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.

What dentists are doing to improve services for older adults

As people are living longer and enjoying good health for many years, dentists are increasingly offering improved services to recognize the special needs of older adults.

This growing segment of the population is wearing fewer dentures and they are keeping their natural teeth longer. They are also concerned to maintain good health and a great smile for many years.

However, patients in this group sometimes require special consideration because reduced mobility and dexterity may make daily oral hygiene difficult.

And certain medical conditions and impairment may make them more anxious when visiting the dentist.

For example, problems with vision or hearing loss may cause worry. Always let the dentist and staff know if you have any concerns so that they can adjust their treatment and their pace to meet your needs.

Older patients can sometimes put up with problems such as toothaches, bleeding gums and clicking dentures because they are not aware of the wide range of treatments and techniques now available.

Dentists are increasingly sensitive to the special needs of and the importance of dental health in the older patient.

As many older patients are more health conscious than ever before, regular visits to the dentist ensure their oral health is an important part of their overall health.

The keys to keeping your mouth healthy

A healthy mouth is a good indication of your overall health and helps you to keep a great smile and continue eating what you want for many years to come.

There are a few steps you can take to make sure your mouth is as healthy as possible:
– Brush your teeth twice a day using a good quality toothbrush
– Renew your toothbrush regularly. It will only keep your mouth healthy if the brush is in good condition and the bristles are strong. You should replace it at least every three or four months
– Clean between your teeth. Your toothbrush can’t reach everywhere and bacteria can linger between the teeth so its important to clean between them every day using floss or an interdental cleaner
– Visit your dentist regularly for professional cleaning and oral examinations

Your dentist will be able to give you tips on what other products you should consider to help improve your oral health.

For example, antimicrobial mouth rinses and toothpastes can reduce the germs in your mouth and reduce the risk of gum disease.

Also, fluoride mouth rinses can help reduce and prevent tooth decay. Studies have shown that using mouth rinses provides valuable protection over and above that provided by fluoride toothpaste alone.

Look out for the ADA seal when buying toothbrushes and other dental products. This is a sign that the product has met American Dental Association standards for safety and effectiveness.

Following these steps can help ensure that you continue to enjoy great oral health.

Things to look out for during pregnancy

Every woman wants to maintain their own health during pregnancy and to take whatever steps are necessary to give the baby the best possible start.

There are a few factors in your oral health to look out for during this time.

One consideration is that its common for pregnant women to have the urge to eat between meals. The risk is that frequent snacking on carbohydrate-containing foods can encourage tooth decay.

Bacteria in your mouth called plaque can convert the sugar and starch in your mouth into an acid that attacks tooth enamel. After repeated attacks, tooth decay can result.

So, when you need a snack, try to choose foods that are nutritious for you and your baby such as raw fruits and vegetables and dairy products.

During pregnancy, your body’s hormone levels rise considerably. Gum problems, such as gingivitis, are especially common during the second to eighth months of pregnancy. They may cause red, puffy or tender gums that bleed when you brush.

This is an exaggerated response to plaque caused by higher levels of progesterone in your system. Your dentist may recommend more frequent cleanings at some stages to help you avoid problems.

Occasionally overgrowths of gum tissue, called pregnancy tumors, appear on the gums during the second trimester. These localized growths or swellings are usually found between the teeth and are thought to be related to excess plaque.

They bleed easily and are often surgically removed after the baby is born.

Studies indicate that pregnant women who have severe periodontal (gum) disease may be at increased risk for pre-term delivery, which in turn increases the risk of having a low-birth-weight baby.

So its particularly important to maintain good oral health during pregnancy. Make sure you clean your teeth carefully and visit your dentist regularly.

How cancer treatment affects oral health

When someone is undergoing cancer treatment, its important that they involve their dentist in their program of care.

They should schedule a dental exam and cleaning before the treatment actually begins and then repeat it periodically during the course of treatment.

Its important that they tell the dentist that they are being treated for cancer and that they also discuss any dental procedures, such as extractions or insertion of dental implants, with the oncologist before starting the cancer treatment.

Its therefore a good idea to ensure that the dentist and oncologist have each others details to enable them to discuss any issues to help the patient.

And the dentist and physician should be informed about any issues such as bleeding of the gums, pain, or unusual feeling in the teeth or gums, or any dental infections.

Maintaining excellent oral hygiene during cancer treatment is vital to reduce the risk of infection and to help aid the treatment process.

Dry mouth is a common problem that can harm your teeth

If your saliva flow is reduced, this can cause dry mouth which often leads to increased tooth and gum problems.

Dry mouth known as xerostomia – is a common problem especially among older adults. Its caused by certain medical disorders and is often a side effect of medications such as antihistamines, decongestants, pain killers and diuretics.

The common problems associated with dry mouth include:

– Constant sore throat
– Burning sensation
– Problems speaking
– Difficulty swallowing
– Hoarseness or dry nasal passages

When there is not enough saliva to lubricate your mouth, wash away food and neutralize the acids produced by plaque, there is a risk of extensive tooth decay.

If you are at risk from this condition, 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.

As dry mouth is a potential side effect of many prescribed and over-the-counter medications it is a very common problem.

These medications can include antihistamines, decongestants, painkillers, high blood pressure medications, muscle relaxants, drugs for urinary incontinence, Parkinsons disease medications, antidepressants and many others.

Fortunately there are many simple solutions available to reduce the risk to your oral health caused by dry mouth so talk to your dentist if you are on any kind of medication or you feel you may be at risk from this issue.

How a healthy diet can help you have healthy teeth

Eating the right food plays an important role in developing healthy teeth and gums.

If your diet lacks certain nutrients, it may be more difficult for tissues in your mouth to fight infection and this can contribute to gum disease.

Although poor nutrition does not cause gum disease directly, the disease may progress faster and could be more severe in people with diets which are low in nutrients.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture makes recommendations on the nutrients, vitamins and minerals needed by your body – including your teeth and gums – to promote health and prevent disease.

We have different needs at various stages life and depending on our physical activity. The DOA website provides more information and your dentist will be able to discuss how your diet affects your teeth.

Here are some steps you can take to make sure what you eat doesn’t harm your teeth.
– Maintain a healthy diet
– Drink plenty water
– Limit the number of between-meal snacks. When you must snack, choose nutritious foods that are low in sugar
– Keep a food diary for a week recording every item you eat and drink

It will also help if you brush your teeth twice a day and floss regularly. Schedule regular dental checkups and professional cleanings and talk to your dentist about how your diet affects your teeth.

What to expect when having a tooth extracted

The process of having a tooth extracted may seem worrying but you’ll find it much easier if you know what to expect on the day and afterwards.

Your dentist will make the process as comfortable as possible for you by numbing the area around the tooth to be extracted.

In most cases, a small amount of bleeding is quite normal and your dentist will advise you what process to follow to allow healing as quickly as possible.

Generally, you should avoid anything that might prevent normal healing.

For example, it’s best not to smoke, rinse your mouth vigorously or drink through a straw for 24 hours afterwards as these could delay healing.

For the first few days, if you need to rinse your mouth, do it gently. If you are suffering pain or swelling, apply a cold cloth or an ice bag.

If necessary, your dentist will recommend something for any pain.

At the beginning, don’t clean around the socket where the tooth has been removed but you should brush and floss the other teeth as usual.

Modern procedures make having an extraction and the follow-up more comfortable than ever before

The facts about oral cancer

Oral cancer is not as well known as other types of cancer but it can represent a life-threatening risk if not identified early.

– It strikes an estimated 35,000 Americans each year
– More than 7,500 people (5,200 men and 2,307 women) die of these cancers each year
– More than 25% of Americans who get oral cancer will die of the disease
– On average, only half of those diagnosed with the disease will survive more than five years
– African-Americans are especially vulnerable; the incidence rate is 1/3 higher than whites and the mortality rate is almost twice as high

Although the use of tobacco and alcohol are risk factors in developing oral cancer, approximately 25% of oral cancer patients have no known risk factors.

There has been a nearly five-fold increase in incidence in oral cancer patients under age 40, many with no known risk factors.

The incidence of oral cancer in women has increased significantly, largely due to an increase in women smoking. In 1950 the male to female ratio was 6:1; by 2002, it was 2:1.

The best way to prevent oral cancer is to avoid tobacco and alcohol use.

Unusual red or white spots can form in and around the mouth. These are often harmless but they can be cancerous or pre-cancerous.

Identifying and removing these early enough is a major factor in reducing the incidence of cancer.

So knowing the risk factors and seeing your dentist for regular examinations can help prevent this deadly disease.

Choosing the right mouthwash to meet your needs

These days many people like to use a mouthwash and there is a huge range of options to choose from.

The key to choosing the right one for your needs is being clear about what you are using it for.

Many people opt for mouthwash because they want to have fresh breath.

But many mouthwashes contain alcohol which can cause the mouth to dry. It’s best to minimize the chances of suffering from dry mouth as it can increase your risk of tooth decay and gum disease.

Therefore if you want fresh breath, a breath spray or drops may meet your needs better.

Another reason for using mouthwash is when you’ve been told you have a gum disease such as gingivitis. In this case, you’ll need to choose a mouthwash that contains ingredients known to kill the bacteria that cause gingivitis.

If you like to use a mouthwash that improves your oral health, use one that contains fluoride.

Read the directions of your mouthwash and make sure you spit it out.

Don’t assume that the most expensive mouthwashes are best. Think carefully about your needs and check the ingredients.

Your dentist will be able to advise you on the best choice of mouthwash.