Posts for tag: oral health

IfYoureCaringForanOlderAdultMakeTheirOralHealthaTopPriority

Most of us care for our teeth without much assistance, save from our dentist. But that can change as we get older. A senior adult sometimes needs the help of a family member or a close friend, even with the basics of personal oral care.

At the same time, an older adult's other pressing health needs can be so overwhelming for their caregiver that their oral health needs move to the back burner. But the condition of a person's teeth and gums is directly related to overall health and well-being, especially later in life—it deserves to be a high priority.

First and foremost, caregivers should focus on daily oral hygiene to prevent tooth decay or gum disease, the two most prevalent diseases capable of severely damaging teeth and gums. Dental plaque, a thin bacterial film accumulating on tooth surfaces, is the top cause for these diseases. Removing it daily helps lower the risk for either type of infection.

Older adults may begin to find it difficult to brush and floss on a daily basis. Caregivers can help by adapting the tools of the job to their situation. Adults with diminished hand dexterity might be better served with a power or large-handled toothbrush, or switching to a water flosser for flossing. If they're cognitively challenged, it might also be necessary to perform these tasks for them.

Because of medications or other oral issues, older adults have a higher propensity for chronic dry mouth. Saliva neutralizes acid and supplies antibodies to fight infection, so not having enough can make the mouth environment more conducive to harmful bacteria. Caregivers should interact with their loved one's doctor to help reduce dry mouth through alternative medications or products to improve saliva flow.

An older person may also have dental work like crowns, bridges or dentures that protect their oral health and improve dental function. Be sure they're seeing a dentist to regularly check their dental work and make adjustments or repairs as necessary.

Good oral health is important in every stage of life, but particularly in our later years. Watching out for an older adult's teeth and gums can make a big difference in their overall quality of life.

If you would like more information on dental care for senior adults, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more about this topic by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “Aging & Dental Health.”

By Jeffrey Mason, DMD
February 10, 2022
Category: Oral Health
Tags: oral health  
UnderstandingDentalInsuranceThe3TypesofPlans

Health insurance is an important part of life, helping to even out the high costs of medical treatment. Without it, many of us would find it extremely difficult to financially weather physical illness or injury.

But many also view health insurance as frustratingly complicated, including policies that cover dental care. Regarding the latter, people often view it as medical insurance's identical twin—which it's not. While insurance for clinical services and hospitalization manages cost in a comprehensive manner, the majority of dental plans function more like a discount coupon.

The great majority of dental policies today are paid for by employers as a salary benefit to their employees. There can still be differences in policies and it's important to know what kind of plan your workplace has provided you. Here's a rundown of the three basic types of dental insurance plans.

Fee-for-Service. This is the most common dental plan in which the employee is able to choose their dentist and the insurance company pays the dentist for services rendered. Each individual policy outlines the treatments covered, as well as the percentage of payment.

Direct reimbursement. With this approach, the employer pays employees' dental bills directly out of company funds. Even so, an insurance company is often still involved, but as a paid administrator for the employer, reimbursing the dental provider on behalf of the company.

Managed care. An insurance company may also create a network of dental providers that all agree to a set schedule of fees for services rendered. These dental health maintenance organizations (DHMOs) or preferred provider organizations (PPOs) can reduce patients' out-of-pocket expenses. But covered patients can only use dentists within the DHMO or PPO network to receive benefits.

You can, of course, purchase dental insurance as an individual rather than receive it as an employee benefit. If so, you'll need to weigh what you pay out for the policy and what you receive in benefits with what you would pay out-of-pocket without it to see if you're truly realizing any savings.

Either way, understanding a dental insurance plan can be a challenge for the average person. Fortunately, most dental offices are well experienced with these plans. Your dentist's staff can be a valuable resource for helping you get the most out of your insurance benefits.

If you would like more information on the financial side of dental care, please contact our office. You can also learn more about this topic by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “Dental Insurance 101.”

By Jeffrey Mason, DMD
August 24, 2021
Category: Oral Health
Tags: oral health  
AlthoughItSoundsExoticThisMouthSoreIsntaBigConcern

Most of what goes on inside our mouths—good or bad—is fairly predictable. But every now and then, people encounter something out of the ordinary. A good example is lichen planus.

Lichen planus are rare skin lesions that can occur on various parts of the skin, including inside the mouth. The name comes from their lacy appearance, which resembles a fungus that grows on rocks or trees called lichen.

Being similar in appearance, though, is all that lichen planus has in common with its fungal namesake. It's believed that the sores are caused by a reaction of the immune system mistaking some of the body's cells as foreign.

But don't let the exotic sounding name alarm you—true lichen planus is considered a benign mouth sore. You may not even realize you have it until your dentist notices and points it out. But the lesions can sometimes cause mild pain or burning, especially if they occur near the gums or if you indulge in spicy or acidic foods.

As we said, these lesions aren't considered dangerous. But in a small number of cases, oral cancer was found to develop later. It's unclear whether the lesions were related to the cancer, or if what were diagnosed as lichen planus lesions were actually pre-cancerous cells mimicking the appearance of the benign sore.

In any event, your dentist will probably continue to monitor the lesions and possibly conduct regular oral cancer screenings to be on the safe side. You may also want to stop using tobacco or alcohol products to further decrease your risk of oral cancer.

As to managing lichen planus, it starts with a daily habit of brushing and flossing. You'll also want to avoid spicy or acidic foods like citrus fruits, tomatoes, peppers or caffeinated drinks, especially during flareups. If the lesions are causing discomfort, your dentist may also prescribe a topical steroid to apply to them.

Since it's quite possible you won't know if you have lichen planus (as well as other types of mouth sores) unless your dentist observes them, you should keep up regular dental visits. Having your dentist check your entire mouth, not just your teeth and gums, will help both of you stay on top of your oral health.

If you would like more information on mouth sores, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more about this topic by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “Lichen Planus.”

By Jeffrey Mason, DMD
June 05, 2021
Category: Oral Health
Tags: oral health   nutrition  
RefinedSugarCouldBeHarmingMoreThanYourTeeth

You've probably heard your dentist say more than once to cut back on sweets. That's good advice not only for keeping your teeth healthy, but your whole body as well.

As a carbohydrate, a macronutrient that helps supply energy to the body's cells, sugar is prevalent naturally in many foods, particularly fruits and dairy. The form of which we're most concerned, though, is refined sugar added to candy, pastries and other processed foods.

Believe it or not, three out of four of the 600,000 food items on supermarket shelves contain refined sugar, often hiding under names like "high fructose corn syrup" or "evaporated cane syrup." So-called healthy foods with labels like "low fat" or "diet" have added sugar and chemicals to replace the taste of fat they've removed.

But perhaps the biggest sugar sources in the average U.S. diet are sodas, energy drinks, and sports drinks. With the added volume of sugar in processed foods, the growing consumption of sweetened beverages has pushed the average American's sugar intake to nearly 20 teaspoons a day—more than three times the recommended daily allowance.

And right along with the increased consumption of sugar, cases of Type 2 diabetes, heart disease and other systemic diseases have likewise risen. And, yes, preventable tooth decay continues to be a problem, especially in children, with sugar a major contributing factor in the prevalence of cavities.

So, what can you do to keep your daily sugar intake within healthy bounds?

  • Check ingredient labels on packaged food for added sugar, chemicals or preservatives. If it contains sugar or "scientific"-sounding ingredients, leave it on the shelf.
  • Be wary of health claims on food packaging. "Low fat," for example, is usually an indicator of added sugar.
  • Drink water or unsweetened beverages instead of sodas, sports drinks or even juices. Doing so will vastly lower your daily intake of sugar.

A healthy diet with much less sugar and regular exercise will help you stay healthy. And with a lower risk for tooth decay, your teeth will also reap the benefits.

If you would like more information on the effects of sugar on your oral and general health, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more about this topic by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “The Bitter Truth About Sugar.”

By Jeffrey Mason, DMD
April 26, 2021
Category: Oral Health
Tags: oral health  
4WaysAlcoholCouldAffectYourOralHealth

Fermented and distilled beverages have been a part of human culture for millennia. They help us celebrate the joys of life and the companionship of family and friends. But alcohol also has a darker side, if over-consumed: a cause for many social ills, a vehicle for addiction and a contributor to “unwell” being. The latter is particularly true when it comes to oral health.

April is National Alcohol Awareness Month, a time when advocates, public officials and healthcare providers call attention to the negative effects that alcohol can have on society at large and on individuals in particular. In regard to oral health, here are a few ways alcohol might cause problems for your mouth, teeth and gums.

Bad breath. Although not a serious health problem (though it can be a sign of one), halitosis or bad breath can damage your self-confidence and interfere with your social relationships. For many, bad breath is a chronic problem, and too much alcohol consumption can make it worse. Limiting alcohol may be a necessary part of your breath management strategy.

Dry mouth. Having a case of “cottonmouth” may involve more than an unpleasant sensation—if your mouth is constantly dry, you're more likely to experience tooth decay or gum disease. Chronic dry mouth is a sign you're not producing enough saliva, which you need to neutralize acid and fight oral bacteria. Heavy alcohol consumption can make your dry mouth worse.

Dental work. Drinking alcohol soon after an invasive dental procedure can complicate your recovery. Alcohol has an anticoagulant effect on blood, making it harder to slow or stop post-operative bleeding that may occur with incisions or sutures. It's best to avoid alcohol (as well as tobacco) for at least 72 hours after any invasive dental procedure.

Oral cancer. Oral cancer is an especially deadly disease with only a 57% five-year survival rate. Moderate to heavy alcohol drinkers have anywhere from 3 to 9 times the risk of contracting cancer than non-drinkers—and generally the higher the alcohol content, the higher the risk. As with other factors like tobacco, the less alcohol you drink, the lower your risk for oral cancer.

Given its risks to both health and well-being, many people refrain from alcohol altogether. If you do choose to drink, the American Cancer Society and other health organizations recommend no more than two drinks per day for men and one per day for women. Being responsible with alcohol will enhance both the overall quality of your life and your oral health.

If you would like more information about the effect of alcohol and other substances on oral health, please contact us schedule a consultation. To learn more, read the Dear Doctor magazine article “Diet and Prevention of Oral Cancer.”