3 Things Baby Boomers Need to Know About Oral Health

Aging and Oral Health

One inescapable fact of getting older is that you end up having to deal with health problems that you never had to deal with before. That doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re in poor health, just that your health needs have changed as a result of aging. Your nutritional needs are different, your sleep needs are different, and your activity & exercise needs are different. It should come as no surprise that your dental health needs are different as well. 

Dry Mouth Is More Than Just a Minor Problem

Oral health problems in baby boomers

Dry mouth is not an uncommon experience for baby boomers.

You may experience dry mouth more frequently than you did in your younger years. You may be tempted to brush this off as an annoying, but minor, irritation. However, dry mouth can be a big problem for your dental health. Your mouth uses saliva to wash bacteria away from your teeth – if you don’t have enough of it, decay-causing bacteria has more of a chance to cause cavities in your teeth. Increased bacteria in your mouth can also lead to more painful tooth infections.

Dry mouth isn’t just a normal aspect of aging. If you’re experiencing dry mouth, it has a cause. It could be caused by a medication, for example, or by hormone fluctuations. Getting to the root cause of your dry mouth can not only make you more comfortable, it can prevent major dental problems in the future. 

Age Is A Risk Factor For Oral Cancer

When most people think of oral cancer, they think of smoking, and it’s true that smoking is a significant risk factor. But there are other risk factors, and age itself is one of them – one that you have no control over.

Oral cancer is very survivable if it’s caught early enough. It has an 83% survival rate if caught before it begins to spread. Once it spreads past the closest lymph nodes to faraway parts of the body, that rate drops to just 38%. Regular oral cancer screenings can help ensure that if you do develop oral cancer, it’s caught during the oral stages when it can be more easily and successfully treated. 

Gum Disease Can Lead to Other Serious Health Conditions

Oral health problems don’t just stay in your mouth – they affect the rest of your body as well. Gum disease is a prime example. If you suffer from gingivitis, your risk of serious conditions like heart disease, stroke, and diabetes all increase significantly. It’s more important now than ever to work with your dentist to keep your gums healthy, and to address early signs of gum disease right away. 

What is dental plaque?

You know that good dental hygiene, including regular brushing and flossing, is an important part of preventing cavities, decay, and other tooth problems. You probably have even heard about the importance of removing plaque from your teeth. But what is plaque? Where does it come from? What does it do? 

It’s Alive!

What is plaque?

Flossing doesn’t just remove crumbs caught between your teeth. It also removes tiny bacteria living there.

If there’s anything that should inspire you to brush your teeth more consistently, it’s the idea of tiny living things growing on your teeth. And guess what? That’s just what plaque is.

Dental plaque is what’s known as a biofilm. Biofilms are sticky coatings made of microorganisms that adhere to each other and to a surface. In the case of dental plaque, the microorganisms are bacteria that inhabit your mouth. 

How Plaque Grows

Plaque is always forming on your teeth. The process works like this:

  • First, a layer of saliva, called the dental pellicle, forms on the surface of the teeth.
  • Soon, bacteria begin to bind themselves to the pellicle. 
  • Once attached, the bacteria begin to multiply, spreading to other parts of the mouth.
  • The bacteria begin to form microcolonies, and they secrete a protective coating known as the slime layer.
  • The microcolonies grow larger and more complex.
  • The film develops its own rudimentary circulatory system. 

The only way to interrupt the cycle is by brushing the plaque off of your teeth. And don’t underestimate the importance of flossing as well. Even if your teeth are perfectly straight, the surfaces on the sides of your teeth are covered by other teeth, and your toothbrush’s bristles can’t reach in-between them. Flossing is the only way to remove plaque from these areas. If your teeth are crooked, you may have even more overlapping tooth surfaces that require plaque removal.

What Happens When Plaque is Not Removed?

Tools for removing plaque and tartar.

If you don’t remove plaque with your toothbrush, your dentist may need stronger tools to get the job done.

 If you don’t remove the dental plaque from your teeth, the bacteria have free reign to continue to grow. They feed on the same food particles and beverages that you put in your mouth and convert sugars and starches into enamel-eroding acids. 

Over time, the plaque that’s not removed can harden. This happens when the plaque absorbs minerals that are in your saliva. This harder, more difficult to remove plaque has a different name: tartar. While brushing and flossing can clean the plaque off of your teeth, tartar is a more intractable problem. Plaque is sticky, but soft enough to come off on your toothbrush or floss. Tartar usually needs to be removed with special tools at your dentist’s office. 

Plaque and tartar not only form on the visible surfaces of the teeth, they also form just below the gumline. If you don’t regularly brush and floss, the plaque and tartar that build up under your gums can eventually cause gum disease. This is a serious problem, as gum disease is linked to several dangerous health problems, like heart disease and strokes. 

You can fight plaque by brushing your teeth at least twice a day and flossing at least once daily, as well as with regular visits to your dentist. 

Options for Treating a Diastema (Tooth Gap)

Have you ever wondered whether or not there’s a word for the gap or space between your two front teeth? There is! A space between two teeth is called a diastema, and when the gap occurs between the two front teeth—one of the most common places—it’s called a midline diastema. The good news: we have a couple of different ways to treat it!

Braces can treat a tooth gap

Braces

It’s logical—braces are meant to move and straighten teeth, and moving the two front teeth together can close a diastema. Braces can be a good choice when you have a large gap, or when you have other orthodontic problems that would also require braces to fix. 

Something to keep in mind -you will probably have to wear full sets of braces on your top and bottom teeth. That’s because if you move some of your teeth, it affects your whole mouth, so you’ll need braces to ensure that all your teeth end up in the right place. 

If your dentist recommends braces for your diastema, that might not be the only treatment that you need. For example, sometimes the gap occurs because the teeth on either side of your two front teeth—the lateral incisors—are undersized. So you may need crowns placed over these teeth to enlarge their size as well as the braces. 

Veneers or Dental Bonding can treat a tooth gap

Veneers or Dental Bonding

If you have a minor diastema and no other dental problems, you may choose to have it treated with a cosmetic procedure, like veneers or dental bonding. Veneers are tooth-colored coverings installed over your teeth. They can be made slightly wider on each side in order to close the gap. Dental bonding involves adding a tooth-colored putty-like bonding material to your teeth to close the gap. 

Veneers are the more expensive option, but they also last longer than dental bonding. Applying veneers involves removing a top layer of enamel from your natural teeth. Because of this, veneers are considered a permanent procedure—if the veneers fall off or become damaged, you’ll have to have them replaced. Bonding, on the other hand, is not as permanent. 

If you have a midline diastema, talk to your dentist about your options for treatment, as well as whether or not any treatment is actually needed.

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Don't Let Holiday Foods Ruin Your Smile

The holiday season can be a busy and sometimes frustrating time of year, but there’s nothing like sitting down to a delicious holiday meal with loved ones to remind you of how much you have to be thankful for. The familiar food is one of the best things about the holiday season. But what is that Thanksgiving dinner doing to your smile? Unfortunately, some of the things that you’ll find at your holiday feast aren’t great for your teeth. Take a look at some holiday foods you should skip or eat in moderation, and find out what to make instead. 

Stuffing can cause creat cavity-enducing bacteria.

Stuffing

You probably know that stuffing isn’t great for your waistline, but many people don’t suspect that it could be bad for their teeth. The problem with stuffing is that it’s bread-based. When you eat bread, the saliva in your mouth turns the bread into a gummy, paste-like substance that coats your teeth and doesn’t come off easily. As the bread breaks down further, the starches are converted to sugars that feed cavity-causing bacteria in your mouth. 

Consider replacing stuffing with a savory side dish, like mushroom and eggplant casserole. You can also replace it with quinoa, which is full of tooth-strengthening minerals like calcium, magnesium, manganese, and phosphate. Prepare the quinoa in cooking broth from your turkey to give it that holiday flavor. If you can’t do without stuffing, consider replacing white bread cubes with whole grain bread – whole grains don’t break down as easily and are less likely to damage your teeth. 

Canned Cranberry Sauce

Cranberry sauce is a holiday favorite for a good reason. It’s sweet, tart, a great complement to turkey, and its bright red color fits in with the holiday theme. You can even save time by buying conveniently prepared sauce in a can. 

Unfortunately, canned cranberry sauce is packed with sugar, and has very few of the healthy nutrients that make fresh cranberries a superfood. Your best bet is to skip the canned stuff and find a simple recipe using fresh cranberries. That way, you can measure the sugar yourself and keep it to a minimum, and the dietary fiber that you’ll get from the fresh berries may actually help reduce tooth decay. 

Candy Canes

Candy canes can wreck havoc on your teeth!

Candy canes serve a dual purpose. Not only are they a sweet treat to munch on after a meal, they also make great Christmas tree decorations. But it’s important not to underestimate the toll that these striped sweets can take on your teeth. 

Candy canes have at least three strikes against them. They’re full of sugar, they’re sticky (so the sugar stays on your teeth longer), and on top of that, they’re hard enough to chip a tooth or damage your dental work with an unlucky bite. 

If you still want to decorate with candy canes, that’s fine, but you may want to avoid eating them. However, a dish of sugar-free peppermint gum can make a great after-dinner offering. The peppermint helps soothe overfull stomachs, the chewing stimulates saliva production, which can help wash bacteria and food particles off of your teeth, and you can still enjoy the same sweet taste. 

If it’s been more than six months since your last dental exam, protect your teeth by scheduling your next checkup before we head into 2018! 

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2017 Halloween Candy Buyback Results

- - -THE RESULTS ARE IN! - - -
This year's Halloween Candy Buyback brought in 756 pounds of candy!! That's heavier than a gorilla and black bear combined!

A huge thank you to our patients for participating in this great cause. Operation Gratitude will be happily sending out these goodies to our troops overseas. Check back later this week to find out who will win our raffle prize, the iPod Touch!

Will Osteoporosis Prevent Me From Getting Dental Implants?

Osteoporosis and Dental Implants

Osteoporosis is a condition that causes you to lose bone mass. This condition affects bones all over your body. If you have osteoporosis and also suffer from tooth loss, you may wonder if your osteoporosis will prevent you from getting dental implants. After all, dental implants must fuse to the jaw bone in order to implant successfully. If your jawbone is weak or has lost mass, will it be able to handle dental implants? Take a look at what you need to know. 

Examining Your Jaw

 When determining whether you’re a candidate for dental implants and creating your treatment plan, one important step in the process is a close examination of your jaw. Your dentist will use high-tech, sensitive imaging equipment to look closely at your jaw bone and determine its density. osteoporosis and dental implants

Those images will help the dentist decide whether or not your jaw can handle dental implants and what interventions you might need. Implants come in a variety of shapes and sizes. If you have some bone loss in your jaw, you may need a smaller sized implant than you would get if you didn’t have bone loss. The dentist can also perform bone grafts if necessary, to build up your jaw bone so that it can support dental implants. 

Considering Medication

dental implants and osteoporosisDental implants must fuse with the bone underneath your gums. Some medications can delay that process. 

If you have osteoporosis, you may already be taking medication for the condition. One class of medication used to treat osteoporosis, known as bisphosphonates, are commonly used to slow the progression of bone loss. While this is good for you, these medications also have an unfortunate side effect—they can hamper the ability of your bone to heal after surgery. 

Studies have found that in patients taking bisphosphonates, placing dental implants immediately after removing the natural teeth can increase the chances of success. Missing teeth can cause bone loss in your jaw over time, especially when you have osteoporosis, so it’s better not to wait. 

Even if you’re already missing teeth and can’t have the implants placed right away, patients taking bisphosphonates may still be able to successfully receive dental implants. However, it’s important to let your dentist know that you’re taking these medications so that they can monitor your recovery. Recovery might take longer than it would if you weren’t taking bisphosphonates, which could put you at greater risk of complications. 

Can I get a dental implant if I have osteoporosis?

In general, dental implants are a highly successful type of surgery. Osteoporosis adds an additional layer of complexity to your treatment but doesn’t rule out the possibility of successful dental implant surgery. The best way to ensure success is to inform your dentist about your condition, medical history, symptoms, and medications. 

Together, you and your dentist can weigh the pros and cons of dental implant surgery and create a treatment plan that is most likely to result in successful dental implants. Don’t let your osteoporosis diagnosis stop you from considering dental implants for tooth replacement. 

If you’re interested in tooth replacement, make an appointment to talk to your dentist as soon as possible. Contact us to see all of the services we provide.

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What Causes Canker Sores, and How do I Get Rid of Them?

A sore inside your mouth can be a big inconvenience. It can be uncomfortable even when you’re not doing anything, and it can make things like eating and talking painful and difficult. Canker sores are some of the most common sores to show up inside of the mouth, often on the gums or on the inside of the lip or cheek. 

What Causes Canker Sores?what causes canker sores?

 Although canker sores are common, it’s not known exactly what causes them. 

It’s not entirely clear what causes canker sores to occur in the first place. It’s widely believed that there may be a genetic component to them – if your parent got canker sores, you may get them as well. 

There are two types of canker sores: simple and complex. Simple canker sores are common among patients between the ages of 10 and 20, and those who have simple canker sores are more likely to develop complex canker sores as well, which can happen at any age. 

Small injuries to your mouth are one thing that might trigger canker sores. Hard brushing, sharp foods, and dental equipment like braces or dentures can cause small bruises or inflamed areas that become canker sores. It’s also believed that deficiencies in vitamins and other nutrients can cause canker sores, as can as a weakened immune system. 

How Are Canker Sores Treated?

First the good news: canker sores are not contagious, so you can’t spread them to anyone else. They also aren't pre-cancerous or indicative of a more serious condition, so there’s no need to panic when you see them. 

The bad news is that there’s no permanent cure for canker sores. If you have one, it will go away eventually, but there’s no way to guarantee that it won’t come back. 

Treatment for canker sores usually involves treating just the symptoms – the pain and discomfort associated with the sores. You can purchase pain-relieving ointments over the counter that relieve pain and help protect the sore so that it can heal more easily. Washing your mouth with an antibiotic mouthwash can also help relieve discomfort. 

While your canker sore is healing, you may want to avoid certain foods that are likely to aggravate it. Heavily-spiced food and acidic foods like citrus fruits are common irritants that can make a canker sore more painful. 

Can You Prevent Canker Sores?

While it may not be possible to permanently cure canker sores, you can certainly lessen your chance of getting them in the future. Avoiding injuries or infections in your mouth is a good start. If you wear braces or dentures, be sure to have them inspected and adjusted on schedule. Avoid harsh brushing, but pay close attention to your oral hygiene. 

It can also help to ensure that you’re getting the right nutrients for a healthy mouth. Some of the nutrients your mouth needs are vitamin B-12, calcium, iron, zinc, and folic acid. You may need supplements if you aren’t getting enough of these in your diet. A healthy diet combined with exercise and adequate rest can also help keep the rest of your body healthier, which can keep your immune system strong enough to help prevent canker sore outbreaks. 

What to do if you Have Dental Anxiety

Dental anxiety - it's that all too common sweaty palm feeling when you know you have a dentist appointment coming up. It's the avoidance of setting that appointment and the racing heart as you walk into the office, even if it's just for a general cleaning. For whatever reason, the dentist can strike fear into the hearts of many patients, but luckily, dentists are more and more aware of this and are making efforts to quell this fear of the dentist while making their patients more comfortable.

According to WebMD, between 9% and 20% of Americans avoid going to the dentist because of anxiety or fear.  Whether it's the fear of pain, or a memory of a past appointment gone badly, it's not unusual to have a dental phobia. The good news is that with more comfortable offices, and with gentle patient care, "the dental office" is overcoming its bad reputation of inflicting fear.

Dental Anxiety

Patient Care

Dental offices no longer have the stark, sterile feeling they once had. Waiting rooms are warm and cozy, often with coffee or tea for the clients. Dentists are practicing more gentle dentistry and making an effort to ensure patients are comfortable. Technology has also made a difference in dental care, and with better technology, patients can have pain-free, comfortable experiences at the dentist.

What is gentle dentistry?

Gentle dentistry is the idea that patients should have a pain-free, compassionate experience with the dentist working closely with them to ensure this. Here at Gentech Dentist, this is what we're made of; Gen = Gentle, tech = technology. Here are some things our offices are doing to help provide a comforting experience:

  • Create a soothing atmosphere of the office. Our goal is to create a warm, comfortable environment that's noticeable as soon as the patient enters the office with calm colors and soothing lighting.
  • Discuss individual need with patients. A gentle dentist will learn what you, as the patient wants from a visit. For instance, do you want to know step by step what your doctor is doing, or would you rather not know at all?
  • Offer headphones or a warm blanket. Headphones with relaxing music provide a great distraction and keep the patient from hearing the dental noises. Our blanket warmers are a huge hit, providing a warm, comfortable blanket for any patient who wants one during their visit.
  • Provide sedation as needed. For some patients, neither the color of the walls nor a pair of headphones will make a difference, so they need a dentist who can provide some mild dental sedation to take the edge off. DentistryIQ reports that dental sedation is a smart, reassuring option for those patients with high fears of the dentists. At Gentech Dentist, we are happy to offer IV sedation at select offices, for patients who need it.

It's always important, no matter the medical field, to find a practitioner that works well for you. It may be worth a switch to find a dental practice that you actually enjoy visiting. 

And perhaps a little humor can make help make this all just a little bit better, too.

Check out all the services we provide here.

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3 Reasons to Smile After You Leave Your Dentist's Office

A scheduled visit to the dentist can seem like an inconvenience at times - you may have to take time off work, find a babysitter, or would just rather be doing something else with time. But it’s hard to deny that leaving with your teeth feeling fresh and clean can give the rest of your day a boost. There are other reasons to feel great when you leave your next dental appointment as well. Take a look at some of the best reasons to smile after you leave the dentist’s office. 

You Don’t Have To Worry About New Dental Problems

Reasons to smile after leaving the dentist!

Knowing that your smile is safe from cavities is definitely worth smiling about.

Whether or not you’ve spent much time thinking about your teeth recently, it can be a good feeling to get an x-ray and check-up and learn that there are no cavities or gingivitis lurking in your mouth. 

Close behind the good feeling of getting a clean bill of health, is the feeling of catching a problem before it has a chance to get out of hand. For example, if your dentist notices that you have weak spots in your enamel that could form a cavity soon, you and your dentist could take steps to strengthen the weakened area, avoiding a filling.

Your Smile Is More Attractive

Completing a cosmetic dentistry procedure is a great reason to walk out of your dentist’s office with the biggest smile you can muster. Did you just get your teeth whitened or have veneers applied to your teeth to cover a chip or gap? In that case, your smile looks brighter and straighter than it did when you came in. Smile surveys revealed that smiles are the first thing that people notice when meeting new people, and smiles are also rated among the most attractive qualities in another person. They come in second to personality, which means that your smile is typically your most attractive physical characteristic.

Some cosmetic procedures can make you feel especially cheerful when they’re completed. Orthodontic work, for example, can be a long process spanning months or years. If you’re leaving the dentist’s office after finally getting your braces taken off to reveal a straight set of teeth, you may be smiling with relief at finally being done with brackets and wires. 

Your Procedure Didn’t Hurt

Dental anxiety is a real problem for many patients, and one of the biggest reasons for dental anxiety is the fear of pain. Many patients have had bad experiences with procedures like fillings and root canals in the past, especially as children. That fear can last for years. Luckily, advancements in sedation dentistry, laser-guided surgery, and digital X-rays all help make dental procedures (even major ones) much more comfortable for the patient than ever before. In the future, there may be fewer patients who have to deal with dental anxiety at all, because far fewer patients will have uncomfortable or painful experiences in childhood. In the meantime, if you suffer from dental anxiety, it can be good to smile with relief when you leave the dentist’s office after an uneventful and comfortable dental procedure. 

If you’ve been putting off making a necessary dental appointment, think of all the reasons you’ll have to smile once it’s over. We're here for you when you're ready.

What Do All Those Different Dentists and "Dontists" Do?

It’s easy to think of anyone who works on your teeth as a dentist, but the truth is that just like doctors, dentists have different specialties. You may have heard of some of these specialists, like oral surgeons and orthodontists. Others, like periodontists and endodontists, may be less familiar to you. 

General DentistGeneral dentists take care of your cleanings and checkups.

 A general dentist does your cleanings and checkups.

You may know your general dentist as your family dentist. They’re the dentist that you visit most often – for your checkups, your cleanings, your x-rays, and other basic things, like filling cavities. They’re also probably the dentist that you’ll see if you have an emergency, like a toothache, abscess, or a broken tooth. General dentists are trained to handle a wide variety of dental issues, but they may refer you to a specialist for certain dental conditions.

Endodontist

If your dentist tells you that you need a root canal, they may refer you to an endodontist. This is a dentist who specializes in issues concerning dental pulp and peri-radicular (tooth root) tissue. Root canals involve cleaning out the pulp inside of the tooth. An endodontist has the skills and certification required to ensure that this is done correctly.

Orthodontist

If your teeth are misaligned and you need to have them straightened, you’ll see an orthodontist. These dentists specialize in preventing and correcting jaw issues, including bite misalignment as well as various jaw disorders. Your orthodontist will oversee your tooth realignment, including adjusting your braces as needed while you’re wearing them.

Periodontist

Periodontists specialize in gum tissue conditions. If you develop gum disease, it will be a periodontist that will treat your condition. Periodontists also work on dental implants – your gums play an important role in supporting the new implant, so you need a periodontist to ensure the gum tissue is properly prepared and that the dental implant is placed correctly. 

Prosthodontist

Prosthodontists handle various tooth replacement needs, like dentures, bridges, and crowns. If you’re in need of tooth restoration services, your general dentist will probably refer you to a prosthodontist. Prosthodontists also have additional training in jaw joint problems and sleeping disorders that involve the mouth. That means that if you suffer from pain related to TMJ (temporomandibular joint disorder) or if you suffer from sleep apnea, a prosthodontist is the correct specialist to handle your treatment.

Oral Surgeon

Need your wisdom teeth removed? You may need an oral surgeon.

Oral surgery is just what it sounds like – surgery that involves your teeth, mouth, and jaw. Many patients first become acquainted with an oral surgeon when they need to have their wisdom teeth removed. Oral surgeons can also remove other impacted teeth and perform reconstructive surgery after an accident or injury to the mouth. 

Understanding the different dental specialties can help you understand the treatment that you need. No matter what type of dental issues you have, Gentech Dentist can ensure that you see the right specialist. Check out all of the specialty services we provide, and be sure to give us a call if you have any questions or would like to schedule an appointment.