A focus on dental care in senior citizens is just as important as it is for children. Indeed, oral health in your later years can be a major factor in your quality of life.
For one, aging effects on other parts of the body can make dental care more challenging. Some hygiene tasks once performed easily become harder — arthritis, for example, or loss of muscle strength may make it difficult to hold a toothbrush or floss. In such cases, you may need to find new ways to make the task easier: a power toothbrush with a larger handle; pre-loaded floss holders or a water flosser; or adaptations to a manual brush to make it easier to hold, like attaching a tennis ball or bike handle.
Other age-related conditions — and their treatments — can negatively impact oral health. Less saliva production, which is a consequence of aging or certain drugs, increases the risk of tooth decay or periodontal (gum) disease. Older adults often develop gastric reflux problems that can introduce tooth enamel-eroding stomach acid into the mouth. And medications called bisphosphonates, often prescribed to treat osteoporosis, may interfere in rare cases with bone healing after tooth extraction or similar procedures.
Prior dental work can also prove challenging to treating dental disease. It becomes more difficult to preserve teeth threatened with decay if there are significant restorations or appliances to work around. Pain perception can also diminish with age, so that dental disease may not be noticed until later stages when significant damage has already occurred.
Oral care requires more attention as we grow older, or as we care for older family members. Your best defense against disease is to continue regular six-month visits with us. In addition to normal cleanings and checkups, we’ll also screen for oral cancer (a more prevalent occurrence in older adults), review your prescriptions or other supplements and medications for any possible side effects to oral health, check the fit of any dentures or other restorations and evaluate the effectiveness of your hygiene.
While other age-related conditions may capture the majority of your attention, you shouldn’t allow that to neglect your dental care. With your continued efforts, along with our support and your family’s, you can continue to enjoy good oral health throughout your lifetime.
Drugs play an indispensable role in treating disease. For example, life without antibiotics would be much more precarious—common infections we think nothing of now would suddenly become life-threatening.
But even the most beneficial drug can have disruptive side effects. Antibiotics in particular can cause a rare but still disturbing one: a growth on the tongue that at first glance looks like dark hair. In fact, it's often called "black hairy tongue."
It isn't hair—it's an overgrowth of naturally occurring structures on the tongue called filiform papillae. These tiny bumps on the tongue's upper surface help grip food while you're chewing. They're normally about a millimeter in length and tend to be scraped down in the normal course of eating. As they're constantly growing, they replenish quickly.
We're not sure how it occurs, but it seems with a small portion of the population the normal growth patterns of the papillae become unbalanced after taking antibiotics, particularly those in the tetracycline family. Smoking and poor oral hygiene also seem to contribute to this growth imbalance. As a result, the papillae can grow as long as 18 millimeters with thin shafts resembling hair. It's also common for food debris and bacteria to adhere to this mass and discolor it in shades of yellow, green, brown or black.
While it's appearance can be bizarre or even frightening, it's not health-threatening. It's mostly remedied by removing the original cause, such as changing to a different antibiotic or quitting smoking, and gently cleaning the tongue everyday by brushing it or using a tongue scraper you can obtain from a pharmacy.
One word of caution: don't stop any medication you suspect of a side effect without first discussing it with your prescribing doctor. While effects like black hairy tongue are unpleasant, they're not harmful—and you don't want to interfere with treatments for problems that truly are.
The big day you've waited for all your life is just around the corner — your wedding day! And to make that day as special as possible you've been working on making yourself more attractive.
In all your preparations, don't forget your smile. There are many ways to make it shine, some requiring little time or effort. A professional dental cleaning and polishing, for example, can do wonders for brightening your smile. If you have above normal staining, you can also undergo professional whitening to remove stains and enhance your teeth's natural color.
Some problems, though, like chipped, slightly misaligned or heavily stained teeth may require more than a cleaning or whitening session. In these cases, you might consider covering these less attractive teeth with porcelain veneers to transform their appearance. As the name implies, veneers are a thin layer of tooth-colored, translucent porcelain custom designed for you and bonded permanently to the visible tooth.
While veneers can significantly change your smile, it can't fix every appearance problem. Some teeth require more extensive dental work, like a porcelain crown that completely covers a tooth, or dental implants to replace missing teeth. In more complex situations you may want to look at orthodontics to repair an unattractive bite, or plastic surgery to change the look of a gummy smile.
Keep in mind, though, many of such treatments take time: installing dental implants can take months and some orthodontic treatments, years. As soon as you can, you should discuss your smile appearance with your dentist and what can be done to enhance it in the time you have.
With the help of your dentist, orthodontist or other specialist, you can change your smile. And that, along with all your other preparations, will help make that once in a lifetime day even more special.
If you would like more information on undergoing a smile makeover, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more about this topic by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “Planning Your Wedding Day Smile.”
When die-hard music fans hear that their favorite performer is canceling a gig, it’s a big disappointment—especially if the excuse seems less than earth-shaking. Recently, British pop sensation Dua Lipa needed to drop two dates from her world tour with Bruno Mars. However, she had a very good reason.
“I’ve been performing with an awful pain due to my wisdom teeth,” the singer tweeted, “and as advised by my dentist and oral surgeon I have had to have them imminently removed.”
The dental problem Lipa had to deal with, impacted wisdom teeth, is not uncommon in young adults. Also called third molars, wisdom teeth are the last teeth to erupt (emerge from beneath the gums), generally making their appearance between the ages of 18-24. But their debut can cause trouble: Many times, these teeth develop in a way that makes it impossible for them to erupt without negatively affecting the healthy teeth nearby. In this situation, the teeth are called “impacted.”
A number of issues can cause impacted wisdom teeth, including a tooth in an abnormal position, a lack of sufficient space in the jaw, or an obstruction that prevents proper emergence. The most common treatment for impaction is to extract (remove) one or more of the wisdom teeth. This is a routine in-office procedure that may be performed by general dentists or dental specialists.
It’s thought that perhaps 7 out of 10 people ages 20-30 have at least one impacted wisdom tooth. Some cause pain and need to be removed right away; however, this is not always the case. If a wisdom tooth is found to be impacted and is likely to result in future problems, it may be best to have it extracted before symptoms appear. Unfortunately, even with x-rays and other diagnostic tests, it isn’t always possible to predict exactly when—or if—the tooth will actually begin causing trouble. In some situations, the best option may be to carefully monitor the tooth at regular intervals and wait for a clearer sign of whether extraction is necessary.
So if you’re around the age when wisdom teeth are beginning to appear, make sure not to skip your routine dental appointments. That way, you might avoid emergency surgery when you’ve got other plans—like maybe your own world tour!
If you would like more information about wisdom tooth extraction, please call our office to arrange a consultation. You can learn more in the Dear Doctor magazine articles “Wisdom Teeth” and “Removing Wisdom Teeth.”
Which Cosmetic Dentistry Procedure Is Right for You?
Want a smile that radiates beauty? Cosmetic dentistry can give you the Hollywood smile you've always dreamed of. Cosmetic dentistry refers to any dental work that improves the appearance of a patient's teeth. Led by Dr. Bernard Pak, Kirkland Smiles Dental Care (located in Kirkland, WA) offers a full range of cosmetic dentistry services to the patients they serve. The following information can help you determine which type of cosmetic dentistry procedure is right for you.
Cosmetic Bonding- Composite resin bonding is a fast, minimally invasive option that can create a beautiful smile. Cosmetic bonding is the application of a tooth-colored composite resin using adhesives and a curing light. Bonding is routinely used for cosmetic purposes to improve the appearance of decayed, chipped, and fractured teeth. Bonding is also to close gaps between teeth and improve the appearance of stained teeth.
Bridgework- You don't have to go through life with a missing tooth. If you have a missing tooth, a fixed bridge will allow you to smile with confidence. A dental bridge is a dental restoration that's used to replace one or more missing teeth. A bridge is made of two crowns and a fabricated tooth in the middle. A fixed dental bridge can last five to 15 years and even longer. With regular checkups and good oral hygiene, it's not unusual for the life span of a fixed bridge to be over 15 years.
Invisalign- Invisalign is the clear alternative to traditional braces for teens and adults. Invisalign corrects a wide variety of dental problems, including overbites, underbites, protruding teeth, cross bites, overcrowded teeth, gapped teeth, and crooked teeth. Using a series of aligner trays, Invisalign gradually moves your teeth toward the smile you've always wanted. It usually takes between 9 to 18 months to create a new smile using Invisalign.
Dental Crowns- Dental crowns can improve the appearance of your smile. A dental crown is a 'cap' that is designed to fit over the tooth so that it appears to be a natural tooth. A dental crown completely encases the visible portion of the tooth. Crowns restore the teeth to their normal size, shape, and function. The purpose of crowns is to make the teeth stronger or improve the way they look. Crowns can improve the look of chipped, cracked, discolored, or misshapen teeth.
Dental Implants- The absence of teeth can ruin a nice smile. Dental implants are the gold standard in the replacement of missing teeth. An implant is a small metal post that is inserted into the jawbone. It provides a strong foundation for a replacement tooth. The benefits of dental implants include improved appearance, improved speech, easier eating, improved comfort, and durability. Dental implants also prevent bone loss, teeth shifting, and facial sagging.
Porcelain Veneers- Veneers are ultra-thin, custom-made shells that are placed over the front part of the teeth. Porcelain veneers are used to restore teeth that are discolored, crooked, chipped, or cracked. It's also possible to fix gapped teeth through the use of porcelain veneers.
Teeth Whitening- In-office teeth whitening a revolutionary procedure that uses a strong whitening solution and chairside lamp to speed up the whitening process. In-office teeth whitening can give you a bright-white smile in less than 45 minutes. Dispensed by dentists, take-home teeth whitening kits involve filling a custom-fitted tray with whitening gel. Take-home teeth whitening kits provide fantastic results in one or two weeks of use.
Call Kirkland Smiles Dental Care at (425) 893-9500 right now to schedule a dental consultation in Kirkland, WA. Cosmetic dentistry can transform your appearance.
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