As people get older, their bodies change. One area that can be affected is oral health. To protect the longevity and beauty of your smile, you need to be aware of problems like gum disease and dry mouth. The following tips will help you enjoy strong teeth and optimal dental health.
Keep up with dental visits
Plan to see your dentist every six months for checkups. During these appointments, your dentist can assess your oral health and make recommendations for any necessary treatment.
Stay vigilant about home care
Older patients can be susceptible to increased plaque development. Brushing twice daily and flossing regularly will help protect your mouth from problems like cavities and gum disease.
Find the right products
Sometimes, mobility becomes an issue as you age. Consider purchasing an electronic toothbrush and/or extended flossers to make your oral hygiene routine easier.
Protect your dental appliances
If you wear dentures, treat them with care. Make sure to remove and clean them regularly to keep them in good condition and prevent odor build-up. It is also important to schedule periodic appointments, which will allow your dentist to check the fit and make any adjustments.
Be honest with your dentist
Make sure your provider stays up-to-date on your current medications and any health conditions, such as diabetes or heart disease. Having the big picture of your whole body will allow the dentist to tailor a dental care plan that will produce the best results and preserve your fabulous smile.
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The temporomandibular joint, shortened to TMJ, is the joint where the upper jaw and the lower jaw meet. It is located in front of each of your ears. The joints enable your jaw to move smoothly open and closed and from side to side. This allows you to chew, talk, and yawn. It is one of the most commonly used joints in your body, which also means that when there is something wrong with it, you’re sure to notice.
What causes TMJ problems?
It is unclear exactly what causes TMJ, but dentists believe that issues arise from problems with the jaw muscles or with the joint itself. Injuries like whiplash or a heavy blow can cause TMJ, but some of the other causes are a bit more subtle. These include teeth grinding or clinching, arthritis in the joint, dislocating the disc between the ball and socket, and stress.
What are the symptoms of TMJ?
There are many ways that TMJ presents itself, and not all patients have every symptom. Most commonly affecting people ages 20 to 40, TMJ pain can range from mild to severe, and symptoms may be temporary or last for years. The most common symptoms of TMJ include:
- Pain or tenderness in your face, jaw joint area, neck, shoulders, or ear
- Difficulty opening your mouth very wide
- Getting your jaws stuck in the open or closed position
- Popping, clicking, or grating sounds in your jaw joint when moving your mouth
- Feelings of fullness in your ear, or ringing in your ear
- Difficulty chewing
- Facial swelling
How is TMJ treated?
Treatments range from self-care techniques to appliances and even to surgery in severe cases. Most experts agree that conservative therapies should be tried first, with surgery as the last resort. Dentists also suggest that using several of the techniques in combination with one another may be helpful. Some treatments to try for TMJ problems are:
- Apply heat or ice packs.
- Eat soft foods.
- Take over-the-counter pain medications, or higher prescription doses prescribed by your dentist. Muscle relaxants and anti-anxiety medicines are also sometimes prescribed.
- Wear a splint or night guard, which are plastic mouthpieces that fit over your teeth to prevent you from clenching or grinding them.
- Avoid extreme jaw movements and chewing harsh items like gum or ice.
- Learn relaxation techniques to avoid muscle tension in your jaw.
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Conservative estimates suggest that 69 percent of adults have lost at least one tooth. When you don’t replace missing teeth, remaining teeth can shift out of place. You also face additional tooth loss if you leave gaps in your smile. As well, your jawbone may deteriorate, impacting your facial shape and oral function. Dental implants provide permanent replacements for missing teeth.
What is a dental implant?
Constructed from biocompatible titanium, a dental implant is a small, metal post that functions as an artificial tooth root. An implant can replace one lost tooth, or several implants can be used to stabilize dentures.
Am I a candidate for implant therapy?
Your dentist will perform a complete evaluation to determine if dental implants are a good solution in your case. To support implants, you need to be in good oral health and have enough bone mass to hold the posts in place. If your dentist has concerns about bone tissue, he or she may recommend a bone graft before implant placement.
How successful are dental implants?
With proper care, implants have a 95 to 98 percent success rate. Treat your implants like your natural teeth, which means brushing, flossing, and seeing your dentist for routine checkups.
What happens during implant therapy?
First, a skilled specialist will surgically position the posts into your jawbone. After surgery, your mouth will need time to heal. During this part of the process, the bone fuses to the implants, creating artificial tooth roots. Your dentist will complete the final phase by attaching permanent crowns to each post, giving you an attractive, full smile.
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Everyone knows to regularly replace air filters and oil in the car, but most people don’t change out their toothbrushes often enough. Because toothbrushes can harbor bacteria that contribute to gingivitis and periodontitis, you should get a new toothbrush about every three months. Committing to this schedule may also improve your health as toothbrushes can hold the germs that lead to infections like strep throat or common colds.
In between replacements, you can keep your toothbrush clean by soaking it after use in an anti-microbial mouthwash for around 30 minutes. If you buy different color toothbrushes for each family member, consider placing them in the dishwasher several times a week to ward off bacteria. Don’t share toothbrushes, even with a spouse or family member, as this can spread illness and germs.
When you get sick, change your toothbrush two days after you begin antibiotics or as soon as you feel better if you have a viral infection. Replacing your toothbrush will decrease the chances of re-infecting yourself. Research has shown that organisms like the ones responsible for the herpes simplex virus and common yeast-like infections can live up to seven days on a toothbrush.
Throw out your toothbrush when the bristles begin to look worn. Once the bristles start to fray, they don’t effectively remove plaque, which can build up and form tartar on your teeth. Most dentists recommend getting a soft bristle toothbrush so that you don’t damage your teeth and gums when you brush.
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