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Dental Care for the Middle Aged

A recent study of dental care of the middle aged (age 50 – 64) presents a disconcerting picture. Their needs and expectations after age 65 are very uncertain. This study was conducted by the University of Michigan Institute for Healthcare Policy and Innovation and supported by AARP. The current state of dental care and oral health among the middle aged is a surprise to many. We know that older Americans find it difficult to pay for dental care. This study casts light on the challenges faced by thosesm graphicstock cbi-0216-038 013 220614 approaching retirement.

  • “One in three . . . say they’re embarrassed by the condition of their teeth.”
  • A slightly larger percentage of middle aged Americans report dental problems that cause pain, difficulty eating, missed work, or other health problems in the last five years.
  • And, 40 percent don’t get regular cleanings or other preventive care that could help to prevent problems in the future.
  • 28 percent of those in the study reported having no dental insurance coverage.
  • Among those who seek care only for serious dental problems, 56 percent are without dental insurance.
  • 28 percent of those surveyed have no dental insurance.
  • 56 percent see a dentist only for serious dental problems.

In terms of current oral health there is a serious divide among middle aged adults around those who have insurance and good dental care (including prevention) and those who do not. Thus, the cost of preventive dental care (with or without insurance) is a significant barrier for many middle-aged Americans. Other reasons for not visiting a dentist regularly include being afraid of the dentist, could not find time to visit a dentist, or could not find a dentist.

 

More than one in 4 have no dental insurance now. Without preventive care and regular treatment of emerging problems, their oral health is likely to decline.

 

As middle-aged Americans look to the future and their dental care needs

  • 51 percent said they don’t know how they will get dental insurance after age 65.
  • 13 percent expect to count on Medicare and Medicaid for their dental needs.
  • Medicare pays nothing for dental care; Medicaid coverage is very limited.

Despite the fact that most of the participants in this study understand and agree with the importance of preventive dental care, and understand the link between dental health and overall health, those who are currently middle-aged face a very challenging landscape for receiving appropriate dental care after age 65.

 

We know the number of Americans now over the age of 65 who face challenges in obtaining and paying for dental car. This study indicates that we can only look forward to a worsening situation as those currently middle-aged also face the same challenges in obtaining and paying for dental care. The question is what we can do and what we will do to improve the dental health of our seniors and how they can be expected to pay for treatment? The solution probably lies in some combination of changes and improvements that will address this issue. Some elements of a solution would seem to be to (1) improve the coverage offered in dental insurance and (2) find ways to make dental insurance either more affordable for all or available to all as part of Medicare. Finding a workable solution to the problem and improving the dental health and overall health of aging Americans is one that we must face as a nation. Good dental health improves both life expectancy and the wellbeing of every person. 

 
Posture and Your Teeth

 

Do you have problems with balance or posture? How do your teeth come together when you close your mouth? There is a connection between the two.

In two recent studies, it has been demonstrated that malocclusion (teeth that do not come together perfectly) typically parallels balance - pixabay cco free commercial use - jump-863058 640balance and posture challenges. The evidence suggests that correcting your #occlusion will contribute to improvement in your posture and balance.

Why is this important? It seems particularly important to three groups of people.

  • First, it is important to persons with physical disabilities. Improvement of balance could significantly improve mobility, reduce fear, and improve state of mind.
  • Second, it is important to older adults. Many older people develop posture and balance issues as they age, particularly in connection with other conditions. The number one cause of emergency room visits for older adults is falls. If something as simple as correcting malocclusion would improve stability for these people, their general health and their enjoyment of life would be enhanced.
  • Third, it is important for athletes. Correcting a malocclusion to improve balance and posture could significantly enhance athletic performance.

If a dentist can improve your life in so many ways, isn’t it worth discussing malocclusion? Ask me about it when you come in for your next appointment.  

 
Clear Tooth Aligners: Are They Right for You?

As an alternative to traditional braces, clear tooth aligners have become very popular in recent years. They might be the right choice for you or for your child. These plastic aligners (or series of aligners) accomplish the same goal of straightening and properly aligning teeth as traditional braces, but with several advantages. Unfortunately, these are not the best choice for everyone.

Advantages of Clear Tooth AlignersClear tooth aligners - Are they right for you - Caroline Wallace DDS

  1. Appearance. Clear aligners are almost invisible, making them a good choice for those who are concerned about the appearance of their teeth during the alignment process.
  2. Removable. Clear aligners can be removed as you choose.
  3. Eat what you want. Some foods should not be eaten when wearing conventional braces because they can become caught in the hardware and cause pain or damage. Clear aligners allow you to eat whatever you want.
  4. Fast results. Clear aligners are one of the fastest and easiest ways to straighten and align teeth.
  5. Minimal pain. Clear aligners correct tooth alignment continuously and gradually as opposed to the periodic adjustment of braces, which can be painful or irritating.
  6. Less frequent dental appointments. Clear aligners require a visit to the dentist only once every 6 to 8 weeks. Many people find this preferable due to busy schedules.
  7. Better oral health. Unlike the tendency of traditional braces to trap food particles that are difficult to remove, tooth aligners are simply removed while you brush, easily cleaned, and replaced.

Answers to Most Common Questions

Most people have questions about clear aligners. We believe you should have every opportunity to ask all of your questions and receive thoughtful and helpful answers before you decide to use them. The following are responses to the most commonly asked questions.

  • What should I expect during treatment? You may experience some occasional minor pain for a day or two at a time because the new aligners are moving your teeth. People might ask why your teeth look different. You can expect your “bite” to feel different during the process. You may have a lisp during the early days of using aligners.
  • How comfortable are the aligners?  Although you may experience some irritation or sores in your mouth while using clear aligners, they tend to become more comfortable as you wear them. The devices may cause some increase in salivation or in dry mouth.
  • How are they cleaned? Proper oral hygiene is important when using aligners to prevent damage to your teeth or gums. The devices can be cleaned with a toothbrush and cool water.
  • What are the bumps on some aligners? The bumps are called “engagers.” These may be attached to facilitate difficult tooth adjustments. They are made of a composite material that matches the color of your teeth.
  • How long does the process take? The duration of the process varies depending upon the amount of realignment needed, your health, and the rate of bone and tissue adjustment. Your dentist will review this with you before beginning the process.
  • Do I wear the aligners all day? We recommend that you wear the aligners for 22 hours every day. They should be removed for eating and cleaning. Failure to do so will slow down the entire process.
  • How often are the aligners changed? Typically, you will move from one aligner to the next every 1 to 3 weeks. However, frequency depends upon the amount of change needed and your willingness to diligently follow instructions.
  • What happens when the whole process is finished? You will be given a retainer and instructed how long to wear it to maintain the realignment.
  • What material is used to make the clear aligners? Aligners are made of a polyurethane resin that has been extensively tested. The resin contains no BPA or phthalates.
  • Can I use clear aligners when pregnant? The materials contain nothing harmful, but you should discuss your health with your dentist.
  • Are aligners covered by my insurance? You will need to ask your insurance company about your coverage. Some policies cover clear aligners and others do not.

Most people are familiar with the brand name Invisalign. When their patent expired, others began to make similar products. At that time, we switched to Clear Correct. It is less expensive and equally effective.

 

Clear tooth aligners are a wonderful option for many people (though not all). It is a beautiful thing when appropriately used. If you have additional questions, please ask. 

 
Your Clean Water Supply

The news has been filled with images of the recent flooding from hurricanes and the news about the impact of the storms on the clean water supply in some places. It also made me think about Flint Michigan, and their water crisis. All of it made me think about the importance of a clean water supply.bottled water crisis - pixabay cco free commercial use -82690 640


Did you ever think about the effect on your health when there is a lack of clean water? The oral health of many people suffers because they try to replace some of the water they usually consume with sugary soda and sport drinks. Drinking contaminated water is harmful to your general health and to oral health. The same bacteria and other elements (like lead) that are harmful or dangerous to your general health are also harmful to your teeth and gums. This makes the water unsafe to drink and unsafe to use for brushing teeth. Also, loss of treated water typically means loss of fluoridation.


A clean water crisis could limit the procedures some dentists could perform? Many of our tools and instruments use a large amount of water (drills, scalers, etc.). Many dentists today use a "closed system" source of water, meaning that we use distilled bottled water. These systems enable us to perform a full range of procedures safely. Many dentists use "city water" for non-surgical purposes and distilled water for surgery.


In a clean water crisis, your continuing oral health may depend upon the preventative care you give your teeth every day. Keep your teeth and gums healthy to protect oral health and general health. What can you do?

 

  • Brush and floss twice daily as recommended.
  • Use a fluoride enhanced toothpaste.
  • When your dentist offers fluoride varnish, rinse or supplements, accept them.
  • If you do find yourself in a clear water crisis, throw away the tooth brush before the contamination was discovered and replace it with a new one.
  • See your dentist regularly.


To your oral health!

 
Ask Me About the Anesthesia Wand

We have been using the Anesthesia Wand for a number of years. It is an ideal device for children and for anyone who has had a bad experience with dental work in the past. We have seen great success with the wand. Unfortunately, it is not appropriate for every dental procedure. When it can be used, it works wonderfully.  Anesthesia Wand - sm -IMG 2533 002

 

Think about the large metal syringes dentists typically use to inject numbing anesthesia to make it easier for patients to endure the pain of some procedures. That huge needle is intimidating, especially for children. At Complete Dental Care in Salem, Virginia, we never want any patient to be afraid or in pain. The Anesthesia Wand has a wonderful alternative for us.

 

The wand is a small tube that resembles a straight-shaft pen. On one end of the tube is a very small syringe. On the other end, the tube attaches to a device like a computer that is controlled with a foot pedal. The device notifies the dentist when the anesthesia is dripping into the syringe.

 

One advantage of using the anesthesia wand is that the anesthesia is delivered very, very slowly. This is ideal for children because the slow flow of the anesthetic eliminates pain and the burning that accompanies traditional syringe delivery.

 

A second advantage of the wand is its flexibility. It can be used to numb a single tooth or a large section of the gum. And, because it delivers a continuous drip of anesthetic, it is not necessary to pause the procedure to inject more anesthetic.

 

Use of the Anesthesia Wand is covered by insurance, just like the traditional metal syringe. The only additional cost is the purchase of the tips that are used on the wand. This cost is typically absorbed by the dentist.

 

Although the anesthesia wand was invented about 20 years ago, many dentists have not adopted it. The metal syringe remains appropriate for many of our patients. For children and adults who have experienced difficulties with the metal syringe, we find that it is often the best alternative to reduce fear, relax our patients, and prevent pain.

 

If you have had a bad experience with anesthesia or you are bringing your child or grandchild for a dental procedure, ask your dentist about the anesthesia wand. You’ll be glad you did.  

 
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