Friday, January 25, 2013

The Importance of Regular Dental Care As We Age

I had my regular six month dental checkup this morning and it got me thinking about the importance of dental care. For most of you, this is probably a no-brainer but throughout my life, I have been surprised by the number of people I've met who do not make regular trips to the dentist (mostly by choice). In fact, I know at least two women who lost all or most of their teeth by the age of 15 and were fitted with full dentures. The parents of both ladies did not place any emphasis on dental care during childhood and, unfortunately, my friends suffered because of that. Consequently, they raised their children differently, making sure that they had regular dental appointments.

While in the dentist's chair, I thought about how my dental needs have changed over the last twenty years or so. Other than a brief time of no dental insurance (after a divorce), I have always seen my dentist every six months. The year and a half when I did not see my dentist regularly ended up costing me not only money down the road when I had to "fix" the problems associated with that dental hiatus, but also the pain of extra deep cleanings and the drilling that new cavities required. 

To keep my smile fresh and vibrant, I really do need regular cleanings (despite my best efforts, my teeth do get dull by the end of the six months). Don't get me wrong..I HATE the picking and scraping that is involved in a hygienist visit (especially on my bottom front teeth) but it is absolutely necessary to keep my teeth and gums healthy.  

A common occurrence as we age, I have also developed "dry mouth," which causes not only my breath to be stale at times, but also causes plaque and tartar problems in my mouth. Dry mouth can be brought about by a number of things but is often exacerbated by medication. I already drink lots of water but that was not enough to solve the problem. My dentist finally recommended Biotene toothpaste (you can purchase it here as well as in most drugstores) and in addition to that, I use their gum. Biotene also offers various dental rinses, sprays and moisturizing rinses. They really do work!

Gum health is also extremely important. Did you know that " bad gums" can indicate the presence of problems other than just in the mouth? I have personal experience with a couple of people who have sleep apnea and they were told that the gums will often show the impact of improperly treated apnea. In one case, my friend's gums were bleeding and inflamed, despite regular brushing, flossing and dental care. It was eventually discovered that he had a deviated septum and that he was not getting sufficient air during the day AND at night, even with a CPAP machine! Once the deviated septum was corrected, the health of his gums was restored.

I'm sure there are lots of reasons why people don't get regular dental care (besides not having insurance). Several people I know are just plain scared of going to the dentist. Almost all of them had bad experiences as children. And without exception, each of them is prescribed medication, by their dentist, to relax them prior to the dental appointment. It works for them and is worth looking into if you have a similar problem!

How about you? What's your "history" with the dentist?