2333 E Campbell Ave
Phoenix, AZ 85016
14122 West McDowell Road Suite 200
Goodyear, AZ 85395
1121 S. Gilbert Rd. Suite 104
Mesa, AZ 85204
Allen, Jacqueline D.D.S.
6520 N 7th Ave # 7
Phoenix, AZ, 85013-1158
Lammot, Thomas D.D.S.
20950 N Tatum Blvd # 210
Phoenix, AZ, 85050-4268
Dr. Bruce L. Nelson *
1776 E. Glendale Avenue
Phoenix, AZ, 85020
Phoenix Pediatric Dental
6750 N 19th Ave
Phoenix, AZ, 85015-1127
The proverbial way of referring to older people as being "long on the tooth" suggests that it is predetermined that as we get older our teeth get "longer" or "no longer." This is not true.
Periodontal disease, plaque and loss of teeth is not an inevitable aspect of aging. Loss of attachment or bone support around a tooth is the result of a bacterial infection. What is true is that as we get older, we have more exposures to these infectious organisms, and more probability of being infected and developing periodontal disease. Half of the people over 55 have periodontal disease.
Risk factors that make older adults more susceptible to periodontal disease include:
Systemic diseases: Certain systemic diseases such as diabetes may decrease the body's ability to fight infection and can result in more severe periodontal disease. Osteoporosis also can increase the amount and rate of bone loss around teeth. Systemic illnesses will affect periodontal disease if it is a pre-existing condition. To reduce the effects of systemic diseases on the oral cavity, maintain meticulous plaque control and visit your dental care provider routinely for examinations and professional cleanings.
Medications: Heart medications can have a direct effect on the gums by creating an exaggerated response to plaque and resulting in gum overgrowth. Antidepressants may create dry mouth and reduce the saliva's ability to neutralize plaque.
Immunosuppressants and other disease-fighting medications may reduce the body's ability to combat infection, increasing the risk for periodontal disease. The dental care provider needs to be aware of any medications you may be taking and you need to maintain meticulous plaque control and visit your dental care provider routinely for examinations and professional cleanings.
Dry mouth: Lack of saliva can result from the use of certain medications or as a result of illness. If there is not enough saliva available to neutralize plaque it can result in more cavities and periodontal disease.
Also, dry mouth, or xerostomia, can make dentures more difficult to wear and may also complicate eating, speaking, or swallowing of food. Oral rinses or artificial saliva can be very helpful with these problems.
Frequent sips of water or eating candy may be helpful as long as it doesn't contain sugar. Fluoride rinses and gels are helpful in reducing or preventing the cavities that can be caused by having a dry mouth.
Dexterity problems: Physical disabilities can reduce dexterity and the ability to remove plaque on a daily basis. Poor oral hygiene can increase the risk for cavities and periodontal disease.
Electric toothbrushes and floss holders are helpful in improving plaque control. Frequent professional cleanings combined with oral anti-microbial or fluoride rinses also may be helpful in reducing the incidence of cavities and periodontal disease.
Estrogen deficiency: Older women may have some special concerns in relation to periodontal disease. Scientific studies have suggested that the estrogen deficiency that occurs after menopause may increase the risk for severe periodontal disease and tooth loss. Estrogen replacement therapy may reverse these effects.
It is important to keep teeth as we age because every tooth has an important function in chewing and speaking. They affect our appearance and self esteem.
Having dentures or loose or missing teeth can restrict our diets, resulting in poor nutrition and systemic complications. With the advances in modern dentistry and with current prevention and treatment techniques, we must count on keeping our teeth for a lifetime -- no matter how "long" that may be!
According to the American Cancer Society, about 30,000 new cases of mouth cancer are diagnosed annually in the U.S. About half of those who have oral cancer die within five years. Early detection can make a dramatic difference in treating the cancer at curable stages and reducing oral cancer deaths.
Early detection capabilities recently have been enhanced by a new computer-assisted mouth cancer screening tool. A nationwide study of 945 patients ranging in ages from 18 to 83 was conducted by dentists at 35 U.S. academic dental care sites.
Brush biopsy specimens were obtained from oral lesions as part of the extensive research, testing the accuracy of computer-assisted diagnostic equipment. The brush biopsy caused little or no bleeding and no anesthetic was required. The computer-assisted image analysis was used to identify suspicious cells in the samples.
The computer analysis properly identified every case of pre-cancerous and cancerous lesions as confirmed by lab tests from their traditional tissue evaluations. Additionally, it also correctly identified some lesions that were benign in appearance, but were actually found to be pre-cancerous or cancerous. Had it not been for this new diagnostic equipment, these lesions would have escaped detection and the patient would not have received any additional oral cancer testing.
"Early evaluation of oral pre-cancerous lesions can have a dramatic impact on oral cancer mortality rates," says Dr. James J. Sciubba, DMD, PhD, professor of Oral and Maxillofacial Pathology at State University of New York at Stony Brook, who also serves as a spokesperson for the study. Early-stage mouth cancers are not easily detectable by visual inspection and may be overlooked.
The oral cancer scanner provides dentists a new evaluation tool that can lead to a significant reduction in cancer deaths. An estimated 8,100 people will die from mouth cancer this year. This new dentistry tool has shown remarkable merit as a reliable dental health device. By providing an accurate diagnosis, it has become a crucial weapon in the fight against oral cancer.
By Brian J. Gray, DDS, MAGD, FICO