Oral Health Care – Rethinking The Approach As We Grow Older

Dr Chirag Kothari

Our later years can present new opportunities, and having a healthy mouth is key advises Dr Kothari

Whether we like it or not, the vast majority of us will grow old. When we are younger, we may not look forward to this time, and may even see it as a period of potential ill health and boredom.

Whilst this may be the case for some older people, many find that when they finally arrive there, their later years can present opportunities to try new things, or things that they didn’t have time for whilst they were working.

We may not want to go to all night raves, or ‘pogo’ to punk music, but tastes change, and some would argue that accepting these changes makes for a much happier later life. Whether you enjoy walking, reading, writing or even bird watching, these later years can offer great opportunities to enjoy life in a different way.

Oral health issues

There is no denying that, as people are living longer, they may well experience more illness and much of this can be managed through the use of medicines and therapies. Oral health is no different. Being older does present additional challenges to the teeth and gums, but, with good care, these can be managed, or, where teeth are too badly damaged, restored using one of the range of cosmetic procedures that we have available at the Foxhall Dental Practice in Ipswich.

Wear and tear through longer use, often resulting in chips and cracks in the teeth are more common. Gum disease too is a real challenge, especially as older people produce less saliva. If left untreated, having weaker, unstable teeth can detract from some of the enjoyment of our later years, especially as far as our food is concerned.

The challenges

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Five Things To Know About Root Canal Treatment

Dr Hiten Pabari

Ipswich dentist Dr. Hiten Pabari, explains why you might need this treatment, and its benefits.

‘Root canal’; the words that most patients dread hearing. It is probably not surprising that this is considered to be a terrifying treatment by many patients given the various myths that have cropped up around it. As is often the case though, the reality is completely different, and it is now widely considered that this myth arose from times when dental care was more rudimentary, and perhaps, the treatment was not as comfortable as it is now.

At the Foxhall Dental Practice, we have no desire to see any of our patients in discomfort; indeed, we are here to both prevent that and treat anything that may be causing you pain. You can be sure that our team will look after you well during any treatment and cause the minimum of stress and discomfort possible when any is needed.

As the root canal procedure is one of the most widely feared, it is worth taking a look at the procedure in more detail.

What is a root canal?

There are three major parts of a tooth; the enamel, the protective outer ‘shell’, the dentin layer, the softer and more porous layer beneath the enamel, and the root canals. These canals are where the nerves and blood vessels are located. This is sometimes referred to as the tooth ‘pulp’. With a healthy tooth, this should cause no problems at all, but if the enamel breaks or cracks, and decay sets in, if it reaches this part of the tooth, trouble will almost certainly follow.

What happens if it does?

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Oral Health Education For Kids

child friendly

UK children are at the bottom of the class when it comes to oral health education.

A survey recently carried out by YouGov has found that, when it comes to oral health education, children in the UK are at the bottom of the class, with less that one in three being taught about the importance of looking after their teeth and gums. Whilst some might say that this is a political issue and some subjects have to be prioritised over others, the reality is that this lack of early years oral care education can only have negative consequences for the children involved, as they grow up.

There is a saying that ‘old habits die hard’ and many of the habits that we have in our adult years stem from our early life. If teachers, and parents, aren’t teaching their kids about oral health care, there is every chance that they will neglect their teeth. Evidence of this can be found in the record number of children having to go to hospital to have teeth extracted.

What can we do as parents?

There are a number of routes that can be taken to start to address this problem. The most obvious one is political pressure. This can be hard work though and can take many years to achieve much progress at all. You could also try contacting your child’s school and raising this issue and there may be ways that teachers can incorporate elements of oral healthcare education into other lessons. Ultimately though, the only surefire way is to make sure that you teach them yourself, from an early age, how to look after their teeth and gums, and make sure that they understand why they need to do so.

This is easier said than done, of course. Not only can children be wilful and often see their parents as a source of authority that needs to be challenged (this seems to be less the case with teachers), but also, many parents are not always up to date with the latest dental care information.

Get the basics right

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Autism And Oral Health Care

Helping parents with children who have Autism Spectrum Disorder.

It can be a challenge for any parent, to encourage their children to see a dentist on a regular basis. For parents of autistic children though, the challenge can be even greater.

The sensory overload of sounds and smells that children encounter when they enter the dental environment can be particularly challenging for autistic children, and especially when combined with an unpredictable outcome of the visit, i.e. will they need treatment or not.

Unfortunately, these difficulties sometimes mean that children with autism have rather poor oral health in general and may even eventually require hospital treatment in some cases.

Although it may still be a challenge, there are a number of ways that parents can help the child to have better oral health, and our Ipswich dental team take a look at these in today’s Foxhall Dental Practice blog.

Oral care at home

The basics of healthy teeth and gums start at home for all of us. This can be encouraged in young autistic children through building a solid explanation of the building blocks of good oral care. Autistic children usually like certainties, and you can build on these through explanations of what a toothbrush does, the role of the toothpaste etc, and why you should brush your teeth both morning and evening. It may take a little time, but if you can build up this process into a routine that they are familiar and comfortable with, this will be a positive step in the right direction.

Eating habits

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Problematic Dentures? – Now Might Be The Right Time To Replace Them

full arch dental implants

Ipswich specialist prosthodontist, Hiten Pabari, looks at why some patients are increasingly ‘ditching the dentures’.

Dentures, whether partial or full, are currently the most common method used to replace lost or missing teeth. This has long been the case, and the quality of modern dentures is certainly superior to older types. Even with the many advances in denture production though, they aren’t for everyone, and some people do experience a number of issues with them.

Despite this, a lot of people tend to stick with their dentures, finding a way to deal with the sometimes unstable moments and perhaps taking painkillers to deal with the sore gums that can occur from time to time, especially when the dentures no longer fit as comfortably as they should.

Time for a decision

Even for those who have become used to their dentures, there comes a time when it just feels right to consider either replacing them with a new set, or looking at another tooth replacement alternative altogether. There are a number of possible reasons that might trigger this line of thinking, including:

Sore gums – Loose fitting dentures will move around the mouth slightly, causing friction between dentures and gums, which often leads to soreness and irritation.

Speech or eating problems – Dentures that no longer fit correctly can cause speech impediments and difficulty in eating certain foods.

Headaches, neck pain and earache – Although these can be caused by other conditions, such as a virus, if these symptoms persistently occur, it may well be due to your poorly fitting false teeth.

Discolouration and smell – Dentists generally suggest that dentures have an expected lifespan of between five and ten years. Eventually, even the most expensive dentures are likely to show signs of wear and discolouration, and may also start to give off an unpleasant odor.

When some, or all of these issues arise, it is time to consider the various options available to you at the Foxhall Dental Practice in Ipswich.

New dentures or an alternative?

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Springtime Oral Health Tips

oral hygiene equipment

With the first signs of Spring, now is the time to consider a ‘spring clean’ of your oral health habits.

Perhaps we are jumping the gun a bit, but there are early signs of spring everywhere, with snowdrops and crocuses starting to push their way through the earth. Even the sun seems to be finding a way through the gloom from time to time.

With this new season often comes a sense of renewal, of a chance to start afresh. We can apply this to the way that we look after our teeth too.

Below, the team at the Foxhall Dental Practice in Ipswich offer some suggestions as to what you can do to refresh the way that you look after your teeth and gums this season and onwards.

New toothbrush time

Toothbrushes aren’t generally expensive. Despite this, some people continue to use the same toothbrush for much longer than it is effective to. So why not use Spring to make a new start? Throw out your old toothbrush and replace it. The same applies to your electric toothbrush, or more specifically, to the head of it. Make sure too, to keep your electric toothbrush charged or replace batteries to make it more effective. This is a simple and inexpensive way of improving how you look after your teeth. If you do this at the start of Spring, you can then do the same at the start of each new season, making it an easy way to change your brush, or head, every three months.

Check mouthwash expiry dates

Especially if you are only an occasional user, have a look at the expiry date of any mouthwash that you have. Mouthwash that is past its ‘use by’ date will be less effective at fighting the bacteria that can play a role in gum disease.

Stock up on floss

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Grandma, Why Are Your Teeth So White?

white smiles on older people

Attractive teeth in later life.

Although the caricature of a Grandmother is probably an elderly lady sitting in front of a fire knitting a sweater or scarf, the fact is that it is quite possible to be a Grandmother in your forties or fifties.

Of course, to young children, you are probably going to be an ‘oldie’ whether you are 40 or well into your 90s, but for ourselves, well, we generally like to feel as young as we possibly can, whatever the grand kids think!

No one can avoid getting older, and it certainly does take its toll on our bodies. We can help to alleviate some of the worst symptoms of this through healthy eating and exercising, but some things, such as wrinkles, will eventually happen anyway (although, we can help with this through our facial aesthetic treatments).

One area that often gives away our age, is our teeth. Even if we have looked after them well, and they are otherwise healthy, most of us will lose some of the sparkle or brightness that our teeth had when we were younger.

Teeth discolouration

Whilst surface discolouration of our teeth can certainly play a role in their appearance, the likelihood is that the main reason that our teeth no longer have the sparkle that they used to do is down to internal discolouration. This inner part of our teeth will darken with age, no matter what we do to try to stop it. As the external enamel layer of our teeth is translucent, this darkness will eventually show through, making our teeth look dull, and sometimes yellow, in appearance. All of this adds to the overall ageing effect.

Whilst it isn’t actually harmful to our teeth, discolouration is certainly not desirable, especially for someone who wants to look younger for as long as possible. Below, our team of Ipswich cosmetic dentists investigate how this problem can be reversed.

Surface staining

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Dry Socket Following Tooth Extraction

fast dental care

Monitoring your mouth after having a tooth removed.

Having a tooth extracted is a relatively common procedure. Although, with good home care, and regular visits to the dentist, we hope to minimise the need for this, there are occasions when an extraction might be the only viable option.

It is always best to keep your natural teeth wherever possible, but, where a tooth is severely decayed or has broken so badly that it is causing problems, extractions, and replacement by a denture, bridge or dental implant, is sometimes the best solution.

Although no one enjoys losing a tooth, the procedure itself is usually relatively straightforward. A local anaesthetic is given and then the tooth in question then manoeuvred gently until it is loosened  from the bone holding it in place. It can then be removed from the socket. Some extractions may be more complicated, such as when the tooth has broken off at the gum line. This may require the services of an oral surgeon, but should still pose no real problems in most cases.

After an extraction

When a tooth is removed, as you might expect, the area will bleed. This is an important stage in the healing process. Naturally, the flow of blood needs to be stemmed, and this is done by placing a piece of sterile gauze over the hole left by the extraction. This helps to encourage a blood clot which both seals the hole and starts the recovery process. Occasionally, this may become dislodged, or start to bleed again. Patients of the Foxhall Dental Practice will be given additional gauze in case this happens, and this is, again, placed over the area until a clot has formed.

Care should be taken not to dislodge the clot, whether by poking it with the tongue or when cleaning the teeth. For this reason, it is important not to brush that area for some time, instead tipping a saline solution over it to help prevent infections. Full aftercare advice will be given at the time of the procedure.

Dry socket

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What Actually Happens To Your Body Once You Have Stopped Smoking?

gum disease probe

A timeline of how your body reacts to the lack of nicotine and tar entering its system.

At the Foxhall Dental Practice in Ipswich, we have long encouraged our patients to stop smoking.

Aside from a reduced amount of coughing coming from our waiting room, the benefits of not smoking are not just in better breathing and better health, but, as we’ve addressed before, in a reduction in tooth staining as well as less chance of gum disease and oral cancers.

It should go without saying that stopping smoking alone will not entirely resolve these problems, and ongoing dental care at our Ipswich practice is essential. By cutting out those cigarettes and other tobacco based products though, you will have made a significant start on the way to better oral and general health.

Rather than discuss oral cancers and gum disease this time, we thought that it would be interesting to take a look at the timeline of what actually happens to your body when you quit smoking. We know that many people struggle to quit, and understanding the process of what happens to your body may be helpful.

So .. you have finally stubbed out your last ever cigarette (hopefully) … and the clock starts ticking.

Twenty minutes

Yes, even just twenty minutes after your last cigarette, changes start to happen in your body. Any smoker will tell you that their cigarette gives them a ‘lift’. This is because nicotine is a stimulant, and one which raises both heart rate and blood pressure. Within twenty minutes, your body will start to recover as the effect of the stimulant wears off and your heart rate and BP return to normal.

Eight hours

This is an unpleasant time for many people who quit as it is around the time when those cravings really start to kick in and you may find yourself giving in and lighting another cigarette for relief. When you stop smoking, try to arrange it so that you will be doing something to take your mind of it at this time.

Your first day without a cigarette

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Your Christmas And New Year Dental Guide

Don’t let your teeth and gums suffer during the holiday season.

Like our own team, we are sure that most of our Ipswich dental patients are looking forward to the forthcoming festivities. It is a time to relax and enjoy time spent with friends and family.

In many ways it is a carefree time, but one that can pose problems for the health of our teeth and gums if we are not careful. This does not mean that you have to be a ‘killjoy’ to protect your teeth, but simply observing a few basic rules can make all the difference for your oral health at this time of the year.

Your festive diet

There is no need to deny yourself the pleasures of Christmas food, but there is a case to be made for keeping an eye on what you eat at this time of the year. As long as we take care to clean our teeth well, they should be capable of withstanding harm from a few indulgent luxuries. That said, we can also help by perhaps not over indulging too much.

It is often not the food that we consume at mealtimes that is the problem. It is usually the bowl of sweets and chocolates that we can conveniently dip our hands into throughout the day. This continual ‘grazing’ means that our teeth are in almost constant contact with sugars throughout the day, and not leaving a break means that the enamel on our teeth doesn’t get the chance to remineralise properly, making it more vulnerable to decay and damage. Try to give your teeth a bit of a break between eating where you can, and perhaps alternate chocolates etc with more tooth friendly foods.

Take care too when eating foods such as Christmas puddings. These are generally soft, but some may also contain nuts. If you are expecting a ‘soft chew’ and your teeth come into contact with a particularly hard ingredient, it could cause the tooth to crack or break, especially if it has already been weakened through having a large filling or root canal treatment in the past. It is probably no longer relevant as this is now a bit of an old fashioned custom, but it should go without saying, that putting a coin in the pudding is a bad idea too!

Alcohol

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