Pennwell web 400 267

Caring for an aging mouth

Jan. 6, 2010
Unfortunately, the aging mouth has a lot of cards stacked against it — bad dietary choices, smoking, alcohol, clenching, periodontal disease, prescription drug side effects, and insufficient nutrition all play their part in creating a hazardous environment in the oral cavity. Dr. Kevin Boehm explains that although we can’t necessarily turn back the clock on aging, we can certainly affect positive change with some intelligent dietary and supplement assistance.
By Practitioner Kevin Boehm, DDS
© DreamstimeLet me give you some examples of some very common prescription drugs, their side effects, and why this becomes important as we age. All the drugs I list can all be found in the Physician’s Desk Reference, print or online versions, and is common knowledge. I found these in a 10-minute search covering a couple anti-hypertension, anti-anxiety, anti-seizure, anti-acid, anti-acne, anti-osteoporosis, and anti-allergy medications. Drugs with dry mouth side effects are Allegra, Zoloft, Nexium, and Xanax, which promote tooth decay. Drugs with vomiting side effects are Abilify, Accupril, Accutane, and Altace. Vomiting increases tooth erosion and decay. Dilantin causes gingival hyperplasia or overgrown gums and is used as an anti-seizure remedy. While being used to treat osteoporosis, Actonel causes jaw bone problems including infection and delayed or nonhealing areas following tooth extraction. Imagine all the thousands of medications that have side effects we don’t have time to mention.All drugs have effects on the body, both intended and unintended. All of these have target receptors or binding sites where the drug performs both sets of effects on certain cells in the body until the drug use is discontinued. Let’s take a simple example that is very common today. Physicians occasionally use medications to help prevent coagulation of blood in patients with a history of heart attack or stroke. A few common medications used in this case would be Coumadin, Plavix, and aspirin. All of these work within the blood clotting mechanism cascade on preventing platelet aggregation, or not allowing the blood to clot as quickly as usual. All of these promote gingival bleeding as an unintended side effect. In an individual with improper oral hygiene where periodontal disease is the result, the drug has just made it easy for the pathogens to enter the bloodstream and deliver their toxic payload to any distant site they like. Organized dentistry and medicine understand the oral-systemic link associated with periodontal disease. This deals with how periodontal disease-producing pathogens help exacerbate cardiovascular disease and diabetes risk factors. So, in an effort to help the condition of a stroke or heart attack victim with platelet aggregation, or quick clotting, we have now created another condition where the chronic infection caused by periodontal disease is allowed freer access to our vascular supply to infect the heart and blood vessels which were weakened by the heart attack or stroke in the first place. Remember, this is only one common example.Common oral issues that occur with age are numerous. Clenching/bruxism, increased risk of periodontal disease, increased risk of root decay, smoking/tobacco products, alcohol consumption, toxicity from environmental sources or prescription drug side effects, and numerous others related to decay or failing dental materials all make the aging mouth a challenge for both doctor and patient. This certainly isn’t meant as a condemnation of medicine or prescriptions. It just means that things get complicated in unintended ways every day despite our best efforts as health-care providers.On the home care front, suggest a switch to an Oral-B electric toothbrush or similar brand. Obviously, recommend that patients floss their teeth at least once daily. Rinse once or twice a day with an effective periodontal disease-reducing mouth rinse of an alcohol-free variety. The frequency of dental visits may need to increase depending on the risk of periodontal disease or decay. If your patient has extensive dental work such as fixed bridges or partial dentures, consider recommending Super floss, proxybrushes, Waterpiks®, or hydroflossers for cleaning around their dental work. To reduce the risk of decay, use MI Paste and SootheRx, which help replace the mineral component of the tooth structure. Also consider xylitol as a sugar substitute due to its cavity-fighting properties.Unfortunately, the aging mouth has a lot of cards stacked against it. Bad dietary choices, smoking, alcohol, clenching, periodontal disease, and insufficient nutrition all play their part in creating a hazardous environment in the oral cavity. If only the vitality of youth would win out forever. But, with a little help from vitamin C, vitamin E, and CoQ10 we can get some needed antioxidant assistance. Antioxidants help neutralize toxins on a cellular level and help in the fight against periodontal disease. We can’t necessarily turn back the clock on aging, but with some intelligent dietary and supplement assistance we can certainly affect positive change!About Chicago Healers ( is the nation’s pioneer prescreened integrative health-care network, offering a comprehensive understanding of each practitioner’s services, approach, and philosophy. Our holistic health experts teach and advocate natural and empowered health and life choices through their practices, the media, educational events, and our Web site. With close to 200 practitioners and more than 300 treatment services, Chicago Healers has provided nearly 400 free educational events for Chicagoans and has been featured in 300-plus TV news programs and print publications. For more information, visit M. Boehm, DDS, maintains a practice in Hoffman Estates, Ill. He received his undergraduate degree from the University of Illinois at Urbana/Champaign in 1989 and his Doctorate in Dental Medicine from the University of Illinois at Chicago in 1994. He is currently pursuing his Doctor of Naturopathy, and is currently on staff at St. Alexius Medical Center. You may contact him by phone at (847) 884-1220.