the wearer to breathe. The least expensive kinds, which are generically shaped, but can be softened through boiling and then fitted to a specific bite, are not as comfortable, but are fine for gym class or casual athletes. Your dentist can make a custom-fabricated mouth guard that will be much more comfortable and durable, something to consider for serious athletes.
There are five criteria to consider when being fitted for a mouth protector, according to the American Association of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons. The device should be:
- • Fitted so that it does not misalign the jaw and throw off the bite
- • Lightweight
- • Strong
- • Easy to clean
- • The proper size to cover the upper and/or lower teeth and gums
TREATING FACIAL INJURIES
While it is better to try to prevent injuries in the first place, sometimes, even with the best precautions, concussions or other injuries will occurs , and an Oral & Maxillofacial Surgeon should be consulted in the case of broken bones in the face, cheek, jaw or mouth. They have the most experience and expertise in treating facial fractures, and understanding the implications both from a medical and dental perspective. Since these injuries can affect sight, swallowing or even breathing, it is important to seek out appropriate treatment immediately. The Oral Surgeon will work closely with any other doctors on the case to ensure the best possible treatment.
There’s no reason to abstain from spring’s beautiful outdoor weather and bountiful activities. The key is to protect yourself and your children from injury, and then if one happens to occur, remember that Oral & Maxillofacial Surgeons understand the complexities of facial injuries, and are specially trained to diagnose and treat them successfully.
Before dental implants became a popular way to replace missing teeth, bridges and dentures were the only way to restore a patient’s ability to chew properly and speak clearly after having teeth extracted. However, if a patient is a candidate for dental implants, this can be the most reliable and practical long term solution. Dental Implants are an excellent replacement for your real teeth.
The actual implant replaces the root of your tooth, and once surgically placed into the mouth, can hold the new tooth in place for years, and often for a lifetime. It will feel as strong and solid as your own tooth. In addition, your implant will help maintain the health of neighboring teeth, which are prone to shift or move when there are empty spaces beside them.
Implants have the following advantages:
- They are strong, and look and feel just like natural teeth.
- Placing implants requires three stages, placement of the implant into the jaw, healing time and placement of the finished tooth. However, these stages can sometimes be combined into one visit. This is determined on a case by case basis.
- Implanted teeth will not move or slide, and do not require any adhesive to keep in place.
- Implants should be brushed and flossed along with other teeth to maintain their health and longevity, but do not require any specialized treatment or care.
Because the implant is placed directly into the jaw, just like a natural tooth, it is important that the bone is strong enough to hold it. After a tooth is removed, the bone around that tooth weakens, especially over time, and needs to be strengthened again before the implant and new tooth are placed. This can be accomplished through a bone grafting procedure. During this simple and painless procedure, the oral surgeon will add bone to the jaw near the implant site. This new bone will fuse with the existing jaw bone, creating a strong base for the new tooth.
Dental Implants may initially be more expensive than bridges or dentures; however they are much longer lasting and more comfortable. It can sometimes take several visits to complete the implant process, especially if bone grafting is required. However, in the long run, implants are the closest thing to real teeth, and will give patients with missing teeth their smiles – and their lives – back.
To learn more, or to see if you are a candidate for dental implants, Contact Us to schedule a consultation.
While the medical community is still learning about the link between oral health and heart health, one thing is clear: taking care of your teeth and gums can help reduce your risk of heart disease and other serious medical conditions.
Periodontal or gum disease is characterized by inflammation or swelling of the gums, and may be a warning sign of problems elsewhere in the body. When plaque builds up and clogs the arteries, this is an inflammatory process that can limit the flow of oxygenated blood to the heart and brain, increasing the risk of a heart attack of stroke. Inflammation is the body’s response to injury or infection, and should be taken seriously anywhere it occurs.
Most of the bacteria that grows in our mouth is harmless. The body will naturally keep bacteria under control, and taking care of our teeth and gums aids in that process. However, if we don’t practice good oral care, that bacteria can multiply and lead to infections, such as tooth decay and gum disease.
Some studies have shown that bacteria from the mouth can travel into the bloodstream and contribute to the development of heart disease. Whether this is proved true or not, it is important to keep your teeth and gums clean and free from inflammation and infection. And if you already have a heart condition, you should let your dentist or dental specialist know, and give them a list of any medications you take.
Bacteria and inflammation are also linked to other health issues including diabetes, dementia and some cancers. The exact relationship is not clear yet, but we know that link exists.
The best way to ensure optimal oral health and reduce your risk of heart disease, stroke and other serious medical conditions is to practice good oral hygiene:
- Brush your teeth at least twice a day
- Floss at least once every day
- Replace your toothbrush every 3-4 months — or when the bristles show signs of wear
- Schedule regular dental checkups and cleanings
You should always pay close attention to the health of your teeth and gums -- and be aware that what happens in the mouth may be a warning sign for what is happening in the rest of the body.
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