2. Oral Systemic Connection
Did you know that the health of your mouth can affect the health of your body? Recent scientific research suggests a very strong correlation between chronic oral infections from periodontal (gum) disease and systemic health. Research at major universities and medical centers strongly supports an oral systemic connection. According to published statistics, more that 60 million Americans show signs of periodontal disease, a chronic bacterial infection that affects the gums and bone supporting the teeth. Almost 30% show signs of the more severe disease, chronic periodontitis. We now have reason to believe that the health of your teeth and gums may have a significant effect on the overall health of your body. To “at risk” patients, this added burden could have a complicating effect on their pre-existing medical conditions.
According to numerous studies, there are three ways oral disease may affect your overall health. Bacteria can enter into your blood stream from the bleeding (infected gums). Bacteria can enter your bloodstream through an infected tooth. Once the bacteria is in the bloodstream it can travel to all other areas of your body. Oral (mouth) bacteria have been found in autopsies of stroke victims, aneurysms and even in the brains of Alzheimer’s patients. Also, bacteria from your gums enter the saliva. From the saliva it may adhere to water droplets within the air you inhale each time you breathe. These bacteria laden water droplets may be aspirated into the lungs, potentially causing pulmonary infection and pneumonia. This can be very troublesome for the elderly or those who may suffer from generalized weakened immunity, associated with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). Inflammatory mediators found in inflamed gums called “cytokines” can also enter your saliva. As they too are aspirated into the lungs, they have pro-inflammatory effects on the lower airway, which can contribute to further pulmonary complications.
The key is to keep these bacteria levels extremely low by keeping the teeth healthy, gums firm and pink so they do not bleed preventing direct entry into your blood stream. Traditional methods of excellent oral hygiene are still the first line of defense. For patients who need additional “tools in the toolbox” to fight the bacteria, we now can perform oral DNA testing to know exactly what bacteria we are dealing with so we can target them with specific antibiotics tailored to the offending bacteria.
3. Ill-fitting dentures – what are the problems?
Destruction of the jawbone
Jawbone gradually shrinks over time, but dentures don’t shrink. When the denture no longer fits exactly to the jawbone more bone destruction occurs at a faster rate. Some people are proud that they have worn the same set of teeth for 20-30 years but often we discover much greater bone damage than what normally should have occurred.
You look older
As jawbone shrinks a sunken facial appearance often makes people look older. There is an increase in deep age lines and wrinkles. A new denture may be able to lengthen the face, eliminating some of these unwanted features and without plastic surgery.
Undetected oral cancer
Guess what? Patients without teeth still need dental checkups. How often does your MD look in your mouth? Hundreds of diseases occur in the mouth. Oral cancer has the most serious consequence. It may appear as a red or white sore or bump which may or may not be painful. Other signs may be swollen lymph nodes of the neck, and difficulty swallowing and speaking. Most times oral cancer may not even be noticed by the person affected by it until it is too late. This is especially true for denture wearers. Please see your dentist for an oral cancer screening!
If the teeth move and flop around the cheek and tongue you struggle to form words and control the denture. The ability to speak involves the tongue, teeth, lips, cheeks and the roof of the mouth. A denture that’s properly fitted allows all 5 of these components to work together properly.
Risks of denture adhesive – Zinc
Millions of people use denture cream (also known as denture adhesive). Some, but not all, denture creams contain zinc. Recent case reports in the scientific literature indicate a possible association between excessive use of zinc-containing denture creams and neurological and hematological problems.
In each situation, the patients had ill-fitting dentures and reported using excessive amounts of denture cream with zinc for years. These individuals reported using two or more tubes of denture cream per week for years. The researchers theorize that the patients swallowed excess denture cream exposing them to excessive amounts of zinc over a period of years. It is well documented that swallowing excessive amounts of zinc can raise blood levels of zinc which can lead to lower blood levels of copper. The lower blood level of copper can then lead to brain and blood disorders.
In 2010, GlaxoSmithKline, a major manufacturer of denture cream, voluntarily decided, as a precautionary measure, to stop using zinc in the following denture cream brands: Super Poligrip Original, Super Poligrip Ultra Fresh and Super Poligrip Extra Care.
Dentures only have about one sixth the chewing power and ability of teeth when fitting properly. Ill-fitting dentures can be a culprit in poor nutrition among seniors. When a person loses his natural teeth, his jaw bones begin to shrink away, leading to the jaw continually “remodeling” itself. Dentures that once fit well start slipping. So, a senior may start limiting the kinds of food he eats because it’s too hard to eat, or because he’s embarrassed that others may see him having trouble chewing. And it happens during a really important stage of a person’s life. Especially for frail seniors who really need their nutrition.
If a senior does lose their natural teeth, instead of traditional dentures, she could have implant-supported dentures. These implants are attached to the jaw bone, and a special denture snaps onto the implants. These implant-supported dentures fit more snugly than traditional dentures, so eating different foods shouldn’t be a problem.
Secondly, bacteria associated with periodontal disease can enter the body’s circulatory system through the gums (periodontium) around teeth and travel to all parts of the body. As the oral bacteria travels, it may cause secondary infections or it may contribute to the disease process in other tissues and organ systems. Finally, inflammation associated with periodontal disease may stimulate a second systemic inflammatory response within the body and contribute to or complicate other disease entities that may have an inflammatory origin such as, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, orthopedic implant failure and kidney disease. Whatever the route oral bacterial may influence, it is in every patient’s best interest to maintain their mouth in an optimum state of health.
The trend of good dental health for seniors and keeping their teeth longer is expected to increase, and the number of seniors is expected to keep growing as the “Baby Boomers” begin to cross the threshold out of middle age. Dentistry for older adults will increasingly become focused on prevention, restoration, and maintenance, rather than on replacement.
Our Senior Dental Services
Our practiced offers an extensive range of services that are specially catered to the needs of seniors including:
- Dental cleanings
- Oral health exams
- Restorative treatments
- Dental implants
- Full & partial dentures
- Periodontal care
- Many other services
Schedule an Appointment
If you are looking for senior dentistry in the McHenry or Crystal Lake area, please contact our office. Dr. Hasken and our McHenry dental team is committed to providing exceptional care and empowering our patients with information about their dental health. If you have any questions about our dental services or would like to schedule an appointment, we invite you to give us a call at 815-385-0777. Advanced dental equipment, the experience of our Dentist Dr. James A. Hasken, and the skills of our staff have helped us in successfully treating oral problems in many of our patients who visit us from different parts of McHenry and Crystal Lake. We would love the opportunity to speak to you and discuss your oral health.