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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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Making the most of your smile

Your smile is a major factor in the impression people get when they meet you.

And the good news is that you now don’t have to settle for a smile spoiled by stained, chipped, or misshapen teeth.

Advances in dental treatment mean there is a wide range of choices to help you get the smile that you want. Here are some of the options:
– Tooth whitening (bleaching) can help brighten teeth that have become discolored or stained. It can be done in the dental office or with a system the dentist can give you to use at home
– Bonding improves the appearance of teeth that have become chipped, broken, cracked or stained. This is done by bonding tooth-colored materials to the tooth surface
– Enamel shaping involves modifying teeth to improve their appearance by removing or contouring enamel
– Veneers are thin custom-made shells of tooth-colored materials designed to cover the front side of teeth. They are used to treat spaces between teeth and teeth that are chipped, stained or poorly shaped.
– Braces may be needed if teeth are crooked, crowded or do not meet properly – and not just for kids

Even small changes can have a big impact on your smile and so make a huge difference to how you look and how you feel about yourself.

If you’d like an even better smile, your dentist will be able to give you information about the options available.

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How to overcome problems with teeth grinding

When under stress, many people find themselves grinding their teeth or clenching their jaws.

This habit actually has a name – bruxism – and often it’s something we do when we sleep.

It can be caused by stress and anxiety and it can also be due to sleep disorders, an abnormal bite or missing and crooked teeth..

It can lead to symptoms such as dull headache or a sore jaw.

Your dentist can fit you with a mouth guard to protect your teeth during sleep.

Severe grinding can lead to painful or loose teeth and this can lead to fractures in your teeth.

Taking stress out on your teeth in this way can lead to long term damage so, if stress is the cause, you need to find a way to relax!

Relaxants, counseling and even exercise may help reduce stress and tension and can be a big help to your teeth.

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Tooth Extraction

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Dental extractions are performed for a variety of reasons including tooth decay, injury, and for orthodontic treatment.  Extractions are a relatively common procedure in most dental offices.  The difficulty of the procedure varies depending on the case and the patient, however anesthesia is used to numb the area and prevent pain during the procedure.

Types of Extractions

There are two forms of extraction: simple and surgical extractions.

Simple extractions are performed on teeth that can be seen in the mouth.  They are removed due to decay or injury and are usually performed under a local anesthetic.  During this procedure, the doctor will grasp the tooth with forceps and loosen it by moving the forceps back and forth.  The loosened tooth will then easily come out.

Surgical extractions are performed on teeth that have broken off at the gum line or that have not yet come in (ie: wisdom teeth).  To remove the tooth, the doctor will have to cut and pull back the gums, which allows access to the area.  This is necessary so that they can see the tooth that needs to be removed.  Surgical extractions are usually done with local anesthesia but a general anesthesia is sometimes preferred.

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Oral Pathology

Examining mouth

Oral pathology involves diagnosing and treating diseases of the mouth such as cysts, tumors, and precancerous and cancerous lesions.  Many patients experience unusual changes in the mouth, teeth, gums, tongue, or throat that may be caused by disease.  Diagnosing diseases in the mouth as early as possible is very important.  The earlier a disease is diagnosed, the faster treatment and healing can begin.

What can I expect during the exam?

Your doctor may perform a number of tests or exams to determine what is causing the symptoms you are experiencing and diagnose the disease.  Usually, biopsy or tissue removal is the best way to determine a diagnosis as the sample is sent to a laboratory for analysis.

How will I be treated?

Treatments vary depending on the type of disease that is present.  Each patient’s needs will be addressed on a case-by-case basis in order to achieve the best results.  Our office is dedicated to making any procedure performed as comfortable as possible.

Dr. Obradovic works closely with Linda Hayes who performs thermal imaging to help in early oral cancer detection.