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Aging and Dental Health

March 14th, 2019

What’s life like for the average 60-year-old today? It’s complicated! We travel. Or we work out. Or we relax with friends. We pursue favorite hobbies or we develop new ones. We work, or start businesses, or volunteer for schools, museums, and charities. We practice the art of writing letters or we text our grandchildren. Whatever else we do, we do our best to stay healthy so we can live our lives to the fullest.

Part of living our lives to the fullest means caring for ourselves. And caring for ourselves means learning how to look out for the potential dental problems that might come with age, and how to keep ourselves in the best of dental health.

  • Gum Disease

Gum disease, or periodontitis, is not uncommon in older patients. Certain medical conditions, such as diabetes, can leave you more vulnerable to gum disease. Because gum disease is often symptom free, it can remain unnoticed until the disease has progressed. Good oral hygiene and regular visits to the dentist are the best means of prevention—we are trained to discover gum disease in its earliest stages, and can treat it before the disease causes serious damage to gums, teeth and bone. But if you have delayed seeing a dentist, the good news is that there are many methods of treating gum disease available, including antibiotics, professional plaque removal, and periodontal surgery.

  • Tooth Decay

As we age, our gums can recede from the teeth. The new root area that is exposed is more vulnerable to decay because it is not shielded by the hard enamel which protects the upper part, or crown, of the tooth. Maintaining your brushing and flossing routine is the best way to keep cavities from developing. If gum recession is severe, there are surgical methods we can discuss to restore gum health.

  • Time

Cosmetically, teeth can yellow with age as the dentin beneath the enamel darkens and the enamel covering it thins. Years of coffee, wine, smoking and other stain-makers take their toll. If you are self-conscious about the appearance of your smile, talk to us about suggestions for whitening and brightening.

Medically, over time our teeth are subject to damage. Enamel and tooth surfaces can wear away, leaving our teeth more at risk for breaks or fractures that can lead to infection, which can result in the need for root canal work. Simple chewing puts an amazing amount of pressure on the teeth—and if you grind your teeth, there is even more stress placed on them. See us regularly for ways to maintain strong teeth, to repair damage if necessary, and to keep your gums and bones healthy if you are a denture wearer.

  • Dry Mouth

Dry mouth can be a problem for older patients, often caused by medical conditions or medications. When we produce saliva, it helps remove sugar and the acids sugars produce which attack our enamel. Without normal saliva production, we are more vulnerable to cavities. Dry mouth can also lead to mouth ulcers, oral thrush, sores and infections. If you have been suffering from this condition, talk to us. Dr. Michael DeWeerd and our team have suggestions that will help.

  • Oral Cancer

Oral cancer is something we look for during every check-up. And, if you ever notice any change that causes you concern, call us immediately. Early treatment of oral cancer and other oral diseases leads to the best possible outcome.

  • Keep Up With Your Dental Care

The best way to keep our teeth and mouths healthy as we age is with prevention. Regular daily brushing and flossing and office visits twice a year for an examination and a professional cleaning are habits that should last a lifetime. Make sure to tell us about any medical conditions you may have and any medications you are taking, to avoid interactions and relieve unpleasant side effects.

What’s life like for the average older person today? There is no average older person! As we age, we are free to explore our interests in any number of creative and individual ways. But there is one goal we have in common: we all want to keep our smiles healthy and attractive. Call our Wayland, MI office for preventative and restorative care. We want to help you work toward an ageless smile!

How to Prevent Dry Socket

March 7th, 2019

When you have a tooth extracted, your body immediately sets to work to help protect the affected area. The blood that collects at the site of the extraction clots to cover and protect the wound. This is a normal response, and protects the nerves and bone that have been exposed with the removal of your tooth. Normally, the gum tissue will close over the area within a few weeks.

But sometimes the clot becomes dislodged or moved before you have a chance to heal. The result is that the nerves and bone in the extraction site are exposed to air and outside substances. Bacteria can contaminate the wound and lead to pain, infection, and further damage. This condition is known as dry socket.

There are certain activities that should definitely be avoided so you are not at risk for dry socket.

  • Straws and suction: The action of using a straw causes suction that can dislodge the clot. You can still enjoy the soothing coolness of a milkshake, but use a spoon.
  • Spitting: You might be tempted to rinse and spit immediately to clean your mouth, but spitting can also dislodge the clot. We will let you know how to clean your mouth and teeth for the next few days.
  • Smoking: Not only does smoking provide a suction effect that can remove the clot, but smoking and chewing tobacco can slow healing as well.

There are also steps you can take to aid the healing process.

  • Caring for your extraction site

Dr. Michael DeWeerd will give you instructions on caring for your mouth and teeth for the next few days. Gentle care for the extraction site is vital. And treat yourself gently as well. Rest if you need to, and avoid activities that might impact your wound.

  • Think about your diet

Stick to soft foods for the first day or so and chew on the side opposite your extraction site. Carbonated and caffeinated beverages should be avoided, as well as food like peanuts or popcorn that lodge in the teeth.

  • Watch for symptoms of dry socket

How do you know if you have a dry socket? Monitor your pain and the appearance of the site after the extraction. For the first few days, you might feel some pain in the immediate area. Pain that intensifies after three or four days is usually not a result of the extraction. An unpleasant odor or taste in your mouth could be a sign of dry socket. You might look in the mirror and notice that the clot is no longer there, or appears to have been dislodged. If any of these symptoms occur, call our Wayland, MI office at once. If you are experiencing dry socket, the extraction site needs to be cleaned and protected from further injury, and we can prescribe antibiotics if needed.

Dry socket is a rare occurrence, but if you have any symptoms that concern you, we want to hear about them. We will work with you to make your extraction go as smoothly as possible. Talk to us about your concerns before any procedure, and we will provide detailed information for the healing process. Keep us in the loop as you recuperate, and we will work together to make your recovery a speedy one.

Periodontal Health during Pregnancy

February 28th, 2019

Congratulations! Your pregnancy is a time of joy and excitement—and a time to take special care of yourself. You’ve discovered that pregnancy brings many physical changes, but it may still come as a surprise to learn that pregnancy hormones can affect your oral health as well. What should you look out for?

Gingivitis

Beginning in the second or third month of pregnancy, your gum tissue may show signs of gingivitis. Pregnancy hormones can cause an increase in the blood supply to your gums and affect the way your gums respond to plaque. These changes may lead to gums that are swollen, red and more likely to bleed upon brushing. This early form of gum disease should be treated as quickly as possible to avoid a more serious condition called periodontitis.

Periodontitis

Without treatment, the inflammation caused by gingivitis can increase. Periodontitis can lead to gums pulling away from the teeth, creating “pockets” that can be home to infection. These infections can lead to bone and tooth loss, so professional treatment is a must.

Pregnancy Granulomas

If you find a dark red swelling along the gumline or between two teeth, it might be a pregnancy granuloma. These granulomas are thought to be triggered by pregnancy hormones and may be a reaction to plaque or some other irritant. They often disappear once your baby is born and usually don’t cause any bother, but if you develop discomfort eating or speaking, your dentist might suggest removal.

You are looking for every way possible to provide your baby with the best start in life, so it is important to know that some studies have suggested a link between periodontal disease in pregnancy and complications such as pre-term delivery and low birth weight. Here are some important ways to maintain your oral health during pregnancy:

  • Call Dr. Michael DeWeerd when you find out you are pregnant. We have suggestions for your dental care that you can use immediately.
  • Keep to your regular schedule of dental examinations and cleanings at our Wayland, MI office. If you find your gums beginning to show signs of gingivitis, call our office for an appointment. You might need to have your teeth cleaned more often during your pregnancy to avoid plaque buildup.
  • Maintain your daily dental hygiene. Be sure to carefully brush along the gumline to discourage plaque formation. If you have not switched to a soft bristle toothbrush, now is the time! Talk to us about possible rinses or other at-home treatments.
  • See a periodontist if needed for more serious gum problems.

Your pregnancy is a time to treat yourself and your baby with care. Talk to our office as soon as you find out you are pregnant. Making your dental health a priority can bring rewards both now and in the future, and we welcome the opportunity to suggest the best possible ways to care for yourself and your baby!

What is nitrous oxide and is it safe?

February 21st, 2019

Our team at DeWeerd Dentistry understands that the sights, sounds and sensations at a dental office can be unsettling for some patients. One effective technique that we use to comfort you is to offer the gas nitrous oxide. Nitrous oxide is a common anesthetic used during many dental procedures.

What is nitrous oxide?

Nitrous oxide is an oxide of nitrogen which has a slight sweet odor and taste. During medical or dental procedures, the gas is mixed with oxygen then inhaled through a mask that covers your nose. Within minutes, you should feel calm and experience an overall sense relaxation. You will be able to breathe on your own, move your limbs, and be conscious enough to hear and respond to our dentist's questions. The effects of nitrous oxide disappear shortly after the mask is removed and the drug is quickly eliminated from your body.

Is nitrous oxide safe?

Recreational use of nitrous oxide for its euphoric effects can be dangerous, however, the drug is combined with oxygen at dental offices. This ensures oxygen reaches the brain and prevents dangerous side effects or hypoxia. Nitrous oxide inhalation is a safe and effective technique to reduce anxiety, produce analgesia, and enhance effective communication.

Nitrous oxide is non-addictive and non-allergic, however, it may cause nausea in up to ten percent of patients. The drug is not recommended for people with some medical conditions such as chronic pulmonary disease. We recognize that all patients are different and encourage you to talk with Dr. Michael DeWeerd about whether nitrous oxide would be a good option for you.

Our team wants to help all patients in Wayland, MI to overcome dental anxiety, so please, give us a call at DeWeerd Dentistry.

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