Your saliva and why it’s so important

You probably don’t give too much thought to the saliva in your mouth but, if you think of it like a bloodstream you’ll realize how important it is.

Like blood, saliva helps build and maintain the health of the soft and hard tissues.

It removes waste products from the mouth and offers first-line protection against microbial invasion that might lead to disease.

Saliva is derived from blood and therefore can also be used to detect disease.

Saliva enhances enamel protection by providing high levels of calcium and phosphate ions. It contains the minerals that maintain the integrity of the enamel surface and helps protect against caries.

When salivary flow is reduced, oral health deteriorates – much in the same way body tissues suffer if blood circulation is disrupted.

Patients with dry mouths (xerostomia) experience difficulty chewing, speaking and swallowing. A major cause of dry mouth is medication – almost eighty percent of the most commonly prescribed medications lead to dry mouth.

Chewing gum after a snack or meal stimulates salivary flow, clearing food from the mouth and neutralizing plaque acid.

Your saliva is important to your oral health both for preventing disease and in helping to diagnose problems.

How sealants can give your teeth extra protection

Sealants are made from plastic material applied to the back teeth to protect the enamel from plaque and acids.

The plastic bonds into the depressions and grooves (pits and fissures) of the chewing surfaces of the back teeth – premolars and molars.

Although thorough brushing and flossing can help remove food particles and plaque from smooth surfaces of teeth, the toothbrush bristles cannot reach all the way into the depressions and grooves to extract food and plaque.

The benefit of sealants is that they protect these vulnerable areas by “sealing out” plaque and food.

Your dentist can apply sealants quite easily and it takes only a few minutes to seal each tooth.

The teeth being sealed will first be cleaned. Then the chewing surfaces are roughened with an acid solution which makes it easier for the sealant to stick to the tooth.

The sealant is then ‘painted’ onto the tooth enamel, where it bonds directly to the tooth and hardens.

Sometimes a special curing light is used to help the sealant harden.

As long as the sealant remains intact, the tooth surface will be protected from decay.
They usually last several years before a reapplication is needed. Your dentist will check the condition of the sealants during your regular visits and reapply them when necessary.

Sealants are ideal for children because the risk of developing pit and fissure decay starts early in life. However, many adults can benefit from sealants as well.

Your dentist can tell you whether sealants would help your oral hygiene program.

Maintaining proper nutrition as an older adult

Maintaining proper nutrition is important for everyone, young or old but many older adults find it difficult to eat a balanced diet.

They may avoid meats, raw vegetables and fresh fruits because they have trouble chewing or swallowing.

These problems can be caused by painful teeth, ill-fitting dentures, dry mouth or changes in facial muscles.

Others find their sense of taste has changed, sometimes due to a disease or certain medications.

As a result, older adults often have diets lacking in calcium, protein and other nutrients essential to dental and overall health.

A balanced diet has to be based on the five food groups:
– Milk and dairy products
– Breads and cereals
– Meats and dried beans
– Fruits
– Vegetables

Sometimes a multi-vitamin or mineral supplement will help but it’s best to use supplements only after discussion with your physician.

If your teeth are stopping you from eating the food you enjoy  or that you need for good health  your dentist will be able to help you find a solution.

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 smoking affects your teeth

While the general effects of smoking on your health are well-known, it can also have significant effects on your oral health.

Here are some of the ways smoking can harm your oral health and hygiene:

– Oral Cancer
– Periodontal (gum) disease
– Delayed healing after a tooth extraction or other oral surgery
– Bad breath
– Stained teeth and tongue
– Diminished sense of taste and smell

Research suggests that smoking may be responsible for almost 75% of adult gum disease.

Tobacco products damage your gum tissue by affecting the attachment of bone and soft tissue to your teeth. One effect is receding gums which expose the tooth roots and increase your risk of tooth decay or to sensitivity to hot and cold in these unprotected areas.

Cigar smoking is equally a major risk and even smokeless tobacco products contain a variety of toxins associated with cancer. Smokeless tobacco can also irritate your gum tissue.

Giving up smoking will provide a significant boost to your oral health as well as giving you the chance to live longer.

What to do if you have problems with your dentist

Choosing the right dentist for your needs is an important part of giving yourself the best oral health possible.

Sometimes you may find that things are not working out for the best and it’s important to take steps to resolve any problems rather than just put off your dental care.

First, talk to your dentist about any concerns. They will probably be able to accommodate your needs if you tell them what you are looking for.

In some situations, you may feel that you want to look around at alternative options – maybe there are other dentists who meet your needs better, taking into account factors such as location, office hours, fees and emergency arrangements.

If you are comparing fees, ask for estimates on full-mouth x-rays and a preventive dental visit that includes an oral exam and tooth cleaning.

If you have any doubts about treatment your dentist has recommended, it may be a good idea to set your mind at rest by getting a second opinion from another dentist.

However, even in the best dentist-patient relationship, problems can sometimes occur. If your dentist is not able to resolve your concerns, you can contact your state or local dental association.

They have established systems of peer review that provide an impartial and easy way to resolving misunderstandings regarding the appropriateness or quality of care.

If you are not completely satisfied with the dental treatment you are getting, it’s important to take steps to put it right – whether you sort it out with your own dentist or find another one.

How Osteoporosis medications can affect your dental health

Osteoporosis is a disease that weakens bones and increases the risk of fractures.

It affects about 10 million Americans – of whom 8 million are women – and another 34 million are at risk of developing it.

So this is a disease that affects more women than cancer, heart disease and stroke combined.

But what does it have to do with your dental care?

Well, many people in these categories are treated with a group of prescription drugs called oral bisphosphonates. Studies have reported that these drugs reduce bone loss, increase bone density and reduce the risk of fractures.

But some people have been alarmed and confused by recent news reports about oral bisphosphonates because of uncommon complications that have been linked to these drugs.

The drugs have been associated with osteonecrosis of the jaw (ONJ), a rare but potentially serious condition that can cause severe destruction of the jawbone.

The true risk posed by oral bisphosphonates remains uncertain, but researchers seem to agree that it appears very small.

Given the risks associated with osteoporosis and the proven benefits of oral bisphosphonate therapy, you should not stop taking these medications before discussing the matter fully with your physician.

If your physician prescribes an oral bisphosphonate, it’s important to tell your dentist so that your health history form can be updated.

In this case, some dental procedures, such as extractions, may increase your risk of developing ONJ, so your dentist needs to be able to take your full health picture into account.

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 person’s 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.

The causes of bad breath

Bad breath – also known as halitosis – is an unpleasant condition that can cause a great deal of embarrassment.

And, for many people, it’s made even worse by the fact they don’t even know that they have it.

There are many possible causes for bad breath so, if you think you might have the problem, talk to your dentist.

What you eat affects what you breathe out. Certain foods, such as garlic and onions, contribute to objectionable breath odor and even dieters may develop unpleasant breath from infrequent eating.

If you don’t brush and floss daily, particles of food remain in the mouth, collecting bacteria, which can cause bad breath.

Bad breath can also be caused by dry mouth (xerostomia) which occurs when the flow of saliva decreases.

One of the reasons why it’s especially important to talk to your dentist about bad breath is that it may be a sign of an underlying medical problem such as respiratory tract infection or gastrointestinal problems.

Persistent bad breath or a bad taste in the mouth can also be a warning signs of gum disease.

Smoking can also cause bad breath, stain teeth and reduce your ability to taste foods.

For all these reasons, you shouldn’t put up with the problem of bad breath. Talk to your dentist and find out what might be causing the problem.

How removable partial dentures can help you

Removable partial dentures usually involve replacement teeth attached to plastic bases, connected by metal framework.

They attach to your natural teeth with metal clasps or precision attachments’. Precision attachments generally look better than metal clasps and are nearly invisible.

Crowns may be required on your natural teeth to improve the fit of a removable partial denture.

When you first get a partial denture, it may feel awkward or bulky. But you will gradually get used to wearing it.

It will also take a bit of practice to get used to inserting and removing the denture. It should fit into place easily and you should never force it.

Your dentist may suggest that you wear your partial denture all the time at first. While it will be uncomfortable for a while, it will help you identify if any parts of the denture need adjustment.

After making adjustments, your dentist will probably recommend that you take the denture out of your mouth before going to bed and replace it in the morning.

With a denture, eating should become a more pleasant experience compared to having missing teeth.

But, initially, you’ll need to eat soft foods cut into small pieces. And avoid foods that are extremely sticky or hard.

Some people with missing teeth find it hard to speak clearly so wearing a partial denture may help. However, you’ll probably need to practice certain words at first to get completely comfortable.

While it can take a little getting used to initially, a partial denture can help you enjoy your food with less worries.