It’s common to experience changes in our teeth and gums as we get older. In fact, reaching the golden years puts seniors at a much higher risk for oral health issues, many of which result from the natural aging process, limited access to oral health care, or physical limitations that prevent someone from properly caring for their mouth on a daily basis.
Here are some common dental concerns faced by seniors and ways you can keep oral health issues at bay with age.
Dental Concerns for Seniors
Dry mouth is a common condition experienced by seniors, often caused by certain illnesses or medications. Without proper saliva flow — the body’s natural defense against bacteria and debris that accumulate in the mouth — teeth are much more susceptible to cavities and gum disease. A dedicated brushing routine combined with regular visits to your dentist can help combat dry mouth that leads to decay and other dental problems as you age.
Studies show that today’s older adults, particularly those aged 65 and older, experience higher rates of tooth decay than younger individuals. This may be caused by receding gums and exposed root surfaces that naturally occur with age; increased dryness in the mouth; and poor oral hygiene due to infrequent dental visits and an inability to properly care for their teeth with age. Maintaining proper oral hygiene and seeking professional dental care are just a few ways to avoid decay in your later years.
Gum disease, or periodontal disease, also becomes more prevalent with age. In fact, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that more than 70 percent of Americans 65 and older have some form of gum disease, a chronic infection of the tissues that surround and support your teeth. Without proper treatment, periodontal disease can destroy the surrounding tissues, eventually causing bone and tooth loss. To preserve your natural smile and avoid tooth loss caused by gum disease, adopt healthy oral hygiene habits at home and maintain routine checkups with your dentist.
Oral Health Tips for Older Adults
The good news is that in recent years advances in dental care have made it much easier and affordable for seniors to retain their natural teeth for life. Practicing good oral hygiene is the best way to reduce common dental problems associated with aging.
Brush at least twice a day and floss daily.
Visit your dentist regularly for routine cleanings and checkups.
Stop smoking or using tobacco.
Eat a well-balanced diet and regulate sugar intake.
Notify your dentist immediately if you notice changes in the condition of your mouth, teeth and gums.
Properly maintain dental appliances, including dentures and dental bridges.
Though older adults are faced with additional oral health challenges, you can take important steps now to reduce the risk of serious dental issues. Start by practicing excellent dental health habits at home, adopting smart diet and lifestyle choices, and visiting your dentist for regular exams and cleanings.
Your dentist plays a big role in your overall health. Not only do dentists keep your teeth healthy and clean, but they also screen you for many diseases that can impact other areas of your health, that could lead to oral cancer or risk for heart disease. It is your dentist and the staff at the dental office that ensures your smile remains vibrant and beautiful for years to come. Choosing a dentist is not a decision to take lightly. Here are some guidelines to consider.
Consider the Overall Approach to Dentistry
Like most types of doctors, dentists vary significantly in their overall approaches to dentistry. Some are traditional, while others take a more natural, holistic approach, treating oral health as part of your overall health. You should find a dentist that has an approach that fits your view of health and dental care.
Consider the Insurance They Take
Finding a dentist that accepts your insurance will save you a significant amount of money. Of course, you don’t want to settle for the wrong dentist just because of financial constraints, but insurance is definitely something to consider.
Consider the Environment
Does the dentist’s office make you feel calm, comfortable and welcome? Does it have a place for your children to play while you wait? Does the reception staff seem friendly and welcoming? These questions are an important aspect of choosing a dentist, because you may find that some appointments cause you or a member of your family to feel anxious. A calm, welcoming office can help alleviate some of that anxiety.
Is the dentist available if you have dental emergency? This is particularly important if you have children, because you may end up with a child who knocks out a tooth outside of normal office hours. Find out what the emergency services are at the dentist’s office. If they do not have any, find out where you should go if you have a true dental emergency.
Consider the Range of Care
As you look for a dental office, consider the range of care offered by the particular office you are considering. Many dentists are general dentists, but they may not offer oral surgery or cosmetic dentistry. If you know that you need extensive oral surgery, then this type of office would not be a good fit for you.
No particular type of dentist is a perfect fit for any one patient, but make sure the dentist you choose is a good fit for the oral health needs you have. Find out where you will go should you need a service that the dentist does not offer.
Choosing a dentist is important, because you will be working with your dentist for years to come to protect your oral health. Make the decision carefully, and enjoy the benefit of a dentist that you are comfortable with as you seek to maintain your oral health. If you are looking for a dental team with a holistic approach, consider Natural Horizons Wellness Centers.
You are a busy adult with a career and family to take care of. Each day many things place demands on your time. Going to the dentist is simply one more thing to add to an already packed schedule. Is it really that important? If you are thinking of skipping your next dental cleaning, here are four reasons to reconsider.
1. Dental Checkups Help You Detect Cancer
When you visit the dentist, one of the things your dentist and hygienist do is screen you for oral cancer. Your dentist has been trained to diagnose and identify oral cancer (one of the most deadly types of cancer) early, so you can get the right treatment before the disease progresses.
2. Protect Your Smile
Your dental checkup could be the only thing standing between you and a mouth full of decaying, rotten teeth. Your dentist will not only screen you for oral health problems, but the staff will give your teeth a deep clean that you can’t get elsewhere. Problems like gum disease and tooth decay can be detected early and treated before they progress to the point of tooth loss.
You may be thinking that you would know if you had any of these problems. The truth is, however, that most patients are not aware of gum disease or tooth decay until the problem has progressed to the point that it is hard to treat. Regular dental appointments will help prevent these oral health issues from developing.
3. Protect Your Overall Health
Many people are not aware of the connection between oral health and the health of the rest of the body. Your eyes may be the window to the soul, but your mouth is the window to the rest of your body. Regular dental care actually cuts your risk of other diseases significantly.
Consider the link between oral health and heart disease. One article published by Harvard indicates that the bacteria in the mouth can damage the heart and blood vessels. The toxins released by oral bacteria can cause blood clots and other heart problems. While research into this connection is still in its infancy, the fact remains that people who have healthy teeth and gums tend to have better overall health.
4. Prevent Bad Breath
No one wants to have problems with bad breath, yet skipping your regular oral checkups is a recipe for halitosis. Persistent bad breath can be a sign of periodontal disease, tooth decay and a range of other oral health problems. The best way to prevent problems with halitosis is to keep those regularly scheduled cleanings and checkups.
If you are due for your oral checkup, the team at Natural Horizons Wellness Center can help. Our dental services take a holistic, biological approach to oral care. We will help you be as healthy as you can be, from the inside out, with a focus on keeping your teeth and gums happy and healthy.
If you have a child, keeping their teeth clean and healthy needs to be a priority. One of the best ways you can ensure a lifetime of good oral health is with early dental visits. If you are preparing to visit the dentist for the first time with your little one, here are some tips to make the trip go as smoothly as possible.
When to Go
Scheduling that first dental appointment is often the first question new parents have. When should they take the child to the dentist? The answer will vary significantly depending on whom you ask.
The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry now recommends that you have an established dental home by the time your child is one year old. This helps limit the chances that your child will have dental problems, and will help teach you, as the parent, how to properly care for your baby’s brand new teeth. If you do not go when your child is a baby, aim to have that first visit by about age three. Regardless of the age, schedule the visit during a time when your child is normally awake, well fed and alert.
Prepping for the First Visit
If your child is a baby, you won’t need to do any preparation for the first visit. If your child is toddler or preschooler, and you are visiting the dentist for the first time or for the first time in a while, you may want to schedule a “get acquainted” visit to show your child what to expect. If the two of you will be seeing the same dentist, have your child come to your checkup, or simply ask if you can see the dental office before the appointment.
Before you go, read books with your child about visiting the dentist. Have him or her watch a few videos of kids at the dentist. Knowing what to expect will help make the visit much less frightening.
On the day of the visit, have your child choose a special toy or blanket to bring along to the dentist. Stay with your child during the visit, but avoid the urge to hover. The dentist and dental staff will be adept at helping nervous children feel comfortable, and hovering will only make things worse for both of you.
Throughout the visit, give your child some control. Often, children panic at the dentist not because it hurts or is scary, but because they don’t know what to expect and cannot control the visit. Ask, “Will you hold your toy, or should I keep it?” or, “What flavor of toothpaste do you want?”
Should You Offer a Reward?
Should you offer your child a reward for bravery at the dentist? The answer depends on whether or not your child is old enough to understand or want the reward, and if your child is showing extreme anxiety. Children who are scared may benefit from a reward, but most children can tackle their first dental visit without one.
At Natural Horizons Wellness Centers, our dental team loves children. We are ready to make your child’s first experience at the dentist a pleasant one. With our holistic approach to dentistry, your child’s oral health will be well protected throughout his or her lifetime.
For years, dentists have happily drilled out cavities and filled them with mercury-containing amalgam, the silver filling material found in many mouths across the country. Dental amalgam is an alloy that has been around since before the Civil War, and it is 50 percent mercury. In spite of the fact that new, mercury-free options exist, about half of all dentists in North America still use amalgam fillings, and this is a dangerous fact.
The Dangers of Mercury
Mercury in your body can be quite harmful. Dr. Boyd Haley of the University of Kentucky has called mercury a “biochemical train wreck in your body.” When your body is exposed to mercury, it affects you on a cellular level. Cell membranes become leaky, and this prevents the body from utilizing enzymes it needs to remove toxins and produce energy. Over time this can create fatal conditions in the body. In other words, mercury slowly poisons you from the inside.
Interestingly, doctors are well aware of the dangers of mercury. We are now being cautioned against eating too much mercury-laden seafood, and pregnant women are told not to eat fish that is high in mercury. In spite of these warnings, people are still embracing amalgam fillings in dentistry.
Yet in testing performed at the University of Georgia, Dr. Anne Summers found that animals who had amalgam fillings had higher levels of mercury in their bowels and throughout their bodies than those that did not, and even had higher levels than those who ate mercury-laden fish. She also found that the lower gastrointestinal tract was vulnerable to damage from mercury in the body.
Dr. Mark Geier, the president of the Genetics Center of America, found that women who had six or more amalgam fillings had a higher chance of having children with severe autism than those who had zero to six fillings. The CDC warns that mercury is very dangerous to the nervous system, and has been linked to Alzheimer’s and other similar neurological conditions.
Yet in spite of these proven risks, and other suspected risks, around 75 percent of adults have mercury fillings. Holistic dentists believe that this is a problem, and many are taking steps to improve these statistics by offering mercury-free fillings in their practices. Because holistic or biological dentistry focuses on oral health as it relates to the health of the entire body, biological dentists will no longer use amalgam fillings, and many are offering removal and replacement with a non-mercury filling option.
Mercury is a toxic metal that you are already being exposed to in the environment. Living day in and day out with mercury in your mouth is not good for your overall health. With the help of biological dentistry, you can remove those fillings and enjoy life free from the slow damage caused by mercury in your body. Contact Natural Horizons Wellness Centers to learn more about amalgam filling replacement and the dangers of mercury in your fillings.