What dentists are doing to improve services for older adults

As people are living longer and enjoying good health for many years, dentists are increasingly offering improved services to recognize the special needs of older adults.

This growing segment of the population is wearing fewer dentures and they are keeping their natural teeth longer. They are also concerned to maintain good health and a great smile for many years.

However, patients in this group sometimes require special consideration because reduced mobility and dexterity may make daily oral hygiene difficult.

And certain medical conditions and impairment may make them more anxious when visiting the dentist.

For example, problems with vision or hearing loss may cause worry. Always let the dentist and staff know if you have any concerns so that they can adjust their treatment and their pace to meet your needs.

Older patients can sometimes put up with problems such as toothaches, bleeding gums and clicking dentures because they are not aware of the wide range of treatments and techniques now available.

Dentists are increasingly sensitive to the special needs of and the importance of dental health in the older patient.

As many older patients are more health conscious than ever before, regular visits to the dentist ensure their oral health is an important part of their overall health.

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.

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.

You might have gum disease without even knowing it

Gum disease also known as periodontal disease – is an infection of the tissues surrounding and supporting the teeth and its a major cause of tooth loss in adults.

But its usually painless so you may not even know you have it.

Its caused by plaque a sticky film of bacteria that constantly forms on the teeth. These bacteria create toxins that can damage the gums.

The early stage of gum disease is called gingivitis. In this stage, the gums can become red, swollen and bleed easily. At this stage, you can usually still reverse the disease by daily brushing and flossing.

The more advanced stage of gum disease is known as periodontitis. At this stage, the gums and bone that support the teeth can become seriously damaged. The teeth may then become loose, fall out or have to be removed by a dentist.

Its therefore very important to look out for any signs of gum disease. These signs include:

– Gums that bleed when you brush your teeth
– Red, swollen or tender gums
– Gums that have pulled away from the teeth
– Bad breath that doesn’t go away
– Pus between your teeth and gums
– Loose teeth
– Change in the way your teeth fit together when you bite
– Change in the fit of partial dentures

If you notice any of these signs, contact you dentist quickly and theyll help you take action to make improvements.

How to make your smile brighter

Your smile makes a huge difference to what people think about you and how you feel about yourself.

And there are many options available to help you improve the look and brightness of your smile, including:

In-office bleaching: During chair-side bleaching, the dentist will apply either a protective gel to your gums or a rubber shield to protect the oral soft tissues. A bleaching agent is then applied to the teeth, and a special light may be used to enhance the action of the agent.

At-home bleaching: There are several types of products available for use at home, which can either be dispensed by your dentist or purchased over-the-counter. These include peroxide bleaching solutions, which actually bleach the tooth enamel. Peroxide-containing whiteners typically come in a gel and are placed in a mouth guard.

Whitening toothpastes: All toothpastes help remove surface stain through the action of mild abrasives. “Whitening” toothpastes include special chemical or polishing agents that are more effective at removing stains. However, unlike bleaches, they don’t alter the intrinsic color of teeth.

Start by speaking to your dentist. He or she will tell you if whitening procedures would be effective for you as whiteners may not correct all types of discoloration.

Tips for people with difficulty handling a toothbrush

There are many people who find it difficult to look after their dental health properly because they have problems handling a toothbrush.

This can be due to a severe physical disability or simply basic dexterity problems.

There are a few simple steps you can take to make it easier for people who find it difficult to hold on to a toothbrush or dental floss.

Here are some simple ‘home remedies’:

– Use a wide elastic band to attach the brush to the hand

– Enlarge the brush handle with a sponge, rubber ball or bicycle handle grip

– Wind an elastic bandage or adhesive tape around the handle

– Lengthen the handle with a piece of wood or plastic such as a ruler, popsicle stick or tongue depressor

– Tie floss into a loop for easier handling

– Use an electric toothbrush or commercial floss holder

Your dentist will be able to provide specific guidance and further tips for people who need an easier way to handle a toothbrush and floss.

Diabetes and your dental health: How your dentist can help

If youve been diagnosed with diabetes, its important that you let your dentist know so that they can give you the best care possible.

As more than 15 million Americans have diabetes, your dentist will be familiar with the issues and will give you the specialist care you need.

This is important because diabetes can lower your resistance to infection and slow the healing process.

Its important to tell your dentist:

– If you have been diagnosed with .diabetes
– If the disease is under control
– If there has been any other change in your medical history
– Names of all prescription and over-the-counter drugs you are taking

The most common oral health problems associated with diabetes are:

– Tooth decay
– Periodontal (gum) disease
– Salivary gland dysfunction
– Fungal infections
– Infection and delayed healing
– Taste impairment

If you have regular dental checkups and keep your dentist informed about your status theyll be able to help you reduce and manage these risks.

How Invisalign can replace metal braces

The Invisalign system is a series of clear, thin, mouthguards that fit over the teeth and can gradually straighten them.

These have been called invisible braces as they can be an effective alternative to metal braces in some circumstances.

The big advantage of Invisalign is much improved appearance and comfort.

Invisalign mouthguards can be removed during eating and when brushing and flossing. As traditional braces may trap food and plaque, this is another major benefit of Invisalign.

While the system has advantages, it also has some drawbacks.

For example, it is more expensive – costing 25-50 percent more than metal braces.

Also the fact that you remove the mouthguards more often means that you may forget to wear them and it could take longer for you to achieve the desired results.

Invisalign is better suited to some people than others – for example, it may be particularly suitable for adults who have slight to moderate spacing or crowding of their teeth.

Your dentist will be able to tell you if you might be a suitable candiate for Invisalign.

You will get more detailed advice from an orthodontist who has been certified in the Invisalign system.

Different types of fillings and restorations

Nowadays, thanks to advances in dental techniques and materials, patients have a much wider range of choices when they have to repair missing, worn, damaged or decayed teeth.

For example, materials such as ceramics and polymer compounds that look more like natural teeth help dentists create pleasing, natural-looking smiles.

The traditional materials such as gold, base metal alloys and dental amalgam are still widely used as they have many advantages.

The strength and durability of traditional dental materials continues to make them useful in many situations. For example, they are good when fillings are required in the back teeth because the pressure of chewing is high in that area.

The choice of the best option will depend on several factors such as the patient’s oral and general health, where and how the filling is placed and the number of visits needed to prepare and adjust the restored tooth.

The choice about which option is best depends on each individuals needs so you should discuss the options with your dentist.

What is plaque and how does it affect your teeth?

Plaque is a sticky film of bacteria that covers our teeth and, when we eat something, these bacteria release acids that attack the tooth enamel.

When these attacks are repeated over time, the enamel will break down and this will eventually lead to cavities.

When plaque is not removed through daily brushing and cleaning it hardens into calculus or tartar. When tartar collects above the gum line, brushing and cleaning between the teeth becomes more difficult.

The gum tissue can become swollen or may bleed. This is called gingivitis and it is the early stage of periodontal (gum) disease.

There are several steps you can take to protect yourself against this happening:

– Brush your teeth twice a day with fluoride toothpaste
– Clean between teeth daily with floss or an interdental cleaner
– Eat a balanced diet and limit the number of snacks between meals
– Visit your dentist regularly for professional cleanings and oral exams
– Ask your dentist about sealants these are protective coatings that can be applied to the back teeth where decay often starts.

If you take steps to remove the plaque each day, you have a greater chance of avoiding tooth and gum problems.