Oral Health for Older Adults

Keeping good oral hygiene habits is important at any age. As we get older, regular visits to the dentist remain necessary, particularly since changes to our health status can often affect our oral health. One study found that older adults with certain chronic conditions, such as diabetes and heart disease, are more at risk for tooth loss. The American Dental Association also notes that many prescription medications taken for these conditions can impact our teeth and gums. On the flip side, taking proper care of your mouth as you age can help prevent a number of problems — including cavities, gum disease and oral cancer — and keep your immune system from becoming overburdened.

Here are a few ways your dentist can help you maintain a healthy smile as you age.

Preventative Care

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 68% of adults aged 65 and older have gum disease, and one in five have untreated tooth decay. One of the reasons may be the prevalence of dry mouth among older adults, often caused by medications for certain chronic diseases, which can increase the risk of cavities. Your dental team can help by providing regular cleanings and advising you on the best ways to treat dry mouth.

Oral Cancer Screenings

According to mouthhealthy.org, a website of the American Dental Association, the average age of oral cancer diagnosis is 62. During your regular dental visit, your clinician can check for abnormal cells or lesions in the oral cavity that might warrant further evaluation. Detecting oral cancer early through regular screenings can go a long way toward successful treatment.

Dentures

Many older adults have lost some or all of their teeth, which can make it difficult to eat and speak. Dentures are removable, artificial teeth and gums used to replace missing teeth. Our denture specialists can help you get a beautiful, natural-looking set of dentures that fit comfortably. With proper care, dentures can last several years. 

Dental Implants

Unlike dentures, dental implants are a non-removable, long-term replacement for missing teeth. Dental implants are designed to make replacement teeth look, feel and function like natural teeth. The dental implant itself is a small titanium post that is surgically placed into the jawbone where teeth are missing. These metal anchors act as the support to prosthetic teeth, securing them firmly like a natural tooth. You can brush and floss them just as you would natural teeth. 

Dental Coverage for Older Adults

With about half of adults between the ages of 65 and 80 reporting that they do not have dental coverage, going to the dentist can be a challenge as you grow older. For those without insurance, our Smiles360 Dental Savings Club may be an option for you. With an annual fee starting at just $269, Smiles360 members receive preventative dental services at no additional cost, with generous discounts on a variety of treatments. 

We are committed to being your partner in oral health at any age. With flexible payment options, a variety of services and a friendly team, we look forward to keeping you smiling. Make an appointment today!

Why are oral cancer screenings so important?

Did you know that April is Oral, Head and Neck Cancer Awareness month? The Oral Cancer Foundation tells us that nearly 54,000 Americans will be diagnosed with oral or oropharyngeal cancer this year. Of the people newly diagnosed with these cancers, only about 57% will live longer than five years. Often, this type of cancer goes unnoticed by the patient until it has progressed to later stages. While smoking and alcohol consumption have long been known as risk factors, the incidence of oropharyngeal cancer among young non-smokers has steadily increased due to HPV16 — the same virus that causes more than 90% of all cervical cancers. 

Oral Cancer Signs & Symptoms

The earliest signs of oral cavity and oropharyngeal cancer may be mistaken for other problems, such as a toothache or cold. If symptoms persist for several days or weeks, it is important to see your doctor. Many of these symptoms can be due to other, less serious problems or other cancers. Signs and symptoms to watch for include:

  • Unusual lumps or bumps in the mouth and wart-like masses and mouth sores that do not heal.
  • Pain or difficulty swallowing or chewing.
  • Unusual nosebleeds or other bleeding from the oral cavity.
  • Distortion of any of the senses or numbness in the oral or facial areas.
  • Sore throat, hoarseness or ear pain.
  • Progressive swelling, enlarged lymph nodes, or shifting teeth.

Ask us about oral cancer screenings!

Thankfully, having regular oral cancer screenings is the best way to detect oral cancer in its early stages, when treatment outcomes are much better. The Check Your Mouth website offers guidance on doing self-examinations in between dental visits, but having a qualified professional examine your mouth for signs of problems is vitally important. Be sure to ask us about oral cancer screenings at your next checkup! 

Celebrate National Dentist’s Day this Saturday!

Saturday, March 6 is National Dentist’s Day! Celebrated annually, National Dentist’s Day is an opportunity to show appreciation for the dentists and dental specialists who keep our mouths healthy, including general dentists, pediatric dentists, orthodontists, oral surgeons and prosthodontists. As part of our celebration, we’ve combed history to recognize a few of the very first dentists and dental specialists.

First Dentist of Ancient History

The first recorded dentist, Hesy-Ra, lived and worked in Ancient Egypt around 2600 BC. He was known as the “Chief of Dentists” and was a person of high distinction under the pharaoh. According to New World Encyclopedia, the inscription on Hesy-Ra’s tomb reads, “The greatest of those who deal with teeth, and of physicians.”

First Women Dentists 

Did you know that March is Women’s History Month? Women have played a vital role in dentistry. Emeline Roberts Jones was the first woman to practice dentistry in the United States. Since women were not allowed to enter dental school at the time, Jones secretly provided dental services until her husband allowed her to join his dental practice in 1855. Lucy Hobbs Taylor was the first woman to actually graduate from a dental school, earning her degree from the Ohio College of Dental Surgery in 1866.

First Pediatric Dentist

Another noteworthy woman in dental history is M. Evangeline Jordon, the first dentist to specialize in pediatric patients. Jordon began her career as a teacher and worked summers as a dental assistant, but eventually devoted herself to dentistry full-time, limiting her practice entirely to children in 1909. Jordon aimed to find methods for reducing children’s fear of going to the dentist. She also wrote and lectured on the importance of proper oral hygiene habits for kids.

First Orthodontists

While there is evidence that orthodontics has been around since ancient times, two French dentists are credited with progressing the field to where it is today. Pierre Fauchard developed a device called the “blandeau” in 1728, which helped to expand the mouth arch. Later, Louis Bourdet, who was dentist to the King of France, perfected the blandeau and was the first dentist to recommend extracting premolar teeth to ease crowding and to improve jaw growth. A century later, American Edward Hartley Angle developed the first classification system of malocclusion and the first school of orthodontia, establishing orthodontics as a specialty distinct from general dentistry.

First Oral Surgeon

Simon P. Hullihen is regarded as the “father” of oral surgery. Graduating as a medical doctor, he specialized in treating problems of the mouth and head, performing over 1,100 operations using instruments he invented himself.

First Prosthodontist

The practice of prosthodontics goes back to ancient times, when ancient Egyptians used gold wire to stabilize and replace missing teeth. However, the birth of modern implantology is often credited to Italian Manilo Formiggini, who developed a spiral stainless steel implant that allowed bone to grow onto the metal.

This National Dentist’s Day, give thanks to dentists for the important work they do to help keep our mouths healthy. If it’s time for your check-up, be sure to contact us.

Celebrate Children’s Dental Health Month!

The American Dental Association (ADA) designates every February as Children’s Dental Health Month. The observance helps to promote children’s oral health for caregivers, teachers, and others who work with kids.

This year’s theme is “Water: Nature’s Drink.” The theme highlights the importance of drinking water over sugary beverages to keep teeth healthy. On their MouthHealthy.org website, the ADA explains that water, particularly water with fluoride, can strengthen teeth and help to prevent tooth decay. In addition, water is a low-calorie drink that keeps your mouth clean and fights dry mouth. The necessity of this year’s theme is evidenced by a study conducted by JAMA Pediatrics, in which 20% of 8,400 children observed reported not drinking any water. Those children typically consumed almost twice as many calories and more sugary beverages like soda and fruit drinks.

Promoting Oral Health in Children

In addition to drinking water, MouthHealthy.org provides a number of tips for helping to foster healthy teeth and gums from a young age. These include:

  • Keeping an infant’s mouth clean before teeth erupt by wiping his or her gums with a soft, clean washcloth or gauze pad.
  • Brushing newly erupted teeth twice a day with a rice-sized amount of fluoridated toothpaste.
  • Increasing to a pea-sized amount of toothpaste after age three.
  • Visiting the dentist as soon as the first tooth erupts, and no later than age one. 
  • Avoiding dipping pacifiers in honey or sugar, or putting them in your mouth to clean them.

Additional Resources

The ADA provides several resources in celebration of National Children’s Dental Health Month, including crossword puzzles, coloring pages and other activities. A printable reference guide is also available with 5 tips for avoiding tooth decay. 

The Early Childhood Learning & Knowledge Center, part of the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, provides a number of resources for oral health. These include healthy recipes, oral hygiene tips, and books about oral health.

If you’d like to discuss your child’s oral health or are ready to make an appointment, contact us today. We’d love to see your child’s smile!

What does the COVID-19 vaccine mean for your dental care?

The first phase of the COVID-19 vaccination program is rolling out across the country. As recommended by the CDC Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices, phase 1a of the program prioritizes healthcare workers, including dental teams. Vaccine administration is being managed at the state level, creating some variation among states, but it is encouraging to see this important step underway!

How are dental providers being prioritized in the COVID-19 vaccination program? 

The ADA provides a helpful state-by-state map where you can see how dental providers are being prioritized in the vaccine program. In the vast majority of states, dentists are listed as part of phase 1a, while a few states have them in phase 1b, and others have yet to determine their priority level. States also vary on whether or not a dental provider can administer the vaccine to others at this time.

Will Abbeville Dentistry providers receive the COVID-19 vaccination?

In accordance with state prioritization guidelines, many of our dentists and team members have already received their first COVID-19 vaccination. Not only will vaccinations keep our team members safe, but they will ensure that patients who come into our practices remain safe as well. We’ll continue to provide more information to our patients as we have it. 

Is the COVID-19 vaccine safe?

The Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine explains that, while the vaccine was developed at a faster rate than many vaccines in the past, it does not mean that any safety measures were skipped during the process. Both the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines underwent appropriate clinical trials and were closely monitored for side effects. At this time, both vaccines are showing 95% effectiveness in preventing the spread of COVID-19.

Is it safe to visit the dentist if I’m not vaccinated?

Because delaying dental care could potentially lead to more severe — and costly — problems down the road, it is vital to continue with routine exams and complete any recommended treatment during the pandemic. As each of us awaits our turn to be vaccinated, you can rest assured that your dental office is as safe as ever. We will continue to implement extra safety measures, as recommended by the ADA and CDC, in addition to the infection control procedures we have always followed. Our highest priority is the well-being of each person that walks through our doors. If you have any questions or concerns about our safety protocols, feel free to give us a call. We’d love to hear from you!

Treat Yourself to a New Smile This Holiday Season

The holiday season is upon us once again! With the many challenges that 2020 has brought, it feels like the right time to do a little something to treat ourselves. Many are also looking for ways to use up remaining HSA or FSA funds. If you fall into that category, here are a few gifts you might consider giving yourself before the year is over.

Clear Aligners

Clear aligners are an inconspicuous way to straighten your teeth. According to the American Association of Orthodontists, clear aligners are clear, plastic-like trays that are virtually invisible. Many patients like that clear aligners can also be removed for short periods of time. However, it is vital that clear aligners remain in the mouth as much as possible so they can do their job of straightening your teeth.

Whitening

Whitening can bring the brightness back to your teeth. MouthHealthy.org, an ADA website, tells us that teeth can discolor over time for a variety of reasons, such as diet, trauma, certain medications and age. Whitening gels work to remove both surface and deep stains on teeth. The results can last a long time, though touch up treatments are available if needed.

Veneers

Dental veneers are thin shells of porcelain or composite resin that are custom made to fit over teeth. They can be used to fix chipped, stained, misaligned, worn down, uneven or abnormally spaced teeth. Medical News Today explains that veneers may be beneficial for those who want a long-term solution to persistent cosmetic concerns and haven’t responded well to other dental treatments, such as teeth whitening, braces, or retainers.

If you’re interested in clear aligners, whitening or dental veneers, contact us for a consultation, and get ready to ring in the new year with a new smile!

The Connection between Oral Health and Diabetes

November is American Diabetes Month. According to the American Diabetes Association, more than 34 million Americans have either Type 1 or Type 2 diabetes, making it one of the most prevalent systemic diseases in the country. Many people may not realize that diabetes can impact your oral health in important ways. The reverse is also true: taking care of your oral health can also help keep diabetes under control.

How diabetes affects your oral health

On their MouthHealthy.org website, the American Dental Association explains that people with diabetes are at greater risk for gum diseases like gingivitis and periodontitis. This is primarily due to increased blood sugar levels that allow bacteria to thrive. Your blood sugar levels also rise when you have gum disease, making diabetes even harder to control. 

Diabetes can affect your mouth in additional ways, such as decreasing the amount of saliva in your mouth. Because saliva protects your teeth, this can make someone with diabetes more prone to cavities. Diabetes can also cause a fungal infection called thrush, which is marked by painful white patches in your mouth that can affect your sense of taste and ability to swallow. 

Caring for your mouth with diabetes

Taking control of your oral health can help improve blood sugar levels and prevent many oral health problems. If you have diabetes, you can care for your mouth in several important ways, including:

  • Monitor your blood glucose levels closely to ensure they are within your target range.
  • Brush your teeth at least twice daily with a soft toothbrush and fluoride toothpaste.
  • Floss at least once daily.
  • Visit your dentist at least twice a year, and more often if you notice any problems such as pain or bleeding in your mouth.
  • Eat healthy meals and avoid sugary foods and beverages.
  • If you wear dentures, keep them clean and remove them at night.
  • Stop smoking.

Be sure to discuss your overall health and medical history with your dental team so they can help provide you with the best care possible. Maintaining a good partnership with your dentist can keep your smile healthy and help you manage diabetes. Schedule an appointment with us today!

Make the Most of Your Dental Benefits

Considering that October is National Dental Hygiene Month, it’s the perfect time to spread awareness about the importance of keeping a healthy smile. Proper oral care includes visiting your hygienist regularly and treating any issues before they become more costly problems. However, as the Society for Human Resource Management tells us, many people with dental insurance don’t realize that preventative treatment is often fully covered by their plan. For that reason, we thought it might be a good time to delve into the complex world of dental benefits and explore why it might be to your advantage to schedule any outstanding cleanings and treatments before the end of the year.

Preventative Care Benefits

A typical dental insurance plan often includes two annual cleanings and exams at little or no cost for each person on the plan. This means if you or someone on your plan hasn’t yet had a second cleaning, it’s a good time to utilize your remaining benefits and schedule before the end of the year. 

Annual Maximums 

Terms like “annual maximums” and “deductibles” can often cause confusion. As Delta Dental of Illinois explains, an annual maximum is the maximum amount your plan will pay toward your dental work in a given plan year. This amount can vary depending on the type of plan you have. At the beginning of a new year, your annual maximum resets; any benefit money remaining from the previous year does not roll over. This means if you haven’t yet hit the annual maximum for your plan, there is still benefit money available that you can put toward any needed dental work.

Deductibles

A deductible, on the other hand, is the amount you must pay toward dental work before your insurance benefits will kick in. This amount also tends to vary by plan. Once you’ve paid your deductible for the year, you don’t have to pay it again until next year. This would be another great reason to schedule an appointment in 2020. 

Out-of-Pocket Costs

Whether or not you’ve reached your annual maximum or paid your deductible, there may still be out-of-pocket costs associated with treatment. The amount you owe will depend on the type of insurance plan you have, the type of treatment you receive, and how close you are to reaching your annual maximum or deductible.

To help limit any additional costs, we’d like to offer 20% OFF the patient portion amount of treatment. Simply download the coupon below and bring it to your appointment.

If you’ve been putting off treatment, now’s the time to take advantage of your dental benefits and make an appointment

No Insurance? No problem!

These days, more patients are finding themselves without dental insurance benefits as a result of COVID-19. If you don’t have insurance, there are still affordable options available to you, such as the Smiles360 Dental Discount Club! Ask about Smiles360 at your next appointment, or visit www.smiles360dental.com to learn more.

National Dental Hygiene Month: Q&A with Andrea Edelen, Director of Dental Hygiene and Clinical Support

October is National Dental Hygiene Month! To celebrate, we sat down with our Director of Dental Hygiene and Clinical Support, Andrea Edelen, to discuss the reasons the hygienist is such an important member of the dental office.

We know hygienists clean teeth. What else do they do as part of their work that many may not realize?

Although hygienists, like all dental team members, wear many hats in the practice, they have three main roles when it comes to patient care: Preventive Therapist, Periodontal Therapist and Treatment Advocate. As Preventive Therapists, hygienists perform screenings and assessments, and make customized recommendations based on individual patient risks. We screen for and monitor conditions such as hypertension, oral cancer and sleep apnea. As Periodontal Therapists, hygienists assess, treat and maintain all forms of gum disease. Hygienists promote overall dental health as Treatment Advocates by educating patients on the importance of restorative treatment, comprehensive dental care and wellness. 

In what ways do hygienists influence the patient’s overall experience with the practice?

A majority of patients spend more time with their hygienist than anyone else in the practice. Hygienists impact the patient experience through the relationships that they build with patients and teammates. Relationships that are built with strong personal connections and warm communication promote exceptional experiences.  

How does the hygienist contribute to the patient’s treatment plan?

Dental hygienists have a crucial role as treatment advocates by helping patients understand their treatment options. They use visuals such as photos and models to educate patients. In addition to that, they discuss the solutions that the dentist recommends as well as the potential outcomes of not accepting dental treatment. 

Are you seeing any significant trends happening in dental hygiene today? 

Yes! The oral systemic link has transitioned into mainstream media and patients are approaching us about how their dental health is related to their overall health. Dental technology is continuing to advance, which is extremely exciting. 

How has dental hygiene changed as a result of COVID-19? What can patients expect going forward?

We have developed and implemented a highly effective COVID-19 protocol to keep our patients and team members safe. New processes are in place that include modifications to the check-in and check-out process and symptom and temperature screenings for patients and team members. Patients may notice that their hygienist has additional PPE to add a higher level of protection, including N95 masks and/or face shields. We are also using a stronger suction that reduces the amount of aerosols released during procedures. This powerful suction may feel and sound different to patients. 

It’s important to keep in mind that dentistry has a long history of successfully dealing with communicable diseases. Our clinical teams were already well experienced in protecting themselves and our patients, so the extra protocols we’ve put in place only increase that level of safety. Our team members also receive the same pre-screening questions and temperature checks when they come to work each day for additional protection. We want our patients to feel comfortable coming to our practices and hope they understand that disinfection and safety have always been our priorities. 

Hygienists have always focused on how oral health supports overall health and immunity but there is an increased awareness due to COVID-19. Now more than ever, we remain committed to pursuing additional strategies to reduce risk and continue the important work of delivering necessary dental care to our patients.

Are you due for your next hygiene visit? We’d love to see your smile!

Schedule an appointment today!

Why are oral cancer screenings so important?

The Oral Cancer Foundation tells us that nearly 53,000 Americans will be diagnosed with oral or oropharyngeal cancer this year. Of the people newly diagnosed with these cancers, only about 57% will live longer than five years. Often, this type of cancer goes unnoticed by the patient until it has progressed to later stages. While smoking and alcohol consumption have long been known as risk factors, the incidence of oropharyngeal cancer among young non-smokers has steadily increased due to HPV16 — the same virus that causes more than 90% of all cervical cancers.  

Oral Cancer Signs & Symptoms

The earliest signs of oral cavity and oropharyngeal cancer may be mistaken for other problems, such as a toothache or cold. If symptoms persist for several days or weeks, it is important to see your doctor. Many of these symptoms can be due to other, less serious problems or other cancers. Signs and symptoms to watch for include:

  • Unusual lumps or bumps in the mouth, wart-like masses, mouth sores that do not heal
  • Pain or difficulty swallowing or chewing
  • Unusual nosebleeds or other bleeding from oral cavity
  • Distortion of any of the senses, numbness in oral or facial regions
  • Sore throat, hoarseness, ear pain
  • Progressive swelling, enlarged lymph nodes, shifting of teeth

Free Oral Cancer Screenings in October!

Thankfully, having regular oral cancer screenings is the best way to detect oral cancer in its early stages, when treatment outcomes are much better. To help emphasize the importance of oral cancer awareness within our community, our practices will be offering FREE oral cancer screenings throughout the month of October! Be sure to ask for an oral cancer screening at your next dental checkup.

Oral Health for Older Adults

Keeping good oral hygiene habits is important at any age. As we get older, regular visits to the dentist remain necessary, particularly since changes to our health status can often affect our oral health. One study found that older adults with certain chronic conditions, such as diabetes and heart disease, are more at risk for […]

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