How Osteoporosis medications can affect your dental health

Osteoporosis is a disease that weakens bones and increases the risk of fractures.

It affects about 10 million Americans – of whom 8 million are women – and another 34 million are at risk of developing it.

So this is a disease that affects more women than cancer, heart disease and stroke combined.

But what does it have to do with your dental care?

Well, many people in these categories are treated with a group of prescription drugs called oral bisphosphonates. Studies have reported that these drugs reduce bone loss, increase bone density and reduce the risk of fractures.

But some people have been alarmed and confused by recent news reports about oral bisphosphonates because of uncommon complications that have been linked to these drugs.

The drugs have been associated with osteonecrosis of the jaw (ONJ), a rare but potentially serious condition that can cause severe destruction of the jawbone.

The true risk posed by oral bisphosphonates remains uncertain, but researchers seem to agree that it appears very small.

Given the risks associated with osteoporosis and the proven benefits of oral bisphosphonate therapy, you should not stop taking these medications before discussing the matter fully with your physician.

If your physician prescribes an oral bisphosphonate, it’s important to tell your dentist so that your health history form can be updated.

In this case, some dental procedures, such as extractions, may increase your risk of developing ONJ, so your dentist needs to be able to take your full health picture into account.

Daily dental tips to cut down on plaque

Plaque is a sticky film of bacteria that forms on teeth and gums. If you let it build up on your teeth, it can lead to several problems.

The best way to remove plaque from the tooth surfaces is by brushing and cleaning between your teeth every day.

You should brush your teeth twice a day, with a soft-bristled brush. The brush should fit your mouth comfortably, allowing you to reach all areas easily.

When you use toothpaste that contains fluoride, this helps protect your teeth.

You can help even more by cleaning between the teeth once a day with floss or interdental cleaners. This removes plaque from between the teeth in areas the toothbrush can’t reach.

By taking a few steps each day to look after your teeth – and visiting your dentist regularly, you’ll be able to enjoy healthy teeth and a great smile all your life.

How smoking affects your teeth

While the general effects of smoking on your health are well-known, it can also have significant effects on your oral health.

Here are some of the ways smoking can harm your oral health and hygiene:

– Oral Cancer
– Periodontal (gum) disease
– Delayed healing after a tooth extraction or other oral surgery
– Bad breath
– Stained teeth and tongue
– Diminished sense of taste and smell

Research suggests that smoking may be responsible for almost 75% of adult gum disease.

Tobacco products damage your gum tissue by affecting the attachment of bone and soft tissue to your teeth. One effect is receding gums which expose the tooth roots and increase your risk of tooth decay or to sensitivity to hot and cold in these unprotected areas.

Cigar smoking is equally a major risk and even smokeless tobacco products contain a variety of toxins associated with cancer. Smokeless tobacco can also irritate your gum tissue.

Giving up smoking will provide a significant boost to your oral health as well as giving you the chance to live longer.

The secrets of avoiding gum disease as an older adult

Gum disease � also known as periodontal disease � often progresses slowly, without pain, over a long period of time and that’s one reason it is common among older adults.

The longer the disease goes undetected and uncontrolled, the more damage it causes to gums and other supporting tissues.

Although periodontal disease is caused by plaque, other factors can increase the risk or severity of the condition, including:
– Food left between the teeth
– Tobacco use � smoking and smokeless tobacco
– Badly aligned teeth
– Ill-fitting bridges or partial dentures
– Poor diet
– Systemic diseases such as anemia

Although periodontal disease is common, it can be controlled and, if caught in its early stages, it can be reversed. However, in advanced stages, it may require surgery.

Look out for the following warning signs and see your dentist if you notice any of them:
– Bleeding gums when you brush
– Red, tender or swollen gums
– Gums that have pulled away from the teeth
– Pus between your teeth and gums when the gums are pressed
– Loose teeth or teeth moving apart
– Any change in your bite
– Any change in the fit of your partial dentures
– Constant bad breath or bad taste

Keeping an eye out for these problems and having regular dental checkups can help you stop gum disease becoming a major and expensive problem.

How braces can be made to look good

Orthodontic appliances such as braces can be used to help straighten out crooked and crowded teeth.

This is not just about looking better; it also helps improve your dental health.

How they look may determine how you feel about wearing them but, these days, braces can be as inconspicuous as you want.

Brackets � the part of the braces that attaches to each tooth – can sometimes be attached to the back of the tooth, making them less noticeable.

The brackets can be made in a wide range of different materials such as metal, ceramic or plastic.

They can also be designed to look appealing. For example, they may be clear or tooth-colored. There can also be shaped in a variety of ways like hearts and footballs or created in favorite colors.

You could even go for gold-plated braces or glow-in-the-dark retainers!

How dental x-rays help improve your oral health

Many diseases of the teeth and surrounding tissues cannot be seen when your dentist examines your mouth so an X-ray examination can reveal important additional information:

For example, X-rays can help show:
– Small areas of decay between the teeth or below existing fillings
– Infections in the bone
– Gum disease
– Abscesses or cysts
– Developmental abnormalities
– Some types of tumors

The way they work is that more X-rays are absorbed by the denser parts (such as teeth and bone) than by soft tissues (such as cheeks and gums). This creates an image called a radiograph.

Tooth decay, infections and signs of gum disease appear darker because of more X-ray penetration. The interpretation of these radiographs allows the dentist to safely and accurately detect hidden abnormalities.

The frequency of X-rays (radiographs) will depend on your specific health needs.

Your dentist will review your history, examine your mouth and decide whether you need radiographs and what type.

When you are a new patient, the dentist may recommend radiographs to establish how the hidden areas of your mouth currently look to help identify changes that occur later.

X-rays can help identify and treat dental problems at an early stage and so can save time, money and unnecessary discomfort.

Tips on choosing the best dentist for you

Choosing the right dentist for your needs is one way to give you the best chance of maximizing your oral health.

If you don’t already have a dentist – or want to find one better suited to your needs – here are a few points to consider.

– Get recommendations from family, friends, neighbors or co-workers

– Ask your physician or a local pharmacist

– If you are moving to a different area, ask your current dentist for recommendations in your new location

– Contact the local or state dental society

You can also use Yellow Pages or the American Dental Association directory at www.ADA.org.

Effective dental care depends on a great relationship between the dentist and the patient so you may want to visit more than one before making your decision.

To help decide if a dentist is right for you, consider:

Is the office easy to get to from your home or job?

Are the staff helpful and friendly?

Does the office appear to be clean, tidy and well organized?

Is the appointment schedule convenient for you?

What arrangements are made for handling emergencies outside of office hours?

Does it cater for any special needs you have?

As you’ll need to work closely with your dentist in caring for your oral health, it’s worth taking time to ask questions and take notes to make sure you choose the right one for your needs.

How sedation and general anesthesia can make your visit to the dentist easier

While local anesthetics are often used in dental treatment, there is sometimes a need for anti-anxiety agents – such as nitrous oxide – or sedatives to help people relax during dental visits.

Dentists may use these agents to induce “minimal or moderate sedation”.

In this case, the patient reaches a relaxed state during treatment but can respond to speech or touch.

Sedatives can be administered before, during or after dental procedures by mouth, inhalation or injection.

More complex treatments may require drugs that can induce “deep sedation”.

This reduces consciousness and causes a loss of feeling which helps to reduce both pain and anxiety.

Sometimes patients undergo “general anesthesia” where the drugs lead to a temporary loss of consciousness.

A dentist may recommend deep sedation or general anesthesia for certain procedures with children or with adults who have severe anxiety or for people who have difficulty controlling their movements.

While these techniques to control pain and anxiety are used to treat tens of millions of patients safely every year, it’s important that you let your dentist know anything that might affect your ability to benefit from them for example, tell them about any illnesses or health conditions, whether you are taking any medications and if you’ve had any problems with allergic reactions to medications.

Fixing crowded and crooked teeth with orthodontics

Correcting problems with crowded and crooked teeth not only gives you a better smile, it also leads to a healthier mouth.

Malocclusion, also known as “bad bite”, involves teeth that are crowded or crooked.

Sometimes, the upper and lower jaws may not meet properly and, although the teeth may appear straight, the individual may have an uneven bite.

Problems such as protruding, crowded or irregularly spaced teeth may be inherited. But thumb-sucking, losing teeth prematurely and accidents also can lead to these conditions.

As well as spoiling your smile, crooked and crowded teeth make cleaning the mouth difficult. This can lead to tooth decay, gum disease and possibly tooth loss.

A bad bite can also interfere with chewing and speaking, cause abnormal wear to tooth enamel and lead to problems with the jaws.

Orthodontic treatment can help correcting these problems giving you a better smile but, more importantly, creating a healthier mouth.

Your dentist will advise you on how orthodontic treatment could help you.

How sealants can give your teeth extra protection

Sealants are made from plastic material applied to the back teeth to protect the enamel from plaque and acids.

The plastic bonds into the depressions and grooves (pits and fissures) of the chewing surfaces of the back teeth – premolars and molars.

Although thorough brushing and flossing can help remove food particles and plaque from smooth surfaces of teeth, the toothbrush bristles cannot reach all the way into the depressions and grooves to extract food and plaque.

The benefit of sealants is that they protect these vulnerable areas by “sealing out” plaque and food.

Your dentist can apply sealants quite easily and it takes only a few minutes to seal each tooth.

The teeth being sealed will first be cleaned. Then the chewing surfaces are roughened with an acid solution which makes it easier for the sealant to stick to the tooth.

The sealant is then ‘painted’ onto the tooth enamel, where it bonds directly to the tooth and hardens.

Sometimes a special curing light is used to help the sealant harden.

As long as the sealant remains intact, the tooth surface will be protected from decay.
They usually last several years before a reapplication is needed. Your dentist will check the condition of the sealants during your regular visits and reapply them when necessary.

Sealants are ideal for children because the risk of developing pit and fissure decay starts early in life. However, many adults can benefit from sealants as well.

Your dentist can tell you whether sealants would help your oral hygiene program.