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.

Why its not inevitable that youll lose your teeth as you get older

Advancements in dental techniques and the increased focus on preventive dentistry means older adults are keeping their natural teeth longer than ever before.

A survey by the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research showed that the rate of toothlessness in the 55 to 64 age group has dropped 60 percent since 1960.

Whatever your age, its important to practice good oral hygiene at home and to visit your dentist regularly. A few simple steps can help you maintain good oral health throughout your life.

Plaque, the sticky, colorless layer of bacteria that causes tooth decay and gum disease, can build up quickly on the teeth of older adults, particularly when they neglect oral hygiene. This can increase the risk for tooth decay and periodontal disease.

So its important to brush your teeth twice a day with fluoride toothpaste, and clean between your teeth daily with floss or interdental cleaners.

Regular dental checkups are also an important part of caring for your teeth.

This can help you save your teeth and gums and prevent other dental problems. It will save you time and money in the long-run as well.

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.

Some tips on overcoming nerves when going to the dentist

Some people get a bit nervous about the idea of going to the dentist.

As a result of the major progress that has been made in diagnosis and treatment, the process gets more comfortable all the time. So you may be worrying unnecessarily.

But, if you’re in any way tense or anxious, tell your dentist and the dental staff.

They will understand and will be able to adapt the treatment to your needs.

It can also help if you choose a time for your dental visit when you’re less likely to be rushed or under pressure. Dashing out from a busy day at work may make you feel more stressed.

For many people, that means making an early-morning or a Saturday appointment helps a great deal.

There are also other steps than can help. If the sound of the drill bothers you, take a portable audio player and headset so you can listen to your favorite music.

You can also help to relax by simply visualizing yourself somewhere you feel relaxed.

Sometimes these simple steps can help you feel a lot better. So why not give it a try on your next visit?

How sealants can give your teeth extra protection

Sealants are made from plastic material applied to the back teeth to protect the enamel from plaque and acids.

The plastic bonds into the depressions and grooves (pits and fissures) of the chewing surfaces of the back teeth – premolars and molars.

Although thorough brushing and flossing can help remove food particles and plaque from smooth surfaces of teeth, the toothbrush bristles cannot reach all the way into the depressions and grooves to extract food and plaque.

The benefit of sealants is that they protect these vulnerable areas by “sealing out” plaque and food.

Your dentist can apply sealants quite easily and it takes only a few minutes to seal each tooth.

The teeth being sealed will first be cleaned. Then the chewing surfaces are roughened with an acid solution which makes it easier for the sealant to stick to the tooth.

The sealant is then ‘painted’ onto the tooth enamel, where it bonds directly to the tooth and hardens.

Sometimes a special curing light is used to help the sealant harden.

As long as the sealant remains intact, the tooth surface will be protected from decay.
They usually last several years before a reapplication is needed. Your dentist will check the condition of the sealants during your regular visits and reapply them when necessary.

Sealants are ideal for children because the risk of developing pit and fissure decay starts early in life. However, many adults can benefit from sealants as well.

Your dentist can tell you whether sealants would help your oral hygiene program.

Caring for people who have special needs

People at any age can have a condition that makes it difficult for them to look after their own dental health.

This could affect people who suffer from a wide range of conditons such as stroke, spinal cord injury, multiple sclerosis, mental retardation, Down syndrome, genetic disorders, Alzheimers disease or arthritis.

However, people in all of these categories have the same dental needs as everyone else – they need daily brushing and flossing, regular dental visits and a balanced diet.

There are some steps caregivers can take to make it easier to look after people in those categories.

If the person is uncooperative or uncontrollable, try to explain what you are about to do and schedule the task for a time of day when they are rested.

Move in a calm, slow, reassuring manner to avoid startling them. Give praise and encourage them when they help themselves.

Support the persons head, and take special care to prevent choking or gagging when the head is tilted back.

If the person is unable or unwilling to keep their mouth open, your dentist will explain how you can make and use a mouth prop.

Ask your dentist for advice on how to care for people with special needs and check if they have facilities for caring for these needs in the dental office.

How dental x-rays help improve your oral health

Many diseases of the teeth and surrounding tissues cannot be seen when your dentist examines your mouth so an X-ray examination can reveal important additional information:

For example, X-rays can help show:
– Small areas of decay between the teeth or below existing fillings
– Infections in the bone
– Gum disease
– Abscesses or cysts
– Developmental abnormalities
– Some types of tumors

The way they work is that more X-rays are absorbed by the denser parts (such as teeth and bone) than by soft tissues (such as cheeks and gums). This creates an image called a radiograph.

Tooth decay, infections and signs of gum disease appear darker because of more X-ray penetration. The interpretation of these radiographs allows the dentist to safely and accurately detect hidden abnormalities.

The frequency of X-rays (radiographs) will depend on your specific health needs.

Your dentist will review your history, examine your mouth and decide whether you need radiographs and what type.

When you are a new patient, the dentist may recommend radiographs to establish how the hidden areas of your mouth currently look to help identify changes that occur later.

X-rays can help identify and treat dental problems at an early stage and so can save time, money and unnecessary discomfort.

Making living with dentures easy and comfortable

Your dentures were made to fit you precisely and, if they are cared for properly, they do not change shape.

But you may sometimes find that they can become loose due to natural changes in the gums and bone supporting them. As the jawbone begins to shrink, so do the gums.

If you find your dentures no longer fit properly, see your dentist as soon as possible so adjustments can be made.

Trying to change the fit of your dentures yourself can damage them and make them unrepairable so this would be a costly experiment!

Ill-fitting dentures repaired at home can also irritate the gums, tongue and cheeks.

In an emergency, you could use denture adhesives to keep the dentures stable until you are able to see the dentist.

Even if you no longer have your natural teeth, its still important to see your dentist regularly for an oral examination.

The dentist will examine your mouth to check for any problem with the gum ridges, the tongue and the joints of the jaw, as well as screen for oral cancer.

For a variety of reasons, many older adults are more susceptible to oral diseases, including oral cancer. About 95 percent of all cancers are found in people over age 40. However, many of these cancers are treatable if detected early.

Oral tissues are also checked for signs of other diseases that can first manifest themselves in the mouth.

Living with dentures can be comfortable if you continue to care for your oral hygiene and make regular visits to your dentist for a checkup.

Solving the problem of bad breath

Bad breath – which is also known as halitosis – is a worrying problem that can also be embarrassing.

But theres no need to put up with it. If you suffer from bad breath, your dentist will be able to suggest a range of solutions.

Your dentist will be able to spot problems such as gum disease, dry mouth or other disorders. Thats why its important to maintain good oral hygiene, schedule regular visits to the dentist and have professional cleaning.

Make sure you brush your teeth twice a day and clean between your teeth each day using floss or interdental cleaners. Don’t forget to brush your tongue, too!

If your dental check up shows that your mouth is healthy, your dentist may refer you to your family physician as sometimes bad breath can be a sign of other health problems.

If the odor is due to periodontal (gum) disease, sometimes professional periodontal cleaning is needed to remove the bacteria and plaque that accumulate. And your dentist may recommend a special antimicrobial mouth rinse.

Keeping your mouth healthy and stopping periodontal disease are essential to reducing bad breath.

So make sure you schedule regular dental visits for a professional cleaning and checkup.

Diabetes and your dental health: How your diet can affect your teeth

When diabetes is not controlled properly, high glucose levels in saliva may create problems that lead to an increased risk of tooth decay.

Your teeth are covered with plaque, a sticky film of bacteria. After you eat food that contains sugars or starches, the bacteria react with these sugars to release acids that attack tooth enamel. This can cause the enamel to break down and may eventually result in cavities.

Brushing twice a day with fluoride toothpaste and cleaning between your teeth with floss or an interdental cleaner helps remove decay-causing plaque.

Plaque that is not removed can eventually harden into calculus, or tartar. When tartar collects above the gumline, it becomes more difficult to clean thoroughly between teeth. This can lead to chronic inflammation and infection in the mouth.

Because diabetes reduces the bodys resistance to infection, the gums are among the tissues likely to be affected.
Periodontal diseases are infections of the gum and bone that hold your teeth in place. Patients with inadequate blood sugar control appear to develop periodontal disease more often and more severely, and they lose more teeth than those who have good control of their diabetes.

Because of the lower resistance and longer healing process, periodontal diseases often appear to be more frequent and more severe among persons with diabetes.

You can help reduce these risks through good maintenance of blood sugar levels, a well-balanced diet, good oral care at home and regular dental checkups.