More than 50 million Americans care for an adult neighbor, friend or family member who can't care for themselves. A major part of that care is looking out for their health—including their teeth and gums.
Being a caregiver to someone is a labor of love—but it can be overwhelming. And with oral health especially, it's easy to miss signs of an emerging issue in their mouths that could impact the quality of their lives.
But you can be proactive about your loved one's oral health. In recognition of Family Caregivers Month in November, here are 4 guidelines that can help you ensure their teeth and gums are as healthy as possible.
Make oral hygiene easier for them. Brushing and flossing are basic to a dental disease prevention strategy. But an adult who needs care might have trouble performing these tasks: They may lack the cognitive ability or physical dexterity required. For the latter, larger handled-tooth brushes, floss threaders or water flossers can provide them better maneuverability. With cognitive decline, though, you may have to personally assist them with their hygiene tasks.
Watch for dry mouth. Also known as xerostomia, chronic dry mouth is caused by a lack of adequate saliva needed to fight disease-causing bacteria and to neutralize acid that can erode tooth enamel. For a variety of reasons, older adults are more prone to chronic dry mouth than other age groups. When this occurs, speak with their doctor about their medications (some can cause xerostomia). And, encourage your loved one to drink more water or use products that boost saliva production.
Accompany them to the dentist. Just as you would with other aspects of their health, become an active participant in their dental care. Forging a partnership with their dentist can provide you the information and guidance you need to better manage their daily home care. You can also bring up issues you've noticed with their oral health that can help guide their dentist's treatment.
Monitor their existing dental work. Your loved one may have full or partial dentures, or dental work like crowns or bridges. These existing restorations extend their dental function and protect their oral health from further disease. It's important, then, to have existing dental work checked on a regular basis to ensure its in good shape and functioning properly.
As the old saying goes, "Healthy mouth, healthy body." This is especially true for adults who need ongoing care. Keeping their teeth and gums are as healthy as possible will help them enjoy better health overall.
More than 1 in 10 Americans has some form of diabetes. This metabolic condition disrupts the body's regulation of glucose in the bloodstream, giving rise to health problems like slow wound healing, frequent infections and blindness—and it's the seventh leading cause of death in the U.S. It can affect every aspect of your health including your teeth and gums.
Fortunately, people with diabetes can manage it through medication, diet and exercise. Even so, the disease could still have a profound effect on physical health. The mouth in particular becomes more susceptible to a number of oral conditions with diabetes.
In recognition of American Diabetes Month in November, here's how diabetes could put your oral health at risk for other diseases and what you can do about it.
Gum disease. Diabetics are at high risk for severe periodontal (gum) disease because of a characteristic shared by both conditions: inflammation. What is normally a healing response of the body to infection or trauma becomes destructive if it becomes chronic. Studies show that, due to their inflammation connection, diabetes can worsen gum disease, and gum disease can make it harder to bring diabetes under control.
Dry mouth. Chronic dry mouth is another possible consequence of diabetes that harms oral health. It's the result of the body not producing enough saliva. Because saliva supplies antigens to fight infection and neutralizes oral acid, which erodes tooth enamel, inadequate saliva increases the risk of both tooth decay and gum disease.
Thrush. Also known as oral candidiasis, thrush occurs when the fungus Candida albicans spreads along the inside surface of the mouth. This fungal infection can produce painful white lesions that make it difficult to eat or swallow. Complications from diabetes, including dry mouth and raised glucose levels in saliva, increase a diabetic's chances of developing thrush.
Implant complications. An implant's stability depends on the healing period after implant surgery when bone cells grow and adhere to its titanium surface. But because diabetics can experience slow wound healing, the bone may not fully develop around the implant and eventually causing it to fail. Fortunately, this is less of a problem if the patient has their diabetes under control.
So, what can you or someone you love with diabetes do to avoid these oral health pitfalls? For one, practicing daily brushing and flossing—and seeing your dentist on a regular basis—is paramount for reducing the risk of any dental disease. Additionally for diabetics, consistently keeping your condition under control will likewise lessen the impact it may have on your teeth and gums.
It seems with each new election cycle another U.S. state legalizes marijuana use. It remains a flashpoint issue that intersects politics, law and morality, but there's another aspect that should also be considered—the health ramifications of using marijuana.
From an oral health perspective, it doesn't look good. According to one study published in the Journal of Periodontology a few years ago, there may be a troubling connection between marijuana use and periodontal (gum) disease.
Gum disease is a common bacterial infection triggered by dental plaque, a thin biofilm on tooth surfaces. As the infection advances, the gum tissues become more inflamed and lose their attachment to teeth. This often results in widening gaps or "pockets" between the teeth and gums filled with infection. The deeper a periodontal pocket, the greater the concern for a tooth's health and survivability.
According to the study, researchers with Columbia University's College of Dental Medicine reviewed data collected from nearly 2,000 adults, a quarter of which used marijuana at least once a month. They found the marijuana users had about 30 individual pocket sites on average around their teeth with a depth of at least 4 millimeters. Non-users, by contrast, only averaged about 22 sites.
The users also had higher incidences of even deeper pockets in contrast to non-users. The former group averaged nearly 25 sites greater than 6 millimeters in depth; non-users, just over 19. Across the data, marijuana users appeared to fare worse with the effects of gum disease than those who didn't use.
As concerning as these findings appear, we can't say that marijuana use singlehandedly causes gum disease. The condition has several contributing risk factors: diet, genetics, and, most important of all, how well a person manages daily plaque removal, the main driver for gum disease, through brushing and flossing.
Still, the data so far seems to indicate using marijuana can make gum disease worse. Further studies will be needed to fully test this hypothesis. In the meantime, anyone using marijuana should consider the possible consequences to their oral health.
QB sensation Johnny Manziel has had a varied career in professional football. After playing two seasons for the NFL Cleveland Browns, he quarterbacked for a number of teams in the Canadian Football League. More recently, he joined the Zappers in the new Fan Controlled Football league (FCF). But then with only a few games under his belt, he was waylaid by an emergency dental situation.
It's unclear what the situation was, but it was serious enough to involve oral surgery. As a result, he was forced to miss the Zappers' final regular-season game. His experience is a reminder that some dental problems can't wait—you have to attend to them immediately or risk severe long-term consequences.
Manziel's recent dental problem also highlights a very important specialty of dentistry—oral surgery. Oral surgeons are uniquely trained and qualified to treat and correct a number of oral problems.
Tooth extraction. Although some teeth can be removed by a general dentist, some have complications like multiple roots or impaction that make regular extractions problematic. An oral surgeon may be needed to surgically remove these kinds of problem teeth.
Disease. Oral surgeons often intervene with diseases attacking areas involving the jaws or face. This includes serious infections that could become life-threatening if they're not promptly treated by surgical means.
Bite improvement. Some poor bites (malocclusions) arise from a mismatch in the sizes of the jaws. An oral surgeon may be able to correct this through orthognathic surgery to reposition the jaw to the skull. This may compensate for the difference in jaw sizes and reduce the bite problem.
Implants. Dental implants are one of the best ways to replace teeth, either as a standalone tooth or as support for a fixed dental bridge or a removable denture. In some cases, it may be better for an oral surgeon to place the implants into a patient's jawbone.
Reconstruction. Injuries or birth defects like a cleft lip or palate can alter the appearance and function of the face, jaws or mouth. An oral surgeon may be able to perform procedures that repair the damage and correct oral or facial deformities.
Sleep apnea. Obstructive sleep apnea is usually caused by the tongue relaxing against the back of the throat during sleep and blocking the airway. But other anatomical structures like tonsils or adenoids can do the same thing. An oral surgeon could address this situation by surgically altering obstructing tissues.
It's likely most of your dental care won't require the services of an oral surgeon. But when you do need surgical treatment, like Johnny Manziel, these dental specialists can make a big difference in your oral health.
If you would like more information about oral surgery, please contact us or schedule a consultation.
So, how's your child's bite? No, not how well they clamp down on things (like fingers—yikes!), but how the teeth on both jaws interact with each other. It's important to know because a bite problem can be a serious health concern.
A poor bite can lead to more than an unattractive smile. Misaligned teeth are more difficult to keep clean, which can increase the risk of both tooth decay and gum disease. Poor bites also lower the efficiency of chewing and food processing, making it harder for the body to absorb the nutrients it needs for optimum health. And, a poor bite can adversely affect the airway, which could lead to problems with obstructive sleep apnea later in life.
But finding out that your child's bite is going off course is a good thing—provided you discover it in its initial stages of development, that is. Early detection opens the door for interventions that could "right the ship," so to speak. In recognition of National Orthodontic Health Month this October, here are 4 things you can do to make that possible with a developing bite problem.
Get a bite evaluation. Although an abnormal bite develops gradually, it often provides early, subtle signs. An orthodontist or pediatric dentist can often detect these before the bite problem becomes too pronounced. It's a good idea, then, to have your child undergo an orthodontic evaluation around age 6.
Be alert to abnormalities. You may also be able to pick up some of these signs of abnormal bite development yourself. For example, if all the upper teeth don't slightly overlap the lower, something could be amiss. Likewise, crooked teeth, excessive gaps between teeth, or front teeth jutting too far forward are causes for concern. If you notice anything out of the ordinary, see your dentist as soon as possible.
Seek early treatment. You don't always have to wait until the teen years to start orthodontic treatment. Depending on the type of bite problem, interventional treatments can lessen or even stop poor bite development—in some cases, you may even be able to avoid future treatments like braces. As mentioned before, a bite evaluation around age 6 will facilitate the most treatment options.
Follow through on treatments. Orthodontic treatments are a lot like running a marathon—even after a long race, you're only truly successful if you cross the finish line. With bite correction, that finish line isn't necessarily when the braces come off—treatment continues with retainers to ensure there isn't a reversal of all that's been accomplished.
A bite problem can reverberate throughout a person's lifetime. But it doesn't have to! Being alert to your child's developing bite and taking prompt action can ensure they'll enjoy straighter teeth, more efficient dental function and an attractive smile.
If you would like more information about your child's orthodontic health, please contact us or schedule a consultation.
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