Oral Health for Older Adults

Keeping good oral hygiene habits is important at any age. As we get older, regular visits to the dentist remain necessary, particularly since changes to our health status can often affect our oral health. One study found that older adults with certain chronic conditions, such as diabetes and heart disease, are more at risk for tooth loss. The American Dental Association also notes that many prescription medications taken for these conditions can impact our teeth and gums. On the flip side, taking proper care of your mouth as you age can help prevent a number of problems — including cavities, gum disease and oral cancer — and keep your immune system from becoming overburdened.

Here are a few ways your dentist can help you maintain a healthy smile as you age.

Preventative Care

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 68% of adults aged 65 and older have gum disease, and one in five have untreated tooth decay. One of the reasons may be the prevalence of dry mouth among older adults, often caused by medications for certain chronic diseases, which can increase the risk of cavities. Your dental team can help by providing regular cleanings and advising you on the best ways to treat dry mouth.

Oral Cancer Screenings

According to mouthhealthy.org, a website of the American Dental Association, the average age of oral cancer diagnosis is 62. During your regular dental visit, your clinician can check for abnormal cells or lesions in the oral cavity that might warrant further evaluation. Detecting oral cancer early through regular screenings can go a long way toward successful treatment.

Dentures

Many older adults have lost some or all of their teeth, which can make it difficult to eat and speak. Dentures are removable, artificial teeth and gums used to replace missing teeth. Our denture specialists can help you get a beautiful, natural-looking set of dentures that fit comfortably. With proper care, dentures can last several years. 

Dental Implants

Unlike dentures, dental implants are a non-removable, long-term replacement for missing teeth. Dental implants are designed to make replacement teeth look, feel and function like natural teeth. The dental implant itself is a small titanium post that is surgically placed into the jawbone where teeth are missing. These metal anchors act as the support to prosthetic teeth, securing them firmly like a natural tooth. You can brush and floss them just as you would natural teeth. 

Dental Coverage for Older Adults

With about half of adults between the ages of 65 and 80 reporting that they do not have dental coverage, going to the dentist can be a challenge as you grow older. For those without insurance, our Smiles360 Dental Savings Club may be an option for you. With an annual fee starting at just $269, Smiles360 members receive preventative dental services at no additional cost, with generous discounts on a variety of treatments. 

We are committed to being your partner in oral health at any age. With flexible payment options, a variety of services and a friendly team, we look forward to keeping you smiling. Make an appointment today!

Why are oral cancer screenings so important?

Did you know that April is Oral, Head and Neck Cancer Awareness month? The Oral Cancer Foundation tells us that nearly 54,000 Americans will be diagnosed with oral or oropharyngeal cancer this year. Of the people newly diagnosed with these cancers, only about 57% will live longer than five years. Often, this type of cancer goes unnoticed by the patient until it has progressed to later stages. While smoking and alcohol consumption have long been known as risk factors, the incidence of oropharyngeal cancer among young non-smokers has steadily increased due to HPV16 — the same virus that causes more than 90% of all cervical cancers. 

Oral Cancer Signs & Symptoms

The earliest signs of oral cavity and oropharyngeal cancer may be mistaken for other problems, such as a toothache or cold. If symptoms persist for several days or weeks, it is important to see your doctor. Many of these symptoms can be due to other, less serious problems or other cancers. Signs and symptoms to watch for include:

  • Unusual lumps or bumps in the mouth and wart-like masses and mouth sores that do not heal.
  • Pain or difficulty swallowing or chewing.
  • Unusual nosebleeds or other bleeding from the oral cavity.
  • Distortion of any of the senses or numbness in the oral or facial areas.
  • Sore throat, hoarseness or ear pain.
  • Progressive swelling, enlarged lymph nodes, or shifting teeth.

Ask us about oral cancer screenings!

Thankfully, having regular oral cancer screenings is the best way to detect oral cancer in its early stages, when treatment outcomes are much better. The Check Your Mouth website offers guidance on doing self-examinations in between dental visits, but having a qualified professional examine your mouth for signs of problems is vitally important. Be sure to ask us about oral cancer screenings at your next checkup! 

Celebrate National Dentist’s Day this Saturday!

Saturday, March 6 is National Dentist’s Day! Celebrated annually, National Dentist’s Day is an opportunity to show appreciation for the dentists and dental specialists who keep our mouths healthy, including general dentists, pediatric dentists, orthodontists, oral surgeons and prosthodontists. As part of our celebration, we’ve combed history to recognize a few of the very first dentists and dental specialists.

First Dentist of Ancient History

The first recorded dentist, Hesy-Ra, lived and worked in Ancient Egypt around 2600 BC. He was known as the “Chief of Dentists” and was a person of high distinction under the pharaoh. According to New World Encyclopedia, the inscription on Hesy-Ra’s tomb reads, “The greatest of those who deal with teeth, and of physicians.”

First Women Dentists 

Did you know that March is Women’s History Month? Women have played a vital role in dentistry. Emeline Roberts Jones was the first woman to practice dentistry in the United States. Since women were not allowed to enter dental school at the time, Jones secretly provided dental services until her husband allowed her to join his dental practice in 1855. Lucy Hobbs Taylor was the first woman to actually graduate from a dental school, earning her degree from the Ohio College of Dental Surgery in 1866.

First Pediatric Dentist

Another noteworthy woman in dental history is M. Evangeline Jordon, the first dentist to specialize in pediatric patients. Jordon began her career as a teacher and worked summers as a dental assistant, but eventually devoted herself to dentistry full-time, limiting her practice entirely to children in 1909. Jordon aimed to find methods for reducing children’s fear of going to the dentist. She also wrote and lectured on the importance of proper oral hygiene habits for kids.

First Orthodontists

While there is evidence that orthodontics has been around since ancient times, two French dentists are credited with progressing the field to where it is today. Pierre Fauchard developed a device called the “blandeau” in 1728, which helped to expand the mouth arch. Later, Louis Bourdet, who was dentist to the King of France, perfected the blandeau and was the first dentist to recommend extracting premolar teeth to ease crowding and to improve jaw growth. A century later, American Edward Hartley Angle developed the first classification system of malocclusion and the first school of orthodontia, establishing orthodontics as a specialty distinct from general dentistry.

First Oral Surgeon

Simon P. Hullihen is regarded as the “father” of oral surgery. Graduating as a medical doctor, he specialized in treating problems of the mouth and head, performing over 1,100 operations using instruments he invented himself.

First Prosthodontist

The practice of prosthodontics goes back to ancient times, when ancient Egyptians used gold wire to stabilize and replace missing teeth. However, the birth of modern implantology is often credited to Italian Manilo Formiggini, who developed a spiral stainless steel implant that allowed bone to grow onto the metal.

This National Dentist’s Day, give thanks to dentists for the important work they do to help keep our mouths healthy. If it’s time for your check-up, be sure to contact us.

Celebrate Children’s Dental Health Month!

Close up horizontal image two school age girls african caucasian little adorable kids sit in kitchen holding glasses with still clear water look at camera. Healthy lifestyle, natural hydration concept

The American Dental Association (ADA) designates every February as Children’s Dental Health Month. The observance helps to promote children’s oral health for caregivers, teachers, and others who work with kids.

This year’s theme is “Water: Nature’s Drink.” The theme highlights the importance of drinking water over sugary beverages to keep teeth healthy. On their MouthHealthy.org website, the ADA explains that water, particularly water with fluoride, can strengthen teeth and help to prevent tooth decay. In addition, water is a low-calorie drink that keeps your mouth clean and fights dry mouth. The necessity of this year’s theme is evidenced by a study conducted by JAMA Pediatrics, in which 20% of 8,400 children observed reported not drinking any water. Those children typically consumed almost twice as many calories and more sugary beverages like soda and fruit drinks.

Promoting Oral Health in Children

In addition to drinking water, MouthHealthy.org provides a number of tips for helping to foster healthy teeth and gums from a young age. These include:

  • Keeping an infant’s mouth clean before teeth erupt by wiping his or her gums with a soft, clean washcloth or gauze pad.
  • Brushing newly erupted teeth twice a day with a rice-sized amount of fluoridated toothpaste.
  • Increasing to a pea-sized amount of toothpaste after age three.
  • Visiting the dentist as soon as the first tooth erupts, and no later than age one. 
  • Avoiding dipping pacifiers in honey or sugar, or putting them in your mouth to clean them.

Additional Resources

The ADA provides several resources in celebration of National Children’s Dental Health Month, including crossword puzzles, coloring pages and other activities. A printable reference guide is also available with 5 tips for avoiding tooth decay. 

The Early Childhood Learning & Knowledge Center, part of the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, provides a number of resources for oral health. These include healthy recipes, oral hygiene tips, and books about oral health.

If you’d like to discuss your child’s oral health or are ready to make an appointment, contact us today. We’d love to see your child’s smile!

What does the COVID-19 vaccine mean for your dental care?

The first phase of the COVID-19 vaccination program is rolling out across the country. As recommended by the CDC Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices, phase 1a of the program prioritizes healthcare workers, including dental teams. Vaccine administration is being managed at the state level, creating some variation among states, but it is encouraging to see this important step underway!

How are dental providers being prioritized in the COVID-19 vaccination program? 

The ADA provides a helpful state-by-state map where you can see how dental providers are being prioritized in the vaccine program. In the vast majority of states, dentists are listed as part of phase 1a, while a few states have them in phase 1b, and others have yet to determine their priority level. States also vary on whether or not a dental provider can administer the vaccine to others at this time.

Will Summit Dental Health providers receive the COVID-19 vaccination?

In accordance with state prioritization guidelines, our dentists and team members will soon receive their first COVID-19 vaccination. Not only will vaccinations keep our team members safe, but they will ensure that patients who come into our practices remain safe as well. We’ll continue to provide more information to our patients as we have it. 

Is the COVID-19 vaccine safe?

The Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine explains that, while the vaccine was developed at a faster rate than many vaccines in the past, it does not mean that any safety measures were skipped during the process. Both the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines underwent appropriate clinical trials and were closely monitored for side effects. At this time, both vaccines are showing 95% effectiveness in preventing the spread of COVID-19.

Is it safe to visit the dentist if I’m not vaccinated?

Because delaying dental care could potentially lead to more severe — and costly — problems down the road, it is vital to continue with routine exams and complete any recommended treatment during the pandemic. As each of us awaits our turn to be vaccinated, you can rest assured that your dental office is as safe as ever. We will continue to implement extra safety measures, as recommended by the ADA and CDC, in addition to the infection control procedures we have always followed. Our highest priority is the well-being of each person that walks through our doors. If you have any questions or concerns about our safety protocols, feel free to give us a call. We’d love to hear from you!

Treat Yourself to a New Smile This Holiday Season

The holiday season is upon us once again! With the many challenges that 2020 has brought, it feels like the right time to do a little something to treat ourselves. Many are also looking for ways to use up remaining HSA or FSA funds. If you fall into that category, here are a few gifts you might consider giving yourself before the year is over.

Clear Aligners

Clear aligners are an inconspicuous way to straighten your teeth. According to the American Association of Orthodontists, clear aligners are clear, plastic-like trays that are virtually invisible. Many patients like that clear aligners can also be removed for short periods of time. However, it is vital that clear aligners remain in the mouth as much as possible so they can do their job of straightening your teeth.

Whitening

Whitening can bring the brightness back to your teeth. MouthHealthy.org, an ADA website, tells us that teeth can discolor over time for a variety of reasons, such as diet, trauma, certain medications and age. Whitening gels work to remove both surface and deep stains on teeth. The results can last a long time, though touch up treatments are available if needed.

Veneers

Dental veneers are thin shells of porcelain or composite resin that are custom made to fit over teeth. They can be used to fix chipped, stained, misaligned, worn down, uneven or abnormally spaced teeth. Medical News Today explains that veneers may be beneficial for those who want a long-term solution to persistent cosmetic concerns and haven’t responded well to other dental treatments, such as teeth whitening, braces, or retainers.

If you’re interested in clear aligners, whitening or dental veneers, contact us for a consultation, and get ready to ring in the new year with a new smile!

Oral Health for Older Adults

Keeping good oral hygiene habits is important at any age. As we get older, regular visits to the dentist remain necessary, particularly since changes to our health status can often affect our oral health. One study found that older adults with certain chronic conditions, such as diabetes and heart disease, are more at risk for […]

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