What Your Tongue Can Say About Your Oral Health

by MikeMeehan 11/9/2017 4:33 PM

Even though you focus on keeping your teeth and gums healthy, oral health includes another part of your mouth – your tongue. And your tongue can be an indicator of your oral and overall health. Maybe you don’t pay too much attention to your tongue until you bite it or burn it by accident. Ouch! And we’ve mentioned including your tongue when you brush twice a day for at least two minutes. But other than that, this very important part of your mouth might not get noticed or discussed. Delta Dental Plans Association shared some information about the color, texture and patterns on your tongue that might indicate something about your oral and overall health. With this information, you can be more aware of your tongue and its many possible characteristics. White coating – If you have dry mouth or bad oral hygiene, your tongue may appear white. The white color is the result of papillae, the tiny bumps on the surface of your tongue, becoming overgrown with a buildup of bacteria and debris from food. Black or brown – If you smoke, your tongue could turn a black or brown tint if the overgrown papillae get stained. They could also become stained by food, drinks or medications. This dark discoloration condition even has a name – black hairy tongue. (Terrible, I know!) This condition can also be a result of poor oral hygiene, dry mouth or use of certain medications. But it can go away with good oral hygiene and by getting rid of any of the causes like tobacco use. White patches on your tongue can be attributed to the overgrowth of yeast in your mouth, a condition called “thrush” or “candidiasis.” Those most prone to this condition include newborns, pregnant women, elderly people, dry mouth sufferers, people who wear dentures, individuals on antibiotics, people with weak immune systems and those with certain health conditions like diabetes. The usual treatment is anti-fungal medication. White lacy pattern – If you see this pattern on your tongue or inner cheeks, it may be a sign of something called oral lichen planus. This means your immune system is fighting the cells in your mouth. You may also see sore red patches. Yellow – A yellow tongue can be the early stages of the previously explained black or brown tongue. It could also indicate acid reflux or an infection. Pale and smooth – If your tongue is pale, you could have low iron, or a condition called anemia. “Strawberry” patterned – It’s called this because of the color and bumps on your tongue kind of look like a strawberry. If you notice your tongue is bumpy or swollen, it may be a sign of strep throat or an allergy, possibly to food or medicine you’re taking. There’s also a blood vessel disease called Kawasaki disease that the strawberry pattern could also be a sign of. Next time you’re brushing your teeth, take a look at your tongue in the mirror. How does it look? Most of these conditions can be fixed by practicing good oral hygiene, eating healthy foods, drinking more water or quitting any tobacco use. But sometimes the color of your tongue could indicate something more serious, like oral cancer or infections. Contact your dental care provider or physician if you notice one of the above colors or conditions and it doesn’t go away after a week or two. If you experience any soreness or pain, be sure to contact your dentist or doctor. A professional will be able to identify and diagnose any problems.

3 Healthy Aging Topics for Oral Health

by MikeMeehan 9/20/2017 12:45 PM

We have oral health concerns for older adults, so we have some information and tips to consider as part of healthy aging. We’ve talked about a diet filled with fruits and vegetables and improving your brushing and flossing technique, which will help your oral health in the long run. But let’s review more focused information concerning your oral health as you get older, or as your parents or loved ones get older. Don’t retire your dental benefits when you retire from work Most of us plan for retirement as best we can, but sometimes those plans do not include funds for dental benefits. Since most lose their employer-sponsored dental insurance when they retire and Medicare doesn’t cover dental, many older adults don’t visit the dentist. We don’t want that to happen. According to a 2012 study, almost 70% of people age 65 and older have gum disease, and gum disease is the most common reason for tooth loss among seniors. Despite issues like cavities, in the same study, about a quarter of adults 65 and older haven’t seen the dentist in the past five years, missing valuable cleanings and oral health exams. In addition to cleaning teeth at each exam, dentists should screen for oral cancer, periodontal disease and other mouth problems that become more common in older individuals. This is why it’s important to keep those appointments. Delta Dental offers low-cost individual plans designed for people of all ages and oral health needs. Consider putting away money for dental benefits when you plan your retirement accounts. Also, maintain your good oral health routines like brushing twice a day for two minutes and flossing daily. Whatever your plans are, make sure oral health is a part of your healthy aging. Is your new medication also a prescription for oral health issues? As we age, some of us may face health issues that require medication, and your prescriptions can have negative effects on your oral health. One of the most common side effects from medications is dry mouth. This condition deprives the mouth of saliva, which plays a critical role in preventing tooth decay. To help with this, drink plenty of water and limit caffeine and alcohol. Canker sores, a metallic taste in the mouth, discolored teeth, and “gingival overgrowth” (when gums swell and start to grow over teeth) are other side effects to medication. Consult your doctor and dentist for guidance and more information. Also, it’s important to keep dentists up to date on medications, vitamins and supplements you’re taking so they can monitor your oral health for side effects. If you notice any changes in your oral health, contact your physician or dentist right away. How to help a loved one maintain their oral health Besides encouraging an older loved one to maintain dentist visits and the routine of brushing and flossing daily, for those with a friend or family member with dementia or Alzheimer’s, here are a few tips to consider: Keep step-by-step directions for brushing and flossing near the bathroom sink. Provide a toothbrush with a wider handle or an electric toothbrush with a timer so your loved one knows how long to brush. Notice any discomfort or pain your family member may have during meals or while brushing or flossing teeth. If your loved one is in a full-time care facility, ask how they handle dental care and dental visits. As discussed above, remind your loved one to drink water throughout the day to help with dry mouth, a side effect to many medications. Dry mouth can cause plaque build-up and lead to gum disease. Learn about other dental concerns and ways to counteract them. And look for more about healthy aging and your vision in next week’s blog.

More Fruits and Vegetables for More Healthy Smiles

by MikeMeehan 9/6/2017 10:01 AM

September is another month to focus on the importance of including more fruits and vegetables into our diet, and we’re on board with that. Consuming fruits and vegetables will help your overall health and your oral health, so that means healthy smiles. And healthy smiles are what we like to see. We all need more fruits and veggies in our life, and we’ve got a good resource to help you with that. The Fruits & Vegetables–More Matters health initiative has a mission to help Americans increase the amount of fruits and vegetables they consume. The nutrients in fruits and vegetables will do wonders for your health, and we’d like to talk about a few that are especially good for your oral health. In the summer, we recommended the seasonal picks of strawberries, apples and watermelons, so we’ve got them covered. Now here’s a few more fruits and vegetables to add to your menu and how they help your teeth and gums: Celery – A good source for vitamins A and C. Added bonus of celery – it works as a natural toothbrush! When you bite down on celery, its texture scrubs the surface of your teeth, brushing away food particles and plaque. Leafy greens – Spinach, kale and other leafy greens contain calcium, important for healthy bones and teeth. Calcium helps strengthen your enamel and jawbone. Carrots – They are so crunchy, they will increase saliva production and reduce the risk of cavities. Also, carrots have Vitamin A. This vitamin keeps the mucous membranes in your mouth healthy. Spinach and mangoes are other good sources of vitamin A. Citrus – Vitamin C strengthens gums and can protect against gingivitis. It can also reduce inflammation and fight infections, like gum disease. Citrus fruits like oranges and grapefruits are packed with this nutrient. Some citrus and other fruits have high acidic content which is bad for your enamel. It’s recommended to eat cheese with your fruit because it can neutralize the acid. Rinsing with water after eating acidic foods will also help. Cantaloupe – If you don’t like the acid in citrus fruits, cantaloupe is a great choice for vitamin C. Also, peppers, blackberries and broccoli have this multifunctional vitamin. Sweet potatoes – They’ve got vitamin C and vitamin E. Vitamin E is a powerful antioxidant and fights inflammation. When you eat raw vegetables and fruits, it requires more saliva to break down the food. Saliva keeps the bacteria in your mouth, which can cause cavities, under control. If you eat some raw veggies after a meal, the activated extra saliva can also wash away any remaining food particles and help prevent cavities. Smile, for many reasons Whether you eat them raw or cooked, dried or canned, consuming more fruits and vegetables will make you smile for many reasons. You’ll have more energy, a stronger immune system and healthy teeth and gums. With the many options listed above, find opportunities to include these healthy choices into your routine meals.

Archive



©Delta Dental of Missouri 2012