7 Dental Tips Every Older Adult Needs

7 Dental Tips Every Older Adult Needs

Aging isn’t fun. It can make you feel like you’re losing control of your health. Your dental health, however, is easy to manage once you know how to do so. These seven dental tips for seniors will help you keep your smile looking young and feeling great for a lifetime.

1. Prevent Dry Mouth

Saliva production slows down with advancing age. Saliva is necessary for cleansing teeth of bacteria, neutralizing acids in the mouth, and remineralizing enamel. Without a sufficient saliva flow, your mouth becomes the perfect environment for cavity-causing bacteria to flourish.

Many medications carry the side-effect of dry mouth. To prevent dry mouth, sip on water throughout the day to stay hydrated. Ask your doctor if it’s possible to change medications to a brand that doesn’t dry out your mouth. Chew on sugar-free gum to stimulate a healthy saliva flow.

A well-hydrated mouth is a healthy mouth!

2. Strengthen Your Tooth Enamel

Your teeth wear down and become brittle after years of use. You can prevent decay and damage by getting plenty of fluoride from toothpaste and mouthwash. Ask your dentist about other ways you can reinforce your tooth enamel.

3. Avoid Gum Recession

Receding gums expose long yellow tooth roots. Not only do these look unappealing, but those exposed roots are highly prone to decay. Your teeth are safer when they’re protected by gum tissue.

Recession can be genetic and a natural part of aging. But you can prevent some of it. Brush your teeth very gently with a soft-bristled toothbrush. This will help you avoid irritating your gums. Keeping your teeth clean will also stave off gum disease, another cause of gum recession.

4. Maintain a Routine of Good Oral Hygiene

Everyone benefits from a steady routine of brushing and flossing. Losing teeth is not actually a normal part of aging. If you take good care of your mouth, you can keep your teeth indefinitely. It all depends on good oral hygiene.

5. Cut Back on or Cut Out Tobacco and Alcohol

Tobacco use increases your risk of developing oral cancer. Alcohol tends to be extremely drying, especially if you already have dry mouth to begin with. Eliminate these harsh substances from your diet and your mouth will feel comfortable and fresh.

6. Replace Missing Teeth

After a tooth falls out, the remaining teeth can shift positions and drift out of alignment. Without support from a tooth root, the bone in the jaw starts to dissolve. If you don’t replace missing teeth, your smile will experience some dramatic changes that will affect the way you look and the way you eat.

Replace missing teeth as soon as possible to maintain the shape of your smile and to continue chewing your food with ease.

7. Visit a Tacoma Dentist Regularly

Growing older doesn’t mean you should give up on your dental health. Your teeth and gums have an impact on your overall well-being and comfort at every stage in your life. Taking care of your teeth is going to help you stay active and live the highest quality of life possible.

Regular dental checkups are opportunities for you to find out what your teeth need and what you can do to keep them healthy.

Call our team here at Duke N. Bui, DDS, PS – Family Dentistry to plan your next visit. We want to give you the peace of mind that comes with understanding your oral health. We’re also eager to equip you with the tools and information that will help you maintain a dignified and healthy smile for a lifetime.

Does Obstructive Sleep Apnea Increase Your Cancer Risk?

Does Obstructive Sleep Apnea Increase Your Cancer Risk?

Depending on who you ask, snoring is either a comedic effect or just plain annoying. It’s not really something many people take seriously.

However, you might want to seek medical help if you snore since it could be a sign of obstructive sleep apnea, a condition that could increase your cancer risk.

What Is Obstructive Sleep Apnea?

Sleep apnea is a condition in which the brain suffers brief periods of insufficient oxygen. The problem could be neurological in nature meaning that there is a lapse in communication between the brain and the muscles that control breathing.

But the most common cause of sleep apnea is physiological in nature. Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) happens when structures in the mouth, neck, or throat block off the airway and prevent oxygen from entering the lungs.

Snoring is not always present in every case of obstructive sleep apnea. It is still a common symptom, though. Signs of OSA can include snoring marked by periods of silence and then a gasp or grunt in an attempt to open up the airways.

Dangers of Obstructive Sleep Apnea

OSA has a few negative side effects including a sore throat, jaw or tooth pain from stress-induced teeth clenching, and dry mouth that leads to an increased risk for oral disease.

Studies reveal some even more serious side-effects. The lack of oxygen puts OSA sufferers at increased risk for high blood pressure, diabetes, stroke, depression, and heart failure. It almost goes without saying that the lack of a good night’s rest also increases one’s risk of having an accident while driving. OSA can also negatively impact performance at work or school.

If you suffer from OSA or suspect that you do, then there is one more very serious risk you should be aware of: the increased risk of cancer mortality.

Obstructive Sleep Apnea and Cancer Risk

At present, there is no data proving that OSA directly causes cancer. But several key studies show a strong connection between the low oxygen levels and how aggressive the cancer is.

For example, one study documented tumor growth in mice with cancer that had been exposed to periods of low oxygen to mimic the conditions of obstructive sleep apnea. The mice who experienced periods of low oxygen had more and larger tumors in their lungs than the mice who had normal oxygen levels.

This study supports the idea that the periods of low oxygen associated with OSA directly affect cancer growth rate.

A long-term study conducted by the University of Wisconsin followed 1,522 individuals for a period of 22 years to track their sleep patterns and health conditions. The results indicated that people with sleep apnea are nearly five times more like to die from cancer than people without sleep breathing disorders.

These and other studies suggest that cancer is more dangerous for people who have obstructive sleep apnea than for those who don’t.

Do You Have Obstructive Sleep Apnea?

There’s no need to start panicking if you know that you snore! Your snoring may not even be due to sleep apnea. The only way you’ll find out for sure is if you consult a medical professional.

Additionally, obstructive sleep apnea is a treatable condition.

You may have OSA if you notice these signs:

  • Waking up with a headache and/or sore throat in the mornings

  • Waking up feeling short of breath or gasping for air in the middle of the night

  • Sleeping partners reporting that you snore

  • Chronic fatigue and drowsiness despite going to bed at regular hours

  • Having excess tissue around your neck

You can lower your risk for any complications resulting from OSA by treating the condition as soon as possible. Losing weight, quitting smoking, changing up your sleeping position, and avoiding alcohol before bed are all things that can help reduce OSA.

If you are diagnosed with obstructive sleep apnea, you might benefit from professional treatment. Therapy could range from surgery to a CPAP machine to a jaw repositioning device.

To find out more about obstructive sleep apnea and its risks, talk to a dentist in Tacoma. Dr. Duke Bui can give you an evaluation, let you know treatment options, and refer you out to a specialist, if necessary. Call our team today to plan your visit.

Do I Have a Canker Sore or Cold Sore? What’s the Difference?

Do I Have a Canker Sore or Cold Sore? What’s the Difference?

It’s caused by stress, results in a painful sore in or near your mouth, makes eating difficult, and can ruin a romantic moment. Can you name that oral health problem?

If you said “cold sore” or “canker sore,” then you’d be right.

But despite sharing a few characteristics, cold sores and canker sores are actually two very different kinds of ailments. Understanding the differences can help you properly treat and even prevent the next oral sore that sneaks up on you.

What Are Canker Sores?

Canker sores are also called aphthous ulcers. These are shallow round lesions that form on soft areas inside the mouth. They often have a bright red ring that surrounds a pale gray or yellow patch of tissue.

These open lesions can show up on the inside of lips and cheeks, the loose tissue at the base of the gums, on the soft tissue of the throat and palate, and on the tongue. Canker sores only grow inside the mouth.

What causes a canker sore?

There are a few commonly-known triggers that can cause an aphthous ulcer to appear:

  • Stress

  • Injury to tissue (accidentally biting your lip, cheek, or tongue)

  • Hormone changes

  • Reaction to acidic or spicy foods

  • Allergic response to sodium lauryl sulfate (foaming ingredient in toothpaste)

  • Vitamin deficiency

What Are Cold Sores?

Cold sores, also known as fever blisters, are lesions that form on the outside of the mouth due to a viral infection. They tend to grow at the edge of the lips.

The important thing you should know about cold sores is that because they are caused by a virus they are highly contagious. You can spread and share the virus even when there isn’t a visible sore present.

Once you’re infected with the virus (which is a very common one, by the way), it can flare up by causing those painful lesions around your mouth. They start out as a cluster of painful pimple-like blisters which eventually rupture and form a crust. While cold sores do usually heal on their own after the infection runs its course, it can take as long as a month for the wound to clear up.

Cold sores often show up in the same place every time they flare up and are often preceded by a tingling or burning sensation.

Treating and Preventing Canker Sores

Do you tend to get canker sores a lot? You might be able to avoid the discomfort by keeping a record of things you ate and experienced in the week or so leading up to the sore’s appearance. If you notice a pattern, you can identify your potential triggers.

Switch to a gentle toothbrush that won’t aggravate your gums and an SLS-free toothpaste. Avoid acidic and spicy foods, especially while you have a sore that’s healing.

Rinse with a warm salt water solution several times a day to cleanse the lesion and bring down inflammation. If your mouth still hurts, you can try some over-the-counter topical numbing jelly.

If you have a canker sore that’s unusually large or so painful that you have difficulty swallowing, then you should go see a dentist right away.

A canker sore should heal on its own within a week or two. You also don’t have to worry about sharing it with anyone since aphthous ulcers are not contagious.

Treating and Preventing Cold Sores

Cold sores are often triggered by a stressed or weakened immune system. They aren’t directly caused by catching a common cold, but the stress on your body from any illness can make you prone to a flare up.

You may be able to prevent a cold sore by getting plenty of rest when you’re unwell or overtired. Avoid exposure to extreme elements like direct sunlight or freezing winds since these can also trigger a cold sore. Wear plenty of sunscreen on your face and SPF-containing lip balm before going outdoors.

Cold sores are most contagious during the phase when they’re oozing. Avoid passing on the virus to others at this time by not sharing toothbrushes, cosmetics, or food items. Kissing is a very popular means of transmitting the cold sore virus!

Picking up a prescription antiviral medication from a dentist or doctor might help a cold sore heal faster.

Professional Treatment for Cold Sores and Canker Sores

Do you have a very painful or persistent cold sore or canker sore that won’t go away? Large lesions and especially ones accompanied by symptoms like fever or eye pain merit the attention of a medical professional.

For a Tacoma general dentist who can treat cold sores and canker sores, look no further than Duke N. Bui, DDS, PS – Family Dentistry.

Do You Really Need to Remove Your Wisdom Teeth?

Do You Really Need to Remove Your Wisdom Teeth?

If you’ve never had a tooth extracted before, then you’re probably nervous about the idea of having your wisdom teeth removed.

Dentists often recommend extracting third molars to save the rest of the teeth in a smile. So wisdom tooth extraction is a good thing. But it’s actually not necessary for everyone.

Read on to find out why you may or may not need to remove your wisdom teeth.

Why Extract Wisdom Teeth?

Impaction is one of the most common reasons for removing wisdom teeth. This happens when the teeth grow in at an unsafe angle. The teeth don’t properly erupt out of the gum tissue and can create cysts or tumors or even press on the roots of neighboring teeth and cause them to resorb.

Even if wisdom teeth do erupt through the gums, they aren’t out of the woods just yet. If they haven’t come in straight, then they’ll be at higher risk for decay and gum disease.

Those third molars are hard enough to reach with a toothbrush and floss, as it is. If they’re tipped out of alignment or partially covered by gums, then they can cause a lot of trouble down the road.

Some people don’t have enough room in their jaws to accommodate four extra teeth.

When that third set of molars comes in, it can crowd the rest of the teeth and put them at risk for oral health problems.

Many dentists along with their patients feel that proactively extracting wisdom teeth before they cause trouble is the best option. In fact, it’s often easier to remove those molars during the teenage years before the roots can finish developing. Removing wisdom teeth can head off a host of inconvenient and painful dental complications.

Signs You Might Need to Extract Your Wisdom Teeth

It could be time to think about parting ways with your third molars if you begin to notice any of the following signs:

  • Pain in the gums around or over your wisdom teeth

  • Toothache in the teeth in front of where your wisdom teeth should be

  • Crowding or other alignment changes in the rest of your teeth

  • Swollen tender gums (gingivitis) around your back teeth

  • Constantly getting food stuck in the gums around your wisdom teeth

  • Sinus problems (upper wisdom tooth roots sometimes grow high above the bone)

See a dentist as soon as possible to find out whether wisdom tooth problems are causing these symptoms.

Wisdom Teeth Extraction – Easier Than You Think!

Granted, no tooth extraction is pleasant. You might even need a lot of recovery time if you have multiple wisdom teeth removed in one procedure. But the good news is that there’s no need to fear the extraction. You’ll be numbed up for the entire thing. You can also opt for a mild sedative like laughing gas to keep you comfortable and relaxed. The extraction will be over before you know it!

Here’s even better news: you might be able to skip the extraction altogether.

Not All Wisdom Teeth Need Extraction!q

Did you know that a wisdom tooth extraction isn’t a rite of passage?

That’s right, not every single person needs to have their last molars removed. As long as your wisdom teeth have plenty of room to come in straight, you should be able to hold onto them.

Of course, you will have to keep your third molars clean and healthy to avoid gum and dental problems. As long as you can properly reach those teeth to brush and floss them every day, they can stay healthy for a lifetime and won’t need extraction. Consider your wisdom teeth a bonus and consider yourself lucky!

If your wisdom teeth haven’t come all the way in yet, then a dentist will have to monitor them. Routine dental x-rays are the best way to track wisdom tooth development. Wisdom teeth that are impacted or show signs of growing in crooked may need extraction before they even erupt out of the gums.

What About Your Teeth?

The best way to find out whether or not your wisdom teeth should come out is to see a dentist. A Tacoma general dentist like Dr. Duke Bui will evaluate your oral health and tooth alignment using the latest technology. This will determine the condition your third molars are in and whether they pose a threat to your smile.

Are you ready to schedule a wisdom teeth consultation in Tacoma? Call Duke N. Bui, DDS, PS – Family Dentistry today to plan your appointment.