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What dentists are doing to improve services for older adults

As people are living longer and enjoying good health for many years, dentists are increasingly offering improved services to recognize the special needs of older adults.

This growing segment of the population is wearing fewer dentures and they are keeping their natural teeth longer. They are also concerned to maintain good health and a great smile for many years.

However, patients in this group sometimes require special consideration because reduced mobility and dexterity may make daily oral hygiene difficult.

And certain medical conditions and impairment may make them more anxious when visiting the dentist.

For example, problems with vision or hearing loss may cause worry. Always let the dentist and staff know if you have any concerns so that they can adjust their treatment and their pace to meet your needs.

Older patients can sometimes put up with problems such as toothaches, bleeding gums and clicking dentures because they are not aware of the wide range of treatments and techniques now available.

Dentists are increasingly sensitive to the special needs of and the importance of dental health in the older patient.

As many older patients are more health conscious than ever before, regular visits to the dentist ensure their oral health is an important part of their overall health.

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Your saliva and why its so important

You probably don’t give too much thought to the saliva in your mouth but, if you think of it like a bloodstream you’ll realize how important it is.

Like blood, saliva helps build and maintain the health of the soft and hard tissues.

It removes waste products from the mouth and offers first-line protection against microbial invasion that might lead to disease.

Saliva is derived from blood and therefore can also be used to detect disease.

Saliva enhances enamel protection by providing high levels of calcium and phosphate ions. It contains the minerals that maintain the integrity of the enamel surface and helps protect against caries.

When salivary flow is reduced, oral health deteriorates – much in the same way body tissues suffer if blood circulation is disrupted.

Patients with dry mouths (xerostomia) experience difficulty chewing, speaking and swallowing. A major cause of dry mouth is medication – almost eighty percent of the most commonly prescribed medications lead to dry mouth.

Chewing gum after a snack or meal stimulates salivary flow, clearing food from the mouth and neutralizing plaque acid.

Your saliva is important to your oral health both for preventing disease and in helping to diagnose problems.

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What to do if you have problems with your dentist

Choosing the right dentist for your needs is an important part of giving yourself the best oral health possible.

Sometimes you may find that things are not working out for the best and it’s important to take steps to resolve any problems rather than just put off your dental care.

First, talk to your dentist about any concerns. They will probably be able to accommodate your needs if you tell them what you are looking for.

In some situations, you may feel that you want to look around at alternative options – maybe there are other dentists who meet your needs better, taking into account factors such as location, office hours, fees and emergency arrangements.

If you are comparing fees, ask for estimates on full-mouth x-rays and a preventive dental visit that includes an oral exam and tooth cleaning.

If you have any doubts about treatment your dentist has recommended, it may be a good idea to set your mind at rest by getting a second opinion from another dentist.

However, even in the best dentist-patient relationship, problems can sometimes occur. If your dentist is not able to resolve your concerns, you can contact your state or local dental association.

They have established systems of peer review that provide an impartial and easy way to resolving misunderstandings regarding the appropriateness or quality of care.

If you are not completely satisfied with the dental treatment you are getting, it’s important to take steps to put it right – whether you sort it out with your own dentist or find another one.

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How a bridge can bring back your smile even with missing teeth

If you’re missing one or more teeth, it probably affects your smile and you may also notice a difference in chewing and speaking.

But there are options available to help you restore your smile and limit other problems.

For example, a bridge – sometimes called a fixed partial denture – replaces missing teeth with artificial teeth.

Bridges help maintain the shape of your face, as well as reducing the stress in your bite by replacing missing teeth.

They literally bridge the gap where one or more teeth may have been previously.

The restoration can be made from gold, alloys, porcelain or a combination of these materials and it is bonded onto surrounding teeth for support.

Bridges can be removable so that you can take them out and clean them or fixed and so can only be removed by a dentist.

An implant bridge attaches artificial teeth directly to the jaw or under the gum tissue.

Your dentist will recommend which approach is best for you.

Whatever type of bridge you choose, its success depends on its foundation. So it’s very important to keep your remaining teeth healthy and strong.

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Wisdom Teeth

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Wisdom teeth, or third molars, usually appear in adults between the ages of 17 and 25 and are the final set of molars that most people get.  While most will eventually have their wisdom teeth removed, not everyone needs to do so.  Most dental professionals will recommend having your wisdom teeth removed if you experience any of the following scenarios:

1. Your wisdom teeth do not fit in your mouth.  Most people have 28 teeth before wisdom teeth erupt.  Many do not have enough room in their jaw for 32 teeth and this may cause teeth to become impacted.  Impacted means the wisdom teeth cannot fully erupt or they may become misaligned.  Removing the wisdom teeth can prevent impaction and overcrowding in your jaw.

2. You experience chronic pain in your gums around your wisdom teeth.  Pain in your gums can be an indication of infection.  Infections are common around partially erupted wisdom teeth because food and bacteria get trapped in these areas.  Having your wisdom teeth removed can prevent further infection.

3. Your wisdom teeth do not come in straight.  Often, wisdom teeth will not grow in straight and can cause your teeth to shift and move over time.  To prevent your teeth from moving, removing your wisdom teeth is often recommended.

4. Your wisdom teeth are causing tooth decay to adjacent teeth.  Wisdom teeth can be difficult to keep clean because of their location in the mouth.  Flossing and brushing can be challenging and without good oral care, gum disease and tooth decay can develop.  Removing your wisdom teeth can prevent tooth decay issues in surrounding teeth as well as the wisdom teeth.

What happens during surgery?

Prior to the surgery date, your doctor will discuss the procedure with you and let you know what to expect before, during, and after the extraction. On the day of your wisdom tooth extraction, you will be given a local anesthetic to numb the area.  You may also be given a general anesthetic especially if all of your wisdom teeth will be removed at one time.  The general anesthetic will prevent pain and will give you the illusion of having slept through the entire procedure.

To remove the wisdom teeth, your doctor will open the gum tissue over the tooth and remove any bone that is over the tooth.  The whole tooth is then either extracted or cut into smaller pieces to make it easier to remove.  After the tooth is removed, you may need stitches.

There are several factors that will affect how easy it is to remove the wisdom teeth.  If the tooth has fully erupted, it is a similar procedure to a typical tooth extraction.  However, if the tooth is fully impacted or if the teeth have not erupted through the gums the surgery may be more complicated.

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Pediatric Dentistry

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Parents usually have a lot of questions about when they should first take their child to see a dentist. Healthy smiles begin in infancy!  The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry recommends that children first see the dentist at one year old or when the first tooth emerges.  It’s important to see a dentist early in a child’s life because it allows the doctor to examine his/her mouth and discuss specific oral hygiene instructions for the child.  Parents should begin brushing and flossing their children’s teeth when the first tooth emerges.  When the child is old enough, parents should teach their children how to brush and floss properly.  Setting a high standard of oral hygiene early in life will help children develop healthy oral hygiene habits for life!

Dr. Obradovic is accepting new pediatric dental patients. Parents can set up an appointment for their child by calling 760- 621-8830 or fill out the form on this page.

Many parents ask: How often should we bring children to see the dentist? Just like an adult, children should see the dentist a minimum of twice a year.  The mouth is constantly changing and growing in childhood and along with this growth can come injuries and issues that, when addressed early, can be easily treated.

Another question that parents often ask is: What does pediatric dentistry cover? How can it help my child? Pediatric dentistry focuses on preventive care.  Emphasis is placed on home care, regular check-ups, and cleanings.  There are many preventive measures available to keep children’s teeth healthy and clean, including sealants and mouth guards.  Part of preventive dentistry also focuses on educating the parent about common dental issues kids may have such as bruxism, thumb sucking, and baby bottle tooth decay.

Need tips to help keep your child’s teeth healthy? Ask Adriatic Dental. Our San Marcos dental office offers complete pediatric dentistry services. Call us today at 760- 621-8830.

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Bruxism/Teeth Grinding

Bruxism is the dental term for teeth grinding. Most people grind their teeth from time to time with little to no damage to the teeth or jaw. However, those who continually grind their teeth can cause serious damage to their teeth and other oral health complications can arise.

Bruxism refers to any type of forceful contact between the teeth. This can be a loud and grating contact or a silent and clenching contact. Either form can cause serious damage to the teeth. Many aren’t aware that they have the condition because they grind their teeth only in their sleep. However, bruxism can occur during waking hours as well.

Adults and children both can suffer from the condition. Alcohol, drugs, and certain sleep disorders can exacerbate the condition, making it worse. Children usually develop bruxism as a result of a cold or infection. Often pain from teething or earaches will induce bruxism in toddlers and children.

Why do I grind my teeth?

The cause of bruxism is still unknown. However, it is believed that increased stress and anxiety can greatly increase how often and how severely you grind your teeth. Having an abnormal bite or missing or crooked teeth are also thought to contribute to teeth grinding.

Why is bruxism bad?

Occasional bruxism usually does not result in damage to the teeth or jaw. However, chronic teeth grinding can cause serious dental issues. In some cases, grinding can result in tooth fracture, loosening of teeth, or the loss of a tooth or teeth. Grinding over years without treatment can wear the teeth down to stumps, which will require bridges, crowns, root canals, implants, or possibly even Dentures to repair.

Not only is bruxism bad for your teeth, it is also damaging to the jaw. Grinding can result in hearing loss, change the appearance of your face, and TMJ.

What can I do to stop grinding my teeth?

Being fitted for a mouth guard/night guard will help protect your teeth from the effects of grinding while you sleep. However, in order to cease grinding completely it’s important to treat the triggers for why you grind your teeth.

If stress is causing your bruxism, ask your doctor or Dentist about stress reduction techniques and options. Exercise, stress counseling, or prescription muscle relaxers may help reduce how often or severely you grind your teeth.

Other tips to help reduce bruxism include:
• Cut back or eliminate foods that contain caffeine from your diet. This includes coffee, soda, tea, and chocolate.
• Avoid alcohol. Alcohol tends to increase the severity and frequency of bruxism.
• Don’t chew on anything that is not food. This includes gum, pencils, or pens. Constantly chewing conditions your jaw muscles to stay clenched and makes you more likely to grind your teeth.
• Pay attention to your mouth. If you notice that you grind or clench your teeth during the day, train yourself to relax. Position the tip of your tongue between your front teeth to make it harder to clench or grind your teeth.
• Relax your jaw before bed. Using a warm washcloth on the face at night will help relax the jaw prior to sleep. Position it on your check in front of your earlobe to get maximum results.