Aspen Dental reminds patients

May 6, 2010
Practice reminds about importance of regular oral care for mature adults in recognition of Older Americans Month.

SYRACUSE, New York--In recognition of Older Americans Month, Aspen Dental reminds patients about the importance of regular dental examinations and the refitting or replacement of dentures for good oral and overall health.

The oral health status of mature adults has improved in recent years. According to the National Center for Health Statistics, "Tooth retention and periodontal [gum] health improved for both adults and seniors" in the past decade.

But though people are keeping their natural teeth longer than ever before thanks to improvements in self-care, water fluoridation, and advances in dentistry, it is estimated that 75% of Americans have some form of gum disease.

"There's widespread awareness of the importance of good oral health in children, but it is equally important for adults," said Dr. Arwinder Judge, vice president of clinical support at Aspen Dental Management.

"Receding gum tissue is a common problem as we age, a condition that can expose the roots of teeth and make them more vulnerable to decay and infection. What many people fail to recognize is that gum disease is linked with the incidence of common health issues like heart disease, diabetes, and stroke. Older Americans Month is an excellent opportunity to remind adults and caregivers of seniors that taking good care of yourself includes maintaining your oral health," Dr. Judge added.

Even for those patients who don't have their natural teeth--nearly 50 million Americans wear dentures--visiting a dentist is important.

The average denture-wearer gets a first set of dentures in the mid-50 age range. But the tissues in the mouth change over time and bone and gum ridges shrink. This can result in ill-fitting dentures that make eating uncomfortable or downright painful. While the American Dental Association recommends that dentures be replaced every five to seven years, many people keep the same set of dentures much longer.

Wearing poorly fitted dentures can also prevent healthy eating. Research has indicated that people with ill-fitting dentures have poorer nutrition than those with well-fitted dentures or natural teeth due to the difficulty they have in chewing foods, especially certain fruits and vegetables.

"Unfortunately, many older adults have problems with their dentures that make chewing foods difficult, and the problem is often overlooked," Dr. Judge said.

Oral care advice for mature adults
Dr. Judge offers the following tips for maintaining good oral health:

* Visit your dentist for regular hygiene checkups. Even patients who have no natural teeth and wear full dentures should have their mouth examined annually, not only for signs of gum disease or oral cancer, but also for proper denture fit. A change in the fit of dentures could indicate gum disease or underlying bone loss.

* Brush at least twice a day with a soft-bristled toothbrush (unless otherwise specified by your dentist) and rinse with mouthwash. Brushing helps remove food and plaque on natural teeth and dentures. It also helps prevent development of permanent stains. Floss to remove plaque between teeth and below the gum line where a toothbrush can't reach.

Denture-wearers should clean their gums to avoid plaque build-up that can irritate the tissue under dentures, and thoroughly clean dentures at night to avoid bacteria growth.

*If you wear full or partial denture, use the correct amount of denture cream. If you experience discomfort or if you are using more than one tube of denture cream every three weeks, your dentures may not fit properly and should be evaluated. Visit your dentist to see if they need to be adjusted.

*Tell your dentist about any medical conditions, recent operations, allergies, and medications you may be taking, or changes to your medications. This will avoid any potential adverse interactions with the medications that your dentist may prescribe. Plus, more than 400 commonly used medications can be the cause of a dry mouth. Reduction of the flow of saliva increases the risk for oral disease.

*Know the warning signs that indicate your mouth may be at risk of infection. Check for red, swollen, bleeding gums when you brush. If you have these symptoms, see a dentist since these may be signs of gingivitis.

*Alert your dentist immediately if you notice red or white patches on your gums, cheeks or tongue, sores that fail to heal within two weeks, or an unusual hard spot on the side of your tongue. These are signs of oral cancer that should be quickly examined by your dentist.

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