From the ADA:
If you’re one of the 44 million family caregivers in the United States, you’ve got a lot on your mind. However, keeping your loved one’s mouth healthy is important for their dental health, overall health and so much more.
“It’s also about comfort, safety and self-esteem,” says ADA dentist Dr. Judith Jones. “Keeping your mouth and teeth clean can prevent sensitivity or pain in your teeth. In terms of safety, there might be broken teeth, broken partials or unsafe partials they can swallow. And for their self-esteem, it’s important for individuals to have a sense of pride in their appearance and to have good hygiene.”
How much help you give will depend on the individual. If the person in your care can do the basics, let them. Some adults may have physical issues that make them unable to hold a toothbrush. Others may have memory issues, so they forget to brush and floss. People with dementia may need someone to clean their teeth each day and take them to a dentist.
No matter your situation, daily care plus professional care equal the best chances for a healthy mouth. Here are some important mouth care steps for older adults.
Brush teeth twice a day for two minutes using a fluoride toothpaste.
Clean between the teeth daily with floss or other between-the-teeth cleaner.
Rinse dentures after each meal, brush them daily with denture cleaner and take them out before bedtime and store in water.
If the person has dry mouth, an alcohol-free mouthrinse may help. Sipping water, sucking (not chewing) on ice chips and using a humidifier while sleeping can help keep him or her hydrated.
Limit snacking and sugary drinks. Healthy foods and drinks such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains and water are good for the mouth and the body.
Make and keep dental appointments. Even people with dentures need to visit the dentist.
Watch for symptoms that could signal larger issues, and make an appointment with the dentist to have them checked out.
You may have questions specific to your own situation, so here are some starting points for different types of care cases. And always feel free to speak with your dentist or your loved one’s dentist for more advice.
Hygienist: Have there been any changes to your medical history?
Patient: Not really
Hygienist: There are medications listed in your record. Why are you taking the medication?
Patient: Oh, I only take pills for high blood pressure. No big deal.
Your dental team is an integral part of your health care team. A complete medical history is critical for safe and effective patient care. Many medications have an effect on oral health. We can see delayed healing, chronic inflammation or rampant caries that are related to systemic conditions and/or medications.
Help to insure your comprehensive, successful dental care by providing us an accurate and up to date medical history.
The New York Times (6/4, Parker-Pope, Subscription Publication) “Well” blog provides tips for a “midlife tuneup,” stating that “our health needs change with every passing decade, but the good news is that it’s never too late to start taking better care of yourself.” In a broad list of suggestions to stay healthy, the article includes oral health tips, observing that losing “teeth and getting dentures is no longer an inevitable part of aging” thanks to “better hygiene and fluoridation.” As people age, “the rules for proper dental care” remain the same, the article states, “brush and floss regularly and avoid sweets and sodas, hard candies and caramels to keep your teeth healthy.” Still, aging can bring unique oral health challenges, including “dry mouth as a side effect” of medications, which “makes teeth more vulnerable to decay.” In addition, “bone loss can make teeth less stable and receding gums expose roots to tooth decay.” However, the “biggest challenge” to maintaining oral health with aging is cost, the article says, noting “Medicare typically doesn’t cover dental procedures, and only about 10 percent of retirees have dental benefits from their former employer.” Given this, “prevention is key,” the article says.
Medical News Today (3/23, Paddock) reported that preliminary research found “tooth loss in middle age is tied to a higher risk of cardiovascular disease, independent of traditional risk factors such as high blood pressure, poor diet, and diabetes.” Study co-author Lu Qi, who is a professor of epidemiology at Tulane University, said, “Our findings suggest that middle-aged adults who have lost two or more teeth in [the] recent past could be at increased risk for cardiovascular disease.”
This came from the ADA Morning Huddle:
HPV Causing “Epidemic Of Oral Cancer” In Men.
The Philadelphia Inquirer (3/6, McCullough) reports that HPV is “unleashing an epidemic of oral cancer among men.” The article reports that “men are four times more likely than women to be diagnosed with oral cancer,” which has “overtaken cervical cancer as the most common HPV-related malignancy in the United States.” The article states that this trend is due in part to men’s immune response, explaining that “compared with women, men are more likely to get infected with HPV – including ‘high-risk’ cancer-causing strains,” and “they also are less able to wipe out infection on their own, and more likely to get reinfected.” The authors of one study examining HPV in men, said, “HPV vaccination is the only reliable method to ensure immune protection against new HPV infections and subsequent disease in males.”
The message? Both boys and girls need the HPV vaccine starting at age 9.
I have worked in the dental field for over 50 years and yet, continue to see new, interesting and amazing things.
In a period of just the last 4 months I have seen THREE cases of rapidly developing and advancing gum line decay as a result of lattes and/or creamer in coffee. This is sugar in suspension sipped over a long period of time- not unlike the process of baby bottle tooth decay caused from babies sucking on a bottle of milk or formula on and off during the night.
In at least one of these cases it was made worse thanks to the great new insulated mugs. My patient reported that prior to using a Yetti mug, he would drink his coffee over about thirty minutes and be done with it. With his new, great mug, it would stay warm all morning for him to enjoy.
The decay process is active for 20 minutes after ingestion of sugar - the bacteria in the plaque on the tooth turns the sugar into acid and causes dissolution of enamel structure. That means each time we ingest sugar the 20 minute process starts again. Even though enamel is the strongest substance in our body, it does not hold up well to a constant sugar bath.
So the message is: DRINK YOUR COFFEE BLACK!