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Four Oral Health Issues Seniors Face

October 4th, 2017

Oral health is an important and often overlooked component of an older person’s general health and well-being. Dr. Jerome R. Baruffi and Dr. Austin J. Baruffi and our team know that for many of our older patients, oral health can become an issue when arthritis or other neurological problems render them unable to brush or floss their teeth as effectively as they once did. Today, we thought we would discuss four common oral health issues our older patients face and how they can avoid them:

Cavities: It’s not just children who get tooth decay—oral decay is a common disease in people 65 and older. Ninety-two percent of seniors 65 and older have had dental caries in their permanent teeth, according to the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research. The risk for tooth decay increases because many older adults don’t go to the dentist as often as they used to, thus cavities go undetected and untreated for longer than they should. Keeping regular appointments with Dr. Jerome R. Baruffi and Dr. Austin J. Baruffi is the key to getting cavities treated in a timely manner.

Difficulty eating: Oral health problems, whether from missing teeth, cavities, dentures that don’t fit, gum disease, or infection, can cause difficulty eating and can force people to adjust the quality, consistency, and balance of their diet.

Dry mouth: Also called xerostomia, dry mouth is a common issue for a lot of seniors. Our friends at the Oral Cancer Foundation estimate that 20 percent of elderly people suffer from dry mouth, which means the reduced flow of saliva (saliva plays a crucial role in preventing tooth decay). Many seniors are on multiple medications for a variety of chronic illnesses or conditions. Common medications taken that may cause dry mouth are decongestants, antihistamines, blood pressure medications, pain pills, incontinence medications, antidepressants, diuretics, muscle relaxers, and Parkinson’s disease medications. To help counter this, we suggest drinking lots of fluids and limiting your intake of caffeine and alcohol. We also encourage you to check with Dr. Jerome R. Baruffi and Dr. Austin J. Baruffi during your next visit if you think your medications are causing your mouth to feel dry.

Gum Disease: Gum (periodontal) disease is an infection of the gums and surrounding tissues that hold teeth in place. While gum disease affects people of all ages, it typically becomes worse as people age. In its early stages, gum disease is painless, and most people have no idea that they have it. In more advanced cases, however, gum disease can cause sore gums and pain when chewing.

Gum disease, which can range from simple gum inflammation to serious disease, is usually caused by poor brushing and flossing habits that allow dental plaque to build up on the teeth. Plaque that is not removed can harden and form tartar that brushing simply does not clean. Only a professional cleaning at our office can remove tartar. The two forms of gum disease are gingivitis and periodontitis. In gingivitis, the gums become red, swollen, and can bleed easily; in periodontitis, gums pull away from the teeth and form spaces that become infected.

Proper brushing, flossing, and visiting our office regularly can prevent gum disease. Seniors with limited dexterity who have trouble gripping a toothbrush should ask Dr. Jerome R. Baruffi and Dr. Austin J. Baruffi about modifying a handle for easier use or switching to a battery-powered toothbrush.

Aging and Oral Health

September 27th, 2017

As you age, it becomes even more important to take good care of your teeth and dental health. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, approximately one-fourth of adults age 65 and older have no remaining teeth. What's more, nearly one-third of older adults have untreated tooth decay.

Oral health, regardless of age, is crucial to overall good health. Ideally, we all want to keep your natural teeth, but whether you're caring for natural teeth or dentures, advancing age may put older adults at risk for a number of oral health problems, including:

  • Dry mouth
  • Diminished sense of taste
  • Root decay
  • Gum disease
  • Uneven jawbone caused by tooth loss
  • Denture-induced tissue inflammation
  • Overgrowth of fungus in the mouth
  • Attrition (loss of teeth structure by mechanical forces)
  • Oral cancer

These conditions may not be diagnosed until it is too late. If you want to feel good, stay healthy, and look great throughout life, you might be surprised what a difference a healthy mouth makes.

Here are some tips for maintaining and improving your oral health as you become older:

  • Brush twice a day with a toothbrush with soft bristles. You may also benefit from using an electric toothbrush.
  • Clean between your teeth once a day with floss or another interdental cleaner.
  • If you wear full or partial dentures, remember to clean them on a daily basis. Take your dentures out of your mouth for at least four hours every day. It’s best to remove them at night.
  • Drink tap water. Since most contains fluoride, it helps prevent tooth decay no matter how old you are.
  • Quit smoking. Besides putting you at greater risk for lung and other cancers, smoking increases problems with gum disease, tooth decay, and tooth loss.
  • Visit Southcenter Dental regularly for a complete dental checkup.

If you have any questions about keeping up with your oral hygiene at home, please give us a call!

Ten Fun Things to Do with Your Old Toothbrush

September 20th, 2017

Dr. Jerome R. Baruffi and Dr. Austin J. Baruffi and our staff recommend that you replace your worn-out, germy toothbrush with a new one every three months. But most people either forget or resist getting rid of something that is still “working.”

Maybe if they had a few ideas for putting that old toothbrush to good use, more people would take our advice? To encourage good oral practices, we offer these ten fun things you can do with your used toothbrush:

1. Let your five-year-old budding Da Vinci create a masterpiece with some paint and your old toothbrush.

2. Scrub oily areas on your face with your toothbrush. The bristles are perfect for removing embedded dirt and oil that clogs pores.

3. Pamper your hamster by brushing his fur with an old toothbrush.

4. Dab a bit of Vaseline on the bristles and comb your eyelashes: instant glamour! Got dry, flaky lips? Slough away by using a toothbrush on your lips.

5. Remove the bristles: instant small plant stakes!

6. Old toothbrushes are great for spot-cleaning just about anything.

7. When nobody is around to scratch an unreachable itch on your back, turn that old toothbrush into your personal backscratcher.

8. Is your dog’s breath so bad that all your houseplants have died? Try brushing his teeth with your old toothbrush so that his kisses (and breath) are more tolerable.

9. Give your fish the cleanest tank in the neighborhood by scrubbing it with your old toothbrush.

10. Did you notice a few gray hairs sprouting from your hairline this morning? Old toothbrushes were made for touch-up dye jobs; works for dyeing your eyebrows, too!

I have halitosis. What can I do?

September 13th, 2017

Halitosis is the fancy, scientific word for “bad breath.” Dr. Jerome R. Baruffi and Dr. Austin J. Baruffi and our team know there are several reasons why you may have halitosis; let’s look at a few:

  • Gum disease (also known as periodontal disease) – There are five main types of gum disease, and each one can range from mild to severe. For example the most common one is gingivitis; it is caused by bacteria in the plaque that has been allowed to build up, usually as a result of poor oral hygiene. A more serious and uncommon type of gum disease is called necrotizing periodontal disease. It is most common in people who have a suppressed immune system.
  • Smoking
  • Dry Mouth – This can be caused by something as simple as a medication you take.
  • Food – Of course, if you eat something that is potent like garlic, it is going to give you bad breath.
  • Diseases of the Body – Some diseases such as sinus infections and diabetes, among a few other types of infections, can also cause you to have halitosis.

How to Get Rid of Halitosis

The most obvious answer to how to get rid of halitosis is to practice good oral hygiene, although, depending on the cause of halitosis it may not be that simple. If you have an infection that is causing the halitosis then you may need an antibiotic to clear up the infection and then the bad breath will go away. Here are more tips:

  • Brush your teeth after every meal and before bed.
  • Floss your teeth. The more plaque you get out of your teeth, the better chance you have of not getting cavities or bad breath.
  • Address any medical conditions that are not related to your teeth that can be causing the halitosis.
  • Ask Dr. Jerome R. Baruffi and Dr. Austin J. Baruffi for a prescription mouthwash that kills bacteria.

Halitosis (bad breath) can be an embarrassing condition to live with, but there are plenty of ways to get rid of it permanently. Start by talking to a member of our team at our Tukwila, WA office.

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