Oral health issues that may arise with age

by MikeMeehan 9/13/2018 2:09 PM

As you age, your body can experience shifts in health that affect your mouth in ways you might not expect. In honor of Healthy Aging Month, take a look at two conditions people may encounter with age that can affect their oral health – Sjögren’s syndrome and bone loss. Sjögren’s syndrome People age 40 and older can develop a chronic autoimmune condition called Sjögren’s syndrome. Currently, as many as 4 million Americans are living with Sjögren’s. While experiences with the disease vary widely, some of its symptoms include difficulty talking, chewing or swallowing; a sore or cracked tongue; a dry or burning throat; dry or peeling lips; and severe fatigue.  One symptom that’s shared to some degree among almost every person with Sjögren’s, however, is dry mouth. Without adequate levels of saliva to help remove mouth debris, your teeth become increasingly vulnerable to decay. Fortunately, there are ways to lessen the effects such as taking frequent drinks of water, reducing alcohol and caffeine consumption, avoiding tobacco and limiting the number of carbonated beverages you drink. Additionally, chewing sugar-free gum, using artificial saliva and trying an oral rinse may help.  Bone loss As you age, you become increasingly vulnerable to bone loss. One of the more common causes is osteoporosis, which causes bone density to decrease. In the United States alone, over 53 million people already have osteoporosis or are at high risk for developing it. Women are especially susceptible to bone loss, since many experience lower estrogen levels after menopause. What does all this have to do with your smile? When your jaw bones lose density, you become more susceptible to loose teeth and tooth loss. It can also cause your gums to recede, leaving more of your tooth exposed and susceptible to tooth decay.  With these threats to your oral and overall health, it’s important to take proactive measures to stay in control. Calcium and vitamin D are both critical to preventing bone loss. It can also help to avoid smoking, limit alcohol consumption and engage in regular weight-bearing exercise such as walking, jogging and weight training. Work with your dentist to prevent bone loss or to treat it if you’ve already begun experiencing symptoms.  By staying vigilant and working with your dentist and physician, you can help ease the effects of Sjögren’s syndrome and bone loss.

How the sun can be great for your smile

by MikeMeehan 7/5/2018 9:00 AM

Going outside to bask in the sun isn’t just fun – it also provides a healthy dose of vitamin D! That’s good for both your overall health and your oral health. Calcium is often praised for its many health benefits like strengthening bones and teeth, but your body won’t experience those benefits if it doesn’t have enough vitamin D to absorb the calcium. Getting adequate amounts of calcium and vitamin D helps reduce bone loss over time and may also decrease your chances of losing teeth. On the flip side, not getting enough calcium could increase your risk for osteoporosis. Developing osteoporosis can cause the jaw to weaken, leading to possible tooth loss.  So how do you make sure your body gets the vitamin D it needs? UVB rays from sunlight and vitamin D supplements are the main sources, but they aren’t the only ones. Some foods naturally contain vitamin D like cheese, egg yolks, beef liver and fatty fish (tuna, mackerel and salmon). Because natural foods rich in vitamin D are somewhat limited, manufacturers sometimes fortify products like milk, margarine and yogurt. The amount of vitamin D you absorb from the sun varies significantly based on factors like where you live, air quality, skin color and more. Additionally, the amount you need largely depends on your age. Check with your physician to determine if you’re getting enough or if you should take a supplement. For the sake of your smile, get outside and enjoy the sun! Just make sure to apply plenty of sunscreen and lip balm with an SPF 30+ rating to protect your skin and lips from sunburn.  

Costs for whitening your pearly whites

by MikeMeehan 6/7/2018 8:33 AM

Need to prep your smile for a big summer event? Take a look at the most common whitening methods from least to most expensive. Whitening toothpaste can often be purchased for under $20 and will take two to six weeks to show a noticeable difference. This method works by removing surface stains, such as those caused by drinking coffee or smoking. Since whitening toothpastes don’t alter the natural color of your teeth or lighten stains that go deeper than the tooth’s surface, the effects won’t be as significant as other methods.  Over-the-counter whitening strips and gels usually fall between $10 and $100 and can take 10 to 14 days to whiten teeth. The bleaching agents used for these products are weaker than those used by dentists, so they require longer application times than professional whiteners to achieve similar effects. Each product will be applied differently based on the instructions included in the package.  At-home whitening trays typically cost between $150 and $600 and take full effect in one to four weeks. Your dentist will customize a bleaching tray for you to take home and wear as instructed. The bleaching tray looks somewhat like a retainer or mouth guard in which peroxide-based bleaching gel or paste is contained during the whitening process. You may wear it overnight or during the day for several hours at a time.  In-office bleaching can cost between $500 and $1,000 and normally takes less than two hours. The process is completed painlessly at the dentist’s office. After applying a bleaching agent, your dentist may also use light, heat or both to enhance the whitening effect. Depending on your situation, you may need to complete more than one session. Before choosing a whitening method, consult with your dentist to determine the best option for you. Whiteners may not work on all teeth. For example, teeth with porcelain crowns and composite fillings won’t whiten along with your natural teeth, so their color may no longer match. Your dentist can also advise on the safety of your intended method. After or during your whitening process, you may experience a temporary increase in teeth sensitivity. Talk to your dentist if this happens to you.   

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