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 conditions such as stroke, spinal cord injury, multiple sclerosis, mental retardation, Down syndrome, genetic disorders, Alzheimer’s 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.

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?

The difference between canker sores and cold sores

Although canker sores are often confused with cold sores, there is a difference.

Canker sores occur inside the mouth, and cold sores usually occur outside the mouth.

Canker sores are small ulcers with a white or gray base and a red border. There can be one or more sores in the mouth. They are very common and often recur.

They usually heal in a week or two and rinsing with antimicrobial mouth rinses may help reduce the irritation.

Cold sores – also called fever blisters – are composed of groups of painful, fluid-filled blisters that often erupt around the lips and sometimes under the nose or chin.

Cold sores are usually caused by herpes virus type I and are very contagious. They usually heal in about a week.

Over-the-counter topical anesthetics can provide temporary relief and prescription antiviral drugs may reduce these kinds of viral infections.

Building a strong relationship with your dentist

You’ll give yourself the best chance of good oral health if you build a strong relationship with your dentist.

That can sometimes mean asking the right questions and helping them to assist you in the best way possible.

So you want to make sure you have a dentist who will first of all explain techniques that you should use to help prevent dental health problems. They should be willing to show you step-by-step what you need to do.

You should also choose a dentist who is willing to take time to answer your questions, especially when they are recommending a course of treatment.

If you don’t understand any part of what your dentist recommends, don’t be afraid to ask for more information.

You may want to ask if there are other options to the solution they recommend. For example:

– How do the options differ in cost?
– Which solution will last the longest?
– Do all the options solve the problem?

Ask the dentist which treatments are absolutely necessary, which are elective and Which are cosmetic.

Ask which procedures are urgently needed, and which ones are less urgent. Your dentist will help you prioritize between problems which need immediate attention and those that are less urgent.

Often, treatment can be planned over a period of time but make sure you understand any consequences of delaying treatment.

It’s naturally also important to make sure that you are given full information about fees and payment plans before treatment is scheduled.

Dental plaque – what it is and how to avoid it

You’ve probably heard people talking about plaque and maybe you’ve some idea of what it is.

But it’s useful to know a bit more about it so that you can do what’s necessary to minimize the risks.

Plaque is a sticky film of bacteria that forms on teeth and gums.

When you’ve eaten a meal or snack, the bacteria in plaque release acids that attack tooth enamel. When this happens regularly, the enamel can weaken. This eventually leads to tooth decay.

The food we eat often causes plaque bacteria to produce acids. So, if you eat a lot of snacks, your teeth may be suffering acid attacks all day.

If you don’t remove the plaque through effective daily brushing and cleaning between the teeth, it can eventually harden into calculus or tartar.

Another effect of plaque is that it also produces substances that irritate the gums, making them red and tender or causing them to bleed easily.

If you want to prevent tooth decay and gum disease, make sure you have a balanced diet and avoid having too many snacks between meals.

When you feel like a snack, go for foods such as raw vegetables, plain yogurt, cheese or a piece of fruit.

Fixing crowded and crooked teeth with orthodontics

Correcting problems with crowded and crooked teeth not only gives you a better smile, it also leads to a healthier mouth.

Malocclusion, also known as  bad bite, involves teeth that are crowded or crooked.

Sometimes, the upper and lower jaws may not meet properly and, although the teeth may appear straight, the individual may have an uneven bite.

Problems such as protruding, crowded or irregularly spaced teeth may be inherited. But thumb-sucking, losing teeth prematurely and accidents also can lead to these conditions.

As well as spoiling your smile, crooked and crowded teeth make cleaning the mouth difficult. This can lead to tooth decay, gum disease and possibly tooth loss.

A bad bite can also interfere with chewing and speaking, cause abnormal wear to tooth enamel and lead to problems with the jaws.

Orthodontic treatment can help correcting these problems giving you a better smile but, more importantly, creating a healthier mouth.

Your dentist will advise you on how orthodontic treatment could help you.

How braces help both children and adults

Crowded or crooked teeth   known as malocclusion   not only spoil your smile, they also increase your risk of dental health problems.

Corrective procedures and appliances such as braces straighten teeth and correct jaw alignment.

Malocclusions are often noticed around ages 6   12, when the adult teeth begin to erupt.

The process of straightening out teeth, known as orthodontic treatment, often begins between ages 8 and 14. The best results are obtained when a child begins treatment while they are still growing.

This means it’s a good idea for a child to have an orthodontic evaluation by age 7. At this stage, they have a mix of baby teeth and adult teeth.

It’s possible for braces to work later   and even in adults   but there are many advantages in starting as soon as possible.

Your dentist will be able to spot problems with emerging teeth and jaw growth early on, while the primary teeth are present.

That’s why regular dental examinations are important.

For adults, it’s not too late to correct problems such as crooked or crowded teeth, overbites, underbites, incorrect jaw position or jaw-joint disorders. The biological process involved in moving teeth is the same at any age.

The difference is that adult treatment takes a little longer than a child’s treatment. As an adult’s facial bones are no longer growing, certain corrections may not be accomplished with braces alone.

But, whatever your age, it’s never too late to improve your dental health and improve your smile.

Taking care of your teeth and gums during pregnancy

Your oral health is an important part of your overall health and this is never more true than during pregnancy.

Good oral health habits not only help prevent oral problems during pregnancy, they also help the health of your unborn child.

What you eat during your pregnancy affects the development of your unborn child – including teeth.

Eating a balanced diet is necessary to provide the correct amounts of nutrients to nourish both you and your child.

Your baby’s teeth begin to develop between the third and sixth month of pregnancy, so it is important that you receive sufficient nutrients – especially calcium, protein, phosphorous, and vitamins A, C, and D.

There is a common myth that calcium is lost from the mother’s teeth during pregnancy.

In fact, the calcium your baby needs is provided by your diet, not by your teeth. If your diet does not provide enough calcium, your body will provide this mineral from stores in your bones.

If you have an adequate intake of dairy products – the main source of calcium – or take any supplements your obstetrician recommends – this will help you get the calcium you need.

To help prevent tooth decay and periodontal disease, brush your teeth thoroughly twice a day with fluoride toothpaste to remove plaque. Be sure to clean between your teeth daily with floss or interdental cleaners.

Make regular visits to your dentist during your pregnancy to ensure the best possible health for you and your baby.

How medication and anesthesia can help make your visit to the dentist easier

Your dentist will do everything possible to make your visit as relaxed and comfortable as possible.

Depending on the treatment you are receiving, there are several medications available to help.

Some drugs control pain, some help you relax and others put you into a deep sleep during dental treatment.

The best approach will depend on the type of procedure being undertaken, your overall health – including any history of allergies – and the degree of anxiety you feel.

Some of the options your dentist might discuss include:

Analgesics: These are the most commonly used drugs for relief of toothache or pain following dental treatment. They includes aspirin, acetaminophen and anti-inflammatory drugs such as Ibuprofen. There is a separate category of ‘narcotic analgesics’ – such as those containing codeine – which are used for more severe pain.

Local anesthesia: Topical anesthetics are applied to mouth tissues with a swab to prevent pain on the surface level. They may also be used to soothe mouth sores. Injectable local anesthetics prevent pain in a specific area of your mouth during treatment by blocking the nerves that sense or transmit pain and numbing mouth tissues.

In other cases, your dentist many recommend sedation or general anesthesia.

Your dentist will discuss the best approach to suit your needs.

How space maintainers help children have healthy teeth

Space maintainers can be crucial to the dental health of a child.

When a child loses a baby tooth early through decay or injury, the other teeth can shift and begin to fill the vacant space.

If this happens, the problem is that, when the permanent teeth emerge, there’s not enough room for them.

This can lead to crooked or crowded teeth and difficulties with chewing or speaking.

To prevent that, the dentist can insert a space maintainer.

This holds the space left by the lost tooth until the permanent tooth emerges.

Space maintainers might be a band or a temporary crown attached to one side of the space.

When the permanent tooth emerges, the dentist removes the device and protects the child’s future smile.