Study: Oral Health Problem Looms For Aging Population

Urgent attention needs to be paid to frail older New Zealanders’ oral health, a University of Otago study has highlighted. In a world first, Otago researchers surveyed the oral health of 987 people living in aged residential care and found those with dementia, and older men in general, have dirtier and more decayed teeth. Otago Head of Department of Oral Sciences and lead author, Professor Murray Thomson, describes poor oral health as one of the “geriatric giants” with the situation a “major clinical and public health problem which is going to get worse.”

Older people have higher rates of cognitive and physical impairments that can adversely affect their oral self-care and complicate the provision of oral care, he says. “Neither the aged care sector nor the dental profession, in most countries, is prepared. Not only do we have more and more older people every year, but more and more people are entering old age with their own teeth, rather than full dentures, as was the situation just a couple of decades ago. “In some ways, dentistry has been a victim of its success – we have long emphasized the idea of ‘teeth for life’ without much thought to what happens towards the end of life. We also now know that half of those in old age will end up in residential aged care, and that more and more of those will have some form of dementia.”

Professor Thomson believed that “slow progress” was being made in the area. “It’s a very complex situation involving a lot of players – the aged care sector, the Ministry of Health, the dental profession, and the public. An encouraging sign is the inclusion of oral health in New Zealand’s Healthy Ageing Strategy. That’s a starting point, but there is a lot of work to be done,” he says.

Greater Rates Of Tooth Decay

Of those examined in the study – representative of the more than 14,000 New Zealanders living in aged care – recently published in the journal Gerodontology, about half had severely impaired cognitive function, and more than a third required fillings or extractions. Those with severely impaired cognitive function had greater numbers of teeth with decay. They also had higher oral debris scores, reflecting poorer daily oral hygiene care.

Professor Thomson says greater rates of tooth decay can result in dental and facial infections, poorer quality of life, malnutrition and difficulties in communication. The researchers also found that even the most cognitively impaired participants were able to be examined fairly easily, meaning that regular, routine removal of oral debris by carers should not be difficult. “The issue that we currently face is that much of that debris removal is not being done, and this, along with frequent exposure to sugary, over-processed meals and snacks, and poor salivary function, is enabling plaque and dental caries to flourish in aged residential care populations.”

For those wanting to improve or maintain their oral health, Professor Thomson has some simple advice: brush twice daily; clean carefully between the teeth at least two to three times per week; avoid having sweet drinks or snacks between meals – and that includes sugar in tea or coffee – it takes only a couple of days to get used to not having it; and avoid smoking. “For people who have poor oral health in middle age, it is not going to be any better in old age, and an honest, open conversation with a dentist about the options, which may include complete extraction, may be a very good idea.”

How To Prevent Gingivitis

The good news is that gingivitis is very easy to prevent! Most of the time, gingivitis symptoms occur in areas that need more thorough oral hygiene. While you might think you’re already practicing great oral hygiene, you might want to review the following tips to ensure you’re cleaning your teeth as well as you actually think you are. Because the bacteria under the gums in gingivitis is anaerobic – meaning that it lives in the absence of oxygen – getting oxygen into the area literally destroys the bacteria and helps halt the infection.


Always use a soft-bristled toothbrush. Many people use a medium to stiff bristled brush, but these can actually cause more harm than good. Too much pressure during brushing can cause gum recession and enamel abrasion, leaving large wedges in the roots of the teeth.

Consider an electric toothbrushHigh-quality electric brushes have soft bristles that are not only gentle on your teeth, but they also remove more plaque than manual toothbrushes, allowing you to clean your teeth and gums more efficiently. Many electric toothbrushes also create a foaming action that helps penetrate areas under the gums and between the teeth, flushing out some of the bacteria.

Reassess your brushing method. Angle your toothbrush bristles at 45 degrees toward the gumlines. Focus on just two teeth at a time, and make short sweeping strokes back and forth. Only apply as much pressure as you need to cause the gums to slightly blanch. Too much pressure or the wrong angulation will not target gumline plaque and could cause gum recession.

Use a pure, anti-bacteria toothpaste. Conventional toothpastes are filled with potentially harmful ingredients. Even “natural” toothpastes have abrasives and other additives. The best choice is to use a 100% pure botanical toothpaste that is proven to kill the bacteria that lead to gum problems like gingivitis, without any of the harsh chemicals.


Check your flossing technique. Flossing should not be simply taking a piece of floss and sliding up and down between the teeth several times. This can cause gum damage and does not target the plaque biofilm under the gums. Instead, wrap your floss in a “C” shape against each tooth, sliding up and down two to three times under the gumlines. This method protects the gums as well as helps remove debris that collects along the gum margin.

Think about using a water flosser. Water flossers are able to remove plaque deeply below the gums, between the teeth, and under hard to reach areas such as bridges or rough restorations that you might have problems cleaning with normal floss. Water flossers are great for people with limited dexterity or simply don’t want to mess with floss in the first place. They are shown to reduce symptoms of gingivitis even more than some electric toothbrushes.

Lifestyle Choices

Eat a balanced diet and get plenty of exercise. Eating the right foods, staying active and taking nutritional supplements can help strengthen your cardiovascular and immune systems, making it easier for your body to fight any infectious conditions.

Avoid tobaccoIf you smoke, you are more likely to suffer from untreatable gum disease. Conditions like gingivitis may not be evident because the cigarette smoke causes blood vessels to atrophy, so you may never even be aware that you have a problem to begin with. Once the gingivitis progresses into periodontal disease it is nearly impossible to reverse unless you give up smoking.

Receive routine preventive care from your dentist. Having routine cleanings can remove any calcified bacterial deposits that would otherwise harbor conditions that encourage gingivitis. Your dentist can also identify any problem areas that may be susceptible to gingivitis, such as aging dental work or fillings with rough margins. If you have crowded teeth your dentist may recommend orthodontic therapy, which makes it easier to keep teeth clean and healthy.

Rinse with a pure mouthwash. When your mouth is trying to heal, it needs all the extra help it can get. Rinsing is one of the best ways to kill excess bacteria and help promote a healthy environment in your mouth. It’s best to rinse twice per day, after brushing and/or flossing. Be sure to swish and gargle thoroughly to help kill the bacteria in the entire mouth including the back of the tongue. It’s best to avoid alcohol-containing mouthwashes, because they can try out the mouth. A dry mouth is a breeding ground for bad bacteria, which cause gingivitis and other gum problems.

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Loose Tooth Pain

loose tooth painAs you grow older, you’ll notice that certain things about your body will start to change and shift. One of those things will likely be the state of your mouth and the teeth within it. A myriad of factors like poor oral hygiene and lessened bone strength can attribute to a loose tooth or multiple teeth that become loose. This can be a frightening thing for people to go through as no adult wants to lose their teeth. There is also an amount of discomfort that often accompanies loose teeth.

In the event that you are experiencing loose teeth, there are a couple of different things that you can do. You can take care to not brush that tooth or around that tooth with too much pressure. Realize that may only make the pain or discomfort worse. Try gargling with warm salt water as that will ensure your tooth isn’t susceptible to a myriad of bacteria around the gum area. This will also help to soothe any pain or discomfort that you may be experiencing. If your tooth is only marginally loose, there are a couple of different options that you have in order to repair it back to its normal strength and stability.

There is a procedure called splinting that can often be used for teeth that are loose. This is when the loose tooth is joined with a neighboring tooth in order to gain stability. The teeth are typically joined by a very thin splint made from metal. This can sometimes cause soreness as the teeth become realigned. A bit of clove oil at the point of contact will help with the pain as it’s an antimicrobial and antibacterial. This will bond the tooth back and provide necessary stability from the tooth that is vulnerable.

Consider Deep Cleaning

You may also want to obtain a deep cleaning. Now while this may be one of the last things you want to do if you are already experiencing a bit of pain, this can help a loose tooth. This is because it will remove the plaque deposits and bacteria that may be surrounding your teeth. If your teeth happen to have a high amount of plaque or tarter buildup, this may potentially be the cause of your loose tooth to begin with. When your teeth are properly cleaned, they often have the ability to naturally restore themselves.

Another cause of pain and loose teeth is the involuntary grinding of teeth that people often engage in. This can be caused by a myriad of things. Usually stress and nervousness is the biggest contributing factor to those who clench their jaw and inadvertently grind their teeth. Using a mouth guard can help with this issue as it safely guards the teeth from any type of pressure that comes from a clenched jaw. It even makes it harder to grind your teeth because of the material the guard is made from. If you have a loose tooth that causes you pain, try some of these tips and see a dentist as soon as you can.

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What Causes Halitosis?

halitosis causesBad breath is no laughing matter. We’ve all been there. Whether you were the one whose mouth needed some freshening, or it was someone you were talking to, bad breath is hard to miss or adequately cover up. Many people think that by popping mints or chewing gum they are getting rid of the problem but that’s simply untrue. This only covers up the problem and doesn’t directly deal with potential causes. Halitosis, the medical name for bad breath, can be caused by a myriad of different things: diet, poor oral hygiene habits, medication or poor digestion.

Halitosis can be a direct result of odor-inducing microbes that gather between the teeth and on gums. While this type of bacteria is incredibly normal, those with poor hygiene become more susceptible to the effects of the odor, thus causing breath to smell sour. This happens because of the particles that are present in our food and drinks that often gets stuck in our mouth. Simply rinsing out your mouth after every meal can help to eliminate stray pieces of food that sometimes gets stuck.

Leading Causes Of Bad Breath

If you have a poor diet, you likely have troubles with digestion and this can be one of the leading causes of bad breath that goes unnoticed. If you aren’t eating foods that contribute to good health and proper digestion, you likely will have some irritating symptoms. Sometimes this manifests itself as gas, bloating, upset stomach or indigestion. Those who frequently deal with indigestion also deal with bad breath as the acid that is produced by the food they eat builds in their stomach and chest. Those who have trouble with belching often have bad breath for this very reason.

In order to really tackle the problem that bad breath is, you have to figure out what is causing the issue. Once you’ve pinpointed what it is, being able to eliminate the issue becomes easier. After that, start by really taking care of your oral health and hygiene. Brush your teeth at least twice a day and floss at least once. Rinsing your mouth on a daily basis will also help to dislodge food particles that will likely get stuck in your mouth throughout the day.  All-natural breath spray is a great product to incorporate into your oral health routine.

Next, make sure that you take stock and inventory of what you can change to improve your breath. This is going to be contingent on certain practices and lifestyles that you routinely take part in. If you’re a smoker, be aware that most people who smoke are going to naturally have bad breath simply because of the toxic chemicals they are putting in their bodies via their mouths. Bad breath is a symptom of a greater problem and once you pinpoint what is causing your halitosis, you can then take the proper steps and precautions to help prevent it and eliminate it.

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The Impact Of Liquid Diets On Your Teeth

liquid diets teethLiquid diets are all the rage. We’re bombarded daily with advice on how juicing can cleanse the body, the benefits of protein shakes as meal replacements, and even drinking tea to keep sickness at bay. While liquid diets do have value, they can be destructive to the teeth if you’re not careful.

“The biggest problem with liquid diets is the act of bathing your teeth in a liquid all day – they can be especially harmful if the liquid is acidic or has added or natural sugar,” said Cherri Kading, R.D.H., M.S., director of clinical operations at Texas A&M University Baylor College of Dentistry. “Tooth decay and erosion of tooth enamel are the biggest concerns associated with liquid diets.”

Like the name suggests, a liquid diet is when the majority of a person’s calorie intake comes from drinking liquids. Some liquid diets are limited to fruit or vegetable juices, or even shakes that replace all of your meals. While many liquid diets are personal choices, some need medical supervision.

Certain liquid diets like juicing do have related health benefits, but Kading emphasized some fruits are better than others for your teeth. “Apples, pineapples and grapes have more sucrose than fruits like berries and pears,” she said. “Fruits are good for us, but we need to be mindful of how much sugar we’re exposing the mouth to.”

Watch The Sugar Content

According to Kading, sugar and acids are some of the leading culprits behind tooth decay. “Sports drinks, soft drinks, and even some fruit juices are extremely acidic,” she said. “If you drink these chronically they can cause erosion, which is like a ‘melting away’ of the enamel. Sugar content in these drinks is troublesome, too, because sugar feeds the bacteria that live on the teeth and eventually causes decalcification – the beginning process of a cavity.”

The amount of liquid and how often we drink it per day is also key. “We need to ask ourselves how often are we drinking our tea, coffee or soft drinks,” Kading said. “If you’re constantly sipping on something that contains sugar or acid, your mouth never has time to recover from the effects these ingredients may cause. Saliva is what neutralizes the mouth, and it’s important to give the mouth a break from both acid and sugar so the saliva can do its job.”

Worth noting, water is the only liquid acceptable to sip all day. Kading stressed those who partake in liquid diets should always be drinking water along with any other liquids. “If you’re drinking water, this will help dilute, flush and cleanse the mouth,” she said.

If you’ve recently had oral or jaw surgery, liquids may be your only nutrient option – at least for a little while. Kading said health care professionals should always educate their patients on the cavity process, so they understand why proper care of the teeth is essential while on a liquid diet.

“You can’t just send the patient off with a special toothbrush or floss and tell them to use it. You have to tell them why it’s important,” she said. “If the patient doesn’t understand the ‘why’ behind proper oral care during a liquid diet, they are likely not to stick with their oral care regimen. Patients need to know not to sip on acidic drinks, to watch sugar intake and always rinse with water.”

But, don’t think liquid diets are all bad for the mouth. “There can be some benefits to liquid diets,” Kading said. “One is that liquids wash over your teeth and are easily rinsed out with water. The best way to approach a liquid diet is drink your shake or juice, rinse with water and then be done with it. The real harm lies in sipping on drinks and keeping your mouth awash in acids and sugar all day.”

Loose Teeth: What Causes Them?

tooth x-ray in the hand
tooth x-ray in the hand

While we can all agree that oral health care is incredibly important, some do not take it as seriously as they should until it is too late. Additionally, there is a myriad of different ways that our mouths can suffer from lack of proper care and dental hygiene. But not all mouth issues stem from lack of proper oral care. Oddly enough, the ways in which we can suffer, and the subsequent ailments we may incur, span quite a few different areas. When loss of teeth occurs as the result of something other than an accident, it could have potentially been prevented by detailed oral care, or can be a result of something else entirely.

Those who are suffering from loose teeth may have ignored prior signs that they have a gum condition, which is caused by bacterial biofilm, called periodontal disease. This causes inflammation in the gums and destroys all supporting structures of the teeth, more specifically the bone. The accumulation of plague that must occur for this to take place is plentiful. Little bits of plaque will not likely cause such an issue.

Other Causes

Pregnancy can also cause loose teeth. This is because the high levels of the hormones estrogen and progesterone can often cause the bones around the teeth to loosen, which can cause tooth mobility. It is imperative that once any sign of loose teeth is noticed, a dentist is contacted immediately. Quick reaction can be the difference between losing a tooth, or multiple teeth, completely. Don’t take that chance.

Another case of loose teeth, that is not directly tied to poor hygiene, is osteoporosis. This is a condition that affects both women and men. It causes the weakening of the bones which can lead to fractures and other problems. It is said that women who suffer from osteoporosis are more than three times more prone to losing teeth from the condition than those who are not. Though the treatment of osteoporosis is fairly common, it is important to inform your dentist if you are taking any medication for the condition.

As mentioned above, sometimes loose teeth can be caused by some sort of accident or traumatic force to the mouth. This can also happen if you grind your teeth significantly, or if you are known to clench your jaw. While teeth are incredibly strong and durable, consider any type of injury to your mouth a reason to see the dentist immediately.

Tooth loss is very serious and, while we’d all like to think that we have good habits when it comes to cleaning and tending to our mouths, sometimes our oral care regimen isn’t the only thing that will impact the longevity of our pearly whites. Whether it’s gum disease, pregnancy or osteoporosis, making sure you know exactly what is going on with your teeth is vital. At the first sign of a wiggling or loose tooth, it is imperative that your first order of business is visiting your dentist to confirm the options you have.

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