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.

How braces can be made to look good

Orthodontic appliances such as braces can be used to help straighten out crooked and crowded teeth.

This is not just about looking better; it also helps improve your dental health.

How they look may determine how you feel about wearing them but, these days, braces can be as inconspicuous as you want.

Brackets � the part of the braces that attaches to each tooth – can sometimes be attached to the back of the tooth, making them less noticeable.

The brackets can be made in a wide range of different materials such as metal, ceramic or plastic.

They can also be designed to look appealing. For example, they may be clear or tooth-colored. There can also be shaped in a variety of ways like hearts and footballs or created in favorite colors.

You could even go for gold-plated braces or glow-in-the-dark retainers!

Taking steps to stop oral cancer before it’s too late

Oral cancer hits more than 30,000 Americans every year but you can minimize the risk by taking steps to ensure it’s caught early enough.

The first indications of oral cancer may be a very small, but dangerous, oral spot or sore that you are not even aware of.

In a routine examination, your dentist will carefully examine the inside of your mouth and tongue.

If they notice a flat, painless, white or red spot or a small sore, this may be completely harmless. But harmful spots or sores often look the same as harmless ones.

To ensure that a spot or sore is not dangerous, your dentist may choose to perform a simple test, such as a brush test. This collects cells from the lesion which can them be analyzed.

Any positive results from a brush test must usually be confirmed by a biopsy before deciding the next step.

If precancerous cells are found, the lesion can be surgically removed if necessary during a separate procedure.

When caught early enough, the chances of preventing the cancer developing are high but only half of those diagnosed survive more than five years.

That’s why regular dental examinations are so important for your overall health and not just to have good teeth.

What is plaque and how does it affect your teeth?

Plaque is a sticky film of bacteria that covers our teeth and, when we eat something, these bacteria release acids that attack the tooth enamel.

When these attacks are repeated over time, the enamel will break down and this will eventually lead to cavities.

When plaque is not removed through daily brushing and cleaning it hardens into calculus or tartar. When tartar collects above the gum line, brushing and cleaning between the teeth becomes more difficult.

The gum tissue can become swollen or may bleed. This is called gingivitis and it is the early stage of periodontal (gum) disease.

There are several steps you can take to protect yourself against this happening:

– Brush your teeth twice a day with fluoride toothpaste
– Clean between teeth daily with floss or an interdental cleaner
– Eat a balanced diet and limit the number of snacks between meals
– Visit your dentist regularly for professional cleanings and oral exams
– Ask your dentist about sealants – these are protective coatings that can be applied to the back teeth where decay often starts.

If you take steps to remove the plaque each day, you have a greater chance of avoiding tooth and gum 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.

Your options if you have many missing or damaged teeth

People who have not followed adequate dental care for some years may have already lost most of their teeth and feel a little hopeless.

Sometimes they ask a dentist to remove the remaining teeth as they are often broken and have deep cavities.

It’s true that, sometimes, removal of the remaining teeth and replacing them with full dentures is the only option.

But more often there are other options available.

Some or all of the remaining teeth could be repaired and used in conjunction with a partial denture. While a full denture replaces all of the teeth on the upper or lower jaw, a partial denture replaces some of the teeth.

If only a few weak teeth remain on the upper jaw, it might be preferable to have them extracted and a full upper denture made. Full upper dentures can be more secure than lower ones as the upper denture gets added stability from the palate and is not easily dislodged by the tongue.

If only a few teeth remain on the lower jaw, however, the dentist will usually aim to save them and use a partial denture if necessary.

Ideally, all teeth that can be saved should be saved but this is not always possible – often due to finances.

In such cases, having teeth removed and dentures may be the only option.

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.

The keys to keeping your mouth healthy

A healthy mouth is a good indication of your overall health and helps you to keep a great smile and continue eating what you want for many years to come.

There are a few steps you can take to make sure your mouth is as healthy as possible:
– Brush your teeth twice a day using a good quality toothbrush
– Renew your toothbrush regularly. It will only keep your mouth healthy if the brush is in good condition and the bristles are strong. You should replace it at least every three or four months
– Clean between your teeth. Your toothbrush can’t reach everywhere and bacteria can linger between the teeth so it’s important to clean between them every day using floss or an interdental cleaner
– Visit your dentist regularly for professional cleaning and oral examinations

Your dentist will be able to give you tips on what other products you should consider to help improve your oral health.

For example, antimicrobial mouth rinses and toothpastes can reduce the germs in your mouth and reduce the risk of gum disease.

Also, fluoride mouth rinses can help reduce and prevent tooth decay. Studies have shown that using mouth rinses provides valuable protection over and above that provided by fluoride toothpaste alone.

Look out for the ADA seal when buying toothbrushes and other dental products. This is a sign that the product has met American Dental Association standards for safety and effectiveness.

Following these steps can help ensure that you continue to enjoy great oral health.

Making the most of your smile

Your smile is a major factor in the impression people get when they meet you.

And the good news is that you now don’t have to settle for a smile spoiled by stained, chipped, or misshapen teeth.

Advances in dental treatment mean there is a wide range of choices to help you get the smile that you want. Here are some of the options:
– Tooth whitening (bleaching) can help brighten teeth that have become discolored or stained. It can be done in the dental office or with a system the dentist can give you to use at home
– Bonding improves the appearance of teeth that have become chipped, broken, cracked or stained. This is done by bonding tooth-colored materials to the tooth surface
– Enamel shaping involves modifying teeth to improve their appearance by removing or contouring enamel
– Veneers are thin custom-made shells of tooth-colored materials designed to cover the front side of teeth. They are used to treat spaces between teeth and teeth that are chipped, stained or poorly shaped.
– Braces may be needed if teeth are crooked, crowded or do not meet properly – and not just for kids

Even small changes can have a big impact on your smile and so make a huge difference to how you look and how you feel about yourself.

If you’d like an even better smile, your dentist will be able to give you information about the options available.

What will it be like living with dentures?

People who are new to wearing dentures naturally have many questions about how their life will change.

New dentures may feel awkward for a few weeks until you become accustomed to them. The dentures may feel loose while the muscles of your cheek and tongue learn to keep them in place.

During this time, it’s not unusual to experience minor irritation or soreness. You may find that saliva flow temporarily increases.

As your mouth becomes accustomed to the dentures, these problems should diminish.

Dentures can be made to closely resemble your natural teeth so that little change in appearance will be noticeable. Dentures may even improve the look of your smile and help fill out the appearance of your face and profile.

Eating will take a little practice. Start with soft foods cut into small pieces. Chew slowly using both sides of your mouth at the same time to prevent the dentures from tipping. As you become accustomed to chewing, add other foods until you return to your normal diet.

Continue to chew food using both sides of the mouth at the same time. Be cautious with hot or hard foods and sharp-edged bones or shells.

Initially you may also find that wearing dentures changes how you speak. Pronouncing certain words may require practice. Reading out loud and repeating troublesome words will help. If your dentures “click” while you’re talking, speak more slowly.

You may find that your dentures occasionally slip when you laugh, cough or smile.

After your dentures are fitted, you’ll have a few follow-up appointments with your dentist to take care of any initial issues and to answer any questions you have.