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Dentistry and the Senior Patient

by Dr. Alfred G Bove’, DMD

You cannot listen to the news without hearing about the latest improvements which make our lives healthier and longer. Technological advances in medicine and pharmacology leave us with the following question…so we are living longer but what changes occur with living longer lives?

Dentistry, since its early onset as a trade, has become better aligned over the years as an integral part of medicine. The health of the dental/oral cavity has a very high and important relationship to what goes on in the rest of the body. Here are some interesting historical facts and statistics:

  • Toothbrushes and toothpaste precursors date back to approximately 3500 B.C. Egypt’s version was called “chew sticks” and China’s version was made with hog bristles.
  • Floss was invented in 1815 by a New Orleans dentist, using silk thread.
  • Fluoride and its cavity-reducing abilities was discovered around 1914. Added to water and toothpaste products, reducing tooth decay up to 70% in some cases.

These inventions were indicative of the importance of dental health, even back in ancient times. Nobody likes a toothache!

  • Mouths are full of bacteria, nearly 300 different types, but many are beneficial, and the mouth is a balancing act between beneficial and caries-causing bacteria.
  • Many medications can cause drying of the mouth, called “xerostomia”. Decreased flow of saliva provides less protection to the teeth and gums, and a potential change in the pH of the mouth. Saliva is a powerhouse of protection!

There are many important connections to oral/dental problems and general health problems including:

  • Endocarditis – many of the same bacteria that live in the mouth also like to adhere to heart muscle and vessels.
  • Cardiac Disease – increase mouth inflammation can mean increase in arterial inflammation.
  • Periodontal Disease has been linked to premature births and lower birth weights.
  • Diabetes – if poorly controlled, there is a decreased resistance to infection, and periodontal disease is generally more frequent and severe.
  • HIV/AIDS – an immune insufficiency may equate with a higher incidence of tooth decay and periodontal disease.
  • Osteoporosis – weakened bones means potential for more brittle jaws and teeth
  • Correlation of premature tooth loss (under the age of 35) to a higher incidence of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.

Preserve your overall health with these common sense tips:

  • Brush twice a day. Floss daily. These keep your bacterial load down.
  • Healthy, lower sugar/less processed foods.  Limit your snacking.
  • Minimize smoking/tobacco/alcohol. These all tend to increase dental issues.
  • Replace your toothbrush every 3-4 months, or after a bad cold/flu.
  • Schedule regular dental visits as determined by your dentist (not by your insurance, how you “feel”, etc). Pain is the LAST indicator of a problem.

Dr. Alfred G Bove’, DMD, of Bove’ Dental, is a general/cosmetic dentist with nearly 30 years in the dental health field. His intention is to be a partner in your dental and overall general health. Dr. Bove is located at 2500 E Oakland Park Blvd. He can be reached at 954-564-0181 or at BoveDentistry.com