How older adults can handle dry mouth and taste problems

Reduced saliva flow that results in a dry mouth is a common problem among older adults.

It is caused by certain medical disorders and is often a side effect of medications such as antihistamines, decongestants, pain killers and diuretics.

Some of the common problems associated with dry mouth include:
– Constant sore throat
– Burning sensation
– Problems speaking
– Difficulty swallowing
– Hoarseness or dry nasal passages

Left untreated, dry mouth can damage your teeth. Without adequate saliva to lubricate your mouth, wash away food, and neutralize the acids produced by plaque, extensive cavities can form.

Your dentist can recommend various methods to restore moisture. For example, sugar-free candy or gum stimulates saliva flow, and moisture can be replaced by using artificial saliva and oral rinses.

Another issue that can affect older adults is a loss of appetite due to a change in your sense of taste. Besides an age-related decrease in the sense of taste and smell, certain diseases, medications and dentures can contribute to a decrease in your sense of taste.

Whether you are suffering from dry mouth or problems with your sense of taste, your dentist will be able to make suggestions to help.

How a healthy diet can help you have healthy teeth

Eating the right food plays an important role in developing healthy teeth and gums.

If your diet lacks certain nutrients, it may be more difficult for tissues in your mouth to fight infection and this can contribute to gum disease.

Although poor nutrition does not cause gum disease directly, the disease may progress faster and could be more severe in people with diets which are low in nutrients.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture makes recommendations on the nutrients, vitamins and minerals needed by your body – including your teeth and gums – to promote health and prevent disease.

We have different needs at various stages life and depending on our physical activity. The DOA website provides more information and your dentist will be able to discuss how your diet affects your teeth.

Here are some steps you can take to make sure what you eat doesn’t harm your teeth.
– Maintain a healthy diet
– Drink plenty water
– Limit the number of between-meal snacks. When you must snack, choose nutritious foods that are low in sugar
– Keep a food diary for a week recording every item you eat and drink

It will also help if you brush your teeth twice a day and floss regularly. Schedule regular dental checkups and professional cleanings and talk to your dentist about how your diet affects your teeth.

Dental plaque – what it is and how to avoid it

You’ve probably heard people talking about plaque and maybe you’ve some idea of what it is.

But it’s useful to know a bit more about it so that you can do what’s necessary to minimize the risks.

Plaque is a sticky film of bacteria that forms on teeth and gums.

When you’ve eaten a meal or snack, the bacteria in plaque release acids that attack tooth enamel. When this happens regularly, the enamel can weaken. This eventually leads to tooth decay.

The food we eat often causes plaque bacteria to produce acids. So, if you eat a lot of snacks, your teeth may be suffering acid attacks all day.

If you don’t remove the plaque through effective daily brushing and cleaning between the teeth, it can eventually harden into calculus or tartar.

Another effect of plaque is that it also produces substances that irritate the gums, making them red and tender or causing them to bleed easily.

If you want to prevent tooth decay and gum disease, make sure you have a balanced diet and avoid having too many snacks between meals.

When you feel like a snack, go for foods such as raw vegetables, plain yogurt, cheese or a piece of fruit.

Why to look for the ADA Seal of Acceptance

When buying dental products, it’s a good idea to look out for the American Dental Association (ADA) Seal of Acceptance.

The first Seal of Acceptance was awarded in 1931 and it’s regarded as an important symbol of a dental product’s safety and effectiveness.

Although the Seal program is strictly voluntary, approximately 100 companies participate in it and they commit significant resources to testing their products in clinical and laboratory conditions.

More than 300 consumer dental products carry the Seal of Acceptance. These include toothpaste, dental floss, manual and electric toothbrushes, mouth rinse and chewing gum.

You can get more information about the seal and how it is awarded for specific products at http://www.ada.org/ada/seal/

This site also contains links to the most current lists of accepted consumer products.

How dentistry has developed over the last 300 years

When you visit a modern dental surgery, it’s hard to imagine the challenges of dental treatment without all the latest technology.

Yet specialists have been taking care of people’s teeth for thousands of years.

Here are some of the key developments over the last 300 years.

1723: French surgeon Pierre Fauchard – credited as being the father of modern dentistry – publishes the first book to describe a comprehensive system for the practice of dentistry.

1760: John Baker, the earliest medically-trained dentist to practice in America, immigrates from England and sets up practice.

1790: John Greenwood adapts his mother’s foot treadle spinning wheel to rotate a drill.

1790: Josiah Flagg, a prominent American dentist, constructs the first chair made specifically for dental patients.

1832: James Snell invents the first reclining dental chair.

1841: Alabama enacts the first dental practice act, regulating dentistry in the United States.

1844: Horace Wells, a Connecticut dentist, discovers that nitrous oxide can be used as an anesthesia and successfully uses it to conduct several extractions in his private practice.

1880s: The collapsible metal tube revolutionizes toothpaste manufacturing and marketing.

1890: Willoughby Miller notes the microbial basis of dental decay in a book which started a world-wide movement to promote regular toothbrushing and flossing.

1896: New Orleans dentist C. Edmond Kells takes the first dental x-ray of a living person in the U.S.

1938: The nylon toothbrush, the first made with synthetic bristles, appears on the market.

1945: The water fluoridation era begins when the cities of Newburgh, New York, and Grand Rapids, Michigan, add sodium fluoride to their public water systems.

1950s: The first fluoride toothpastes are marketed.

1960: The first commercial electric toothbrush, developed in Switzerland after World War II, is introduced in the United States. A cordless, rechargeable model follows in 1961.

Why dry mouth can be a problem and what to do about it

Your saliva plays an important role in your oral health and reduced saliva flow can lead to health problems.

Reduced saliva flow can lead to a dry mouth and this is a common problem among older adults.

It can be caused by various medical disorders and is often a side effect of medications such as antihistamines, decongestants, pain killers and diuretics.

Dry mouth can be associated with various problems such as a constant sore throat, burning sensation, problems speaking, difficulty swallowing, hoarseness or dry nasal passages.

Drying irritates the soft tissues in the mouth, which can make them inflamed and more susceptible to infection. Without the cleansing effects of saliva, tooth decay and other oral health problems become more common.

So, if dry mouth is not treated, it can damage your teeth.

Without adequate saliva to lubricate your mouth, wash away food, and neutralize the acids produced by plaque, extensive decay can occur.

Your dentist can recommend various methods to restore moisture. Sugar-free candy or gum stimulates saliva flow, and moisture can be replaced by using artificial saliva and oral rinses.

How sedation and general anesthesia can make your visit to the dentist easier

While local anesthetics are often used in dental treatment, there is sometimes a need for anti-anxiety agents – such as nitrous oxide – or sedatives to help people relax during dental visits.

Dentists may use these agents to induce “minimal or moderate sedation”.

In this case, the patient reaches a relaxed state during treatment but can respond to speech or touch.

Sedatives can be administered before, during or after dental procedures by mouth, inhalation or injection.

More complex treatments may require drugs that can induce “deep sedation”.

This reduces consciousness and causes a loss of feeling which helps to reduce both pain and anxiety.

Sometimes patients undergo “general anesthesia” where the drugs lead to a temporary loss of consciousness.

A dentist may recommend deep sedation or general anesthesia for certain procedures with children or with adults who have severe anxiety or for people who have difficulty controlling their movements.

While these techniques to control pain and anxiety are used to treat tens of millions of patients safely every year, it’s important that you let your dentist know anything that might affect your ability to benefit from them for example, tell them about any illnesses or health conditions, whether you are taking any medications and if you’ve had any problems with allergic reactions to medications.

What to do if your tooth cracks

While our teeth are normally very strong, they can crack for a number of reasons.

Reasons could include tooth decay, trauma/injury, grinding of the teeth or a stress fracture.

Sometimes, our jaw may be stronger than our teeth and the teeth can fracture when we bite heavily on food.

We can protect our teeth in some circumstances – for example it may be advisable to wear a mouthguard during sports.

Taking proper care of the teeth and regular visits to the dentist will help keep your teeth in good shape.

If a tooth cracks, it may become painful if the nerve is exposed and the area can become tender.

If this happens, rinse your mouth with warm water to clean the area and apply a cold compress to reduce swelling. Then call your dentist immediately.

Treatment will depend on where the tooth has fractured, how close it is to the nerve and the overall condition of the tooth.

A cracked tooth may be repaired with silver alloy, gold, porcelain or plastic. Or it may require a crown or overlay or bonding, which applies porcelain or enamel to the fractured tooth.

If you contact your dentist quickly, they will be able to take the most approriate action to preserve the tooth as much as possible.

Crowns and how they improve your teeth

To make sure you have the best smile possible, you may need a crown to cover a tooth and restore it to its normal shape and size.

A crown is a tooth-shaped “cap” that is placed over a tooth to restore its shape, size and strength, or to improve its appearance.

The reasons you may need a crown include:

– Protecting a weak tooth
– Holding together parts of a cracked tooth
– Restoring an already broken tooth
– Supporting a tooth with a large filling when there isn’t a lot of tooth left
– Attaching a dental bridge
– Covering badly-shaped or severely discolored teeth
– Cover a dental implant

If your dentist recommends a crown, it’s probably to correct one of these conditions.

Your dentist’s primary concern, like yours, is helping you keep your teeth healthy and your smile bright.

How dental implants can give you a better smile

If you have missing teeth, you don’t just have to rely on crowns, conventional bridges and dentures.

Many people are now choosing dental implants as the best way to restore their smile and solve dental problems.

Implants are placed below the gums during a series of appointments. They fuse to the jawbone and provide a base for individual replacement teeth, bridges or a denture.

As they are fused to the bone, they offer greater stability. And, because they are integrated into your jaw, your replacement teeth will feel more natural.

This secure fit often also makes them more comfortable than other solutions.

In order to have implants, you need to have healthy gums and adequate bone to support the implant.

To find out whether you could be a candidate for dental implants, talk to your dentist about what they could do for you.