Aging Adults Need Extra Measures To Prevent Gum Disease, Tooth Loss
Posted on Feb 17, 2020 by William J. Claiborne, DDS MS
Whether visiting a primary care physician, ophthalmologist (eye doctor), dermatologist, or orthopedist, adults in the over-50 category often hear the same comment from their doctor.
“You’re getting older so…”
As we age, the body begins to succumb to wear and tear. The skin sags, bones weaken, joints ache, hearing dulls, and eyesight wanes. More precautions and measures are advised to keep the body operating comfortably and efficiently as we age.
The same is true for your teeth and gums.
Although people tend to react to an odd spot on the skin or blurry vision, things like having a frequent ‘dry mouth’ or gum recession are often brushed off as temporary or just a normal part of growing older.
Yet, the hazards of ignoring the signs and symptoms associated with gum disease and tooth loss should never be taken lightly. Research shows that your OVERALL health is dependent upon a healthy mouth and proper function in biting and chewing.
Here are some typical oral challenges experienced by seniors:
• Having a dry mouth: The tissues inside the mouth need to be kept moist. Saliva flow is designed to do this. However, with age, the flow of saliva is less plentiful. Just as the skin and hair get drier with age, the mouth endures this same consequence. When saliva flow is less efficient at rinsing bacteria from the oral cavity (inside of the mouth), bacteria grow at a more rapid rate. This means bacteria accumulation occurs more frequently than twice-a-day brushing can control.
We advise drinking plenty of filtered water throughout the day, minimizing caffeinated drinks that are drying to oral tissues (coffee, tea, colas), and using an oral rinse twice a day that is formulated to replenish oral moisture. Alcohol and smoking are especially drying to oral tissues. Be especially committed to maintaining adequate oral moisture if you smoke or drink.
• Less efficiency with at-home oral hygiene: Aging causes the fingers to be less nimble and stiffens joints. This is a particular challenge when it comes to brushing and flossing. Angling a toothbrush to reach all areas in the mouth and proper flossing maneuvers require manual dexterity that becomes less capable when the rigors of aging are involved.
We advise using an electric toothbrush 2-3 times a day. Flossing can be done using an electric water flosser. However, we still recommend manual (string) flossing where you can reach. Keep in mind that crowding of natural teeth (which tends to worsen with age) creates particular challenges for reaching nooks where bacteria hide and breed. Use extra time to ensure you are reaching those areas when you brush and floss.
• Medications that interfere with oral health: The average adult in the 65-79 age group has over 27 prescriptions filled each year. (https://www.statista.com/statistics/315476/prescriptions-in-us-per-capita-by-age-group/). Although your health may dictate taking these drugs, it is wise to be aware that some can be detrimental to your oral health.
For example, Coumadin, a commonly prescribed blood thinner, can cause more bleeding during certain procedures. Too, many meds have the side effect of oral dryness. Some prescribed for osteoporosis, bisphosphonates (known by Fosamax, etc.) have been linked with jaw osteonecrosis. The risk for jaw necrosis, or death of the jaw bone, is highest with procedures that directly expose the jaw bone, such as tooth extractions and dental implant placement.
Some herbal supplements can also cause side effects for some dental patients. For example, Ginkgo Biloba and Vitamin E can act as blood thinners. When combined with aspirin, the combination may cause difficulties in blood clotting. Be sure to provide a complete list of ALL medications you take (including vitamins and herbal supplements) at each appointment. This enables us to tailor your treatment to your specific needs.
• Hormonal changes: Post menopausal females are at higher risk for gum disease and subsequent tooth loss due to declining estrogen levels. Thus, these women have greater risk for bone loss or osteoporosis as well as inflamed gum tissues around the teeth (called periodontitis). When there is bone loss of the jaw, it can result in tooth loss. Receding gums are a sign of this bone loss since more of the tooth surface is exposed to the causes of tooth decay.
Why are your teeth and gums so important as you age?
As a periodontist in Asheville for over 30 years, I’m still surprised by the number of people who assume that losing natural teeth is to be expected with age. Yet, I see many patients who have kept the majority of their natural teeth well into their 80’s and 90’s.
Although dental implants are excellent replacements for missing teeth, there is nothing as good as the teeth God gave you. They’re referred to as “permanent” teeth for a reason; they were intended to be just that. Regardless of the replacement method, the ability of natural teeth to support neighboring teeth and provide stimulation to the jaw bone is unsurpassed.
Having the ability to comfortably and efficiently bite and chew is vital to having a healthy body. When dentures or partials compromise the ability to eat a diet of healthy foods – and chew food properly – gastrointestinal problems are common.
Too, bacteria overgrowth in the mouth is the cause of gum disease. Periodontal disease is the nation’s leading cause of adult tooth loss. Its bacteria can also enter the bloodstream, causing inflammatory reactions far beyond the mouth.
Advanced gum disease bacteria has been linked to a number of serious health problems. These include heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure, diabetes, arthritis, memory loss, some cancers, impotency and Alzheimer’s disease.
Obviously, maintaining healthy gums and keeping your natural teeth is important. If you’ve experienced tooth loss, we can replace them with dental implants. These are the closest thing to the natural teeth you had and will restore stability and dependable biting and chewing.
If your gum health needs improvement or there are signs of gum disease, we can structure a program that restores healthy gums and helps you maintain your oral health between visits.
Although gum disease can exist without obvious signs or symptoms, the most commonly noticed are:
• Red, swollen or tender gums
• Seeing blood in the sink when brushing
• Receded gums
• Loose or separating teeth
• Pus pockets on gum tissues
• Sores in the mouth
• Persistent bad breath
When these indications exist, it is important to seek periodontal treatment as soon as possible. Gum disease only worsens without treatment, requiring more time and expense to rid this serious, even deadly, inflammatory disease.
With proper measures, you can enjoy healthy gums and natural teeth throughout your lifetime. Call 828-274-9440 to schedule a periodontal examination or ask for a consultation to get to know us. New smiles are always welcome!
Are Dentures Or Partials Causing Your Face To ‘Melt’?
Posted on Feb 12, 2020 by William J. Claiborne, DDS MS
Occasionally, I’ll unexpectedly walk by a mirror and notice an old man looking at me, only to realize “that’s ME!”
As we age, hopefully most people don’t “feel” their actual age, although the person in the mirror isn’t quite the image we want to have. Most of us “see” ourselves as looking ten or so years younger (and probably 10 or so pounds lighter!).
Aging gracefully is a positive part of our lives. At any age, as long as we look and feel like we’ve taken pretty good care of ourselves, each birthday should cause more smiles than not. However, for people who are long-time denture or partial wearers, the signs and challenges of aging are more obvious.
Wearing a full denture or a partial denture appears, visually, to replace missing teeth. While the gum based that supports these replacement teeth “plumps up” the face when they are in place, this fullness can be deceiving.
What is really taking place – that you can’t see – is the loss of bone mass, or resorption.
Resorption describes a melting away of bone. For the upper or lower jaw, the areas where natural tooth roots no longer exist experience this almost immediately after they are removed.
Resorption occurs when tooth roots are no longer providing stimulation and nourishment to the bones that support them. This causes the bone “ridge” that holds the denture or partial to flatten out.
Bone loss begins almost immediately after teeth are removed. The pressure on the ridge while wearing dentures or partials actually accelerates the rate of bone loss. For people who sleep in their dentures, this increases the process even more.
In addition to appearance changes, bone loss is the reason that dentures slip or rub. This is because the denture was conformed to the ridge when it was first made. As the ridge flattens, the denture no longer ‘hugs’ the surface it was designed for.
As resorption continues, changes in facial appearance are occurring as wel. The best way to detect bone loss is to remove your ‘appliance’ and look in the mirror. However, even with the denture in place, certain facial changes may be obvious.
Jowls form on the sides of face as facial muscles detach from the declining bone mass. Deep wrinkles form around the lips and the corners of the mouth turn down, even in a smile.
As resorption worsens, the mouth seems to collapse into the face. The chin becomes more pointed and the nose and chin move closer together. This appearance is referred to as a “granny look,” aging one’s appearance far beyond their actual years.
How do you avoid a ‘melting face’?
One of the many advantages of dental implants is their ability to halt bone loss. The implanted portion restores stimulation to the jaw bone and provides a natural biting and chewing stability.
As a periodontist, an area of this advanced dental specialty is the diagnosis and placement of dental implants. Because there are many different types of implant systems, having a specialist select and place the one best for you will enhance your overall outcome.
In our Asheville periodontal office, we also offer oral and IV sedation (twilight sleep). These are administered by a board certified Anesthesiologist. This is a medical doctor (MD) who ensures safety and comfort are priorities throughout your procedure.
With dental implants, you can improve your appearance and health. Learn more about the lifelong benefits of dental implants by visiting our web site or calling 828-274-9440.