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Four Oral Health Issues Seniors Face

November 14th, 2018

Oral health is an important and often overlooked component of an older person’s general health and well-being. Drs. Charlie Collins, Ute Collins and our team know that for many of our older patients, oral health can become an issue when arthritis or other neurological problems render them unable to brush or floss their teeth as effectively as they once did. Today, we thought we would discuss four common oral health issues our older patients face and how they can avoid them:

Cavities: It’s not just children who get tooth decay—oral decay is a common disease in people 65 and older. Ninety-two percent of seniors 65 and older have had dental caries in their permanent teeth, according to the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research. The risk for tooth decay increases because many older adults don’t go to the dentist as often as they used to, thus cavities go undetected and untreated for longer than they should. Keeping regular appointments with Drs. Charlie Collins, Ute Collins is the key to getting cavities treated in a timely manner.

Difficulty eating: Oral health problems, whether from missing teeth, cavities, dentures that don’t fit, gum disease, or infection, can cause difficulty eating and can force people to adjust the quality, consistency, and balance of their diet.

Dry mouth: Also called xerostomia, dry mouth is a common issue for a lot of seniors. Our friends at the Oral Cancer Foundation estimate that 20 percent of elderly people suffer from dry mouth, which means the reduced flow of saliva (saliva plays a crucial role in preventing tooth decay). Many seniors are on multiple medications for a variety of chronic illnesses or conditions. Common medications taken that may cause dry mouth are decongestants, antihistamines, blood pressure medications, pain pills, incontinence medications, antidepressants, diuretics, muscle relaxers, and Parkinson’s disease medications. To help counter this, we suggest drinking lots of fluids and limiting your intake of caffeine and alcohol. We also encourage you to check with Drs. Charlie Collins, Ute Collins during your next visit if you think your medications are causing your mouth to feel dry.

Gum Disease: Gum (periodontal) disease is an infection of the gums and surrounding tissues that hold teeth in place. While gum disease affects people of all ages, it typically becomes worse as people age. In its early stages, gum disease is painless, and most people have no idea that they have it. In more advanced cases, however, gum disease can cause sore gums and pain when chewing.

Gum disease, which can range from simple gum inflammation to serious disease, is usually caused by poor brushing and flossing habits that allow dental plaque to build up on the teeth. Plaque that is not removed can harden and form tartar that brushing simply does not clean. Only a professional cleaning at our office can remove tartar. The two forms of gum disease are gingivitis and periodontitis. In gingivitis, the gums become red, swollen, and can bleed easily; in periodontitis, gums pull away from the teeth and form spaces that become infected.

Proper brushing, flossing, and visiting our office regularly can prevent gum disease. Seniors with limited dexterity who have trouble gripping a toothbrush should ask Drs. Charlie Collins, Ute Collins about modifying a handle for easier use or switching to a battery-powered toothbrush.

November Marks National Diabetes Awareness Month

November 7th, 2018

Diabetes is a chronic disease that increases the risk for many serious health problems, including severe gum disease. November is Diabetes Awareness Month, and it’s a great time for us at Mountain View Dental Center to remind our patients that the way you care for your teeth at home doesn’t just affect your oral health; keeping your mouth healthy is vital to your overall health, too.

Diabetes is the result of a deficiency, or lack of the hormone insulin to properly transport glucose (blood sugar) to the cells throughout the body. According to the American Diabetes Association, the most common types of diabetes are Type One (90-95 percent of cases), Type Two (five percent), and gestational or pregnancy diabetes. Women who have had gestational diabetes have a 35 to 60 percent chance of developing diabetes, mostly Type Two, in the ten to 20 years following their pregnancy.

In the past decade, researchers have found links between periodontal (gum) disease and diabetes. Not only are people with diabetes more vulnerable to gum disease, but diabetes may also have the potential to affect blood glucose control, as well as contribute to the advancement of diabetes.

Nearly 26 million Americans currently live with the disease, with an additional 79 million in the pre-diabetes stage. There is some good news we want you to know, however; you can protect your gums and teeth from the effects of diabetes by visiting our Anacortes office for an exam. Patients who are living with diabetes may require more often visits to ensure their dental health remains in tip-top shape. Many insurance plans provide expanded benefits for diabetic patients, and Drs. Charlie Collins, Ute Collins can tell you how often you need to come in for an appointment.

For more information on how we can help, please do not hesitate to give us a call at our Anacortes office.

The Intriguing History of Halloween

October 31st, 2018

Halloween is fast approaching, and Drs. Charlie Collins, Ute Collins wanted to be sure to wish our patients a happy day, no matter how you might celebrate this holiday. The Halloween that is familiar to most people today bears little resemblance to the original Halloween; back in the "old days" it wasn't even called Halloween!

Festival of the Dead

Halloween started out as a Celtic festival of the dead that honored departed loved ones and signified a change in the cycle of the seasons. The Celtic people viewed Halloween, then called "Samhain," as a very special day – almost like our New Years day in fact, as their new calendar year began on November 1st. Samhain was the last day of autumn, so it was the time to harvest the last of the season's crops, store food away for winter, and situate livestock comfortably for the upcoming cold weather. The Celts believed that during this day, the last day of winter, the veil between this world and the spirit world is the thinnest, and that the living could communicate with departed loved ones most effectively on Samhain due to this.

Modern Halloween

Halloween as we know it today started because Christian missionaries were working to convert the Celtic people to Christianity. The Celts believed in religious concepts that were not supported by the Christian church, and these practices, which stemmed from Druidism, were perceived by the Christian church as being "devil worship" and dangerous.

When Pope Gregory the First instructed his missionaries to work at converting the Pagan people, he told them to try to incorporate some of the Pagan practices into Christian practices in a limited way. This meant that November 1st became "All Saints Day," which allowed Pagan people to still celebrate a beloved holiday without violating Christian beliefs.

Today, Halloween has evolved into a day devoted purely to fun, candy, and kids. What a change from its origins! We encourage all of our patients to have fun during the holiday, but be safe with the treats. Consider giving apples or fruit roll-ups to the kids instead of candy that is potentially damaging to the teeth and gums.

Remind kids to limit their candy and brush after eating it! Sweets can cause major tooth decay and aggrivate gum disease, so to avoid extra visits to our Anacortes office, make your Halloween a safe one!

How Missing Teeth Can Affect Your Health

October 24th, 2018

According to the American Academy of Periodontology, an estimated three out of four Americans suffer from gum disease. In milder cases, the disease is called gingivitis. More severe cases are called periodontitis. Despite the prevalence of periodontal disease (and it is very common), only three percent of people who suffer from periodontal disease get treatment for it. Gum disease has been linked to other serious diseases, including cancer, diabetes, and heart disease.

Periodontal Disease Is Common Among Americans

The Journal of Dental Research published the findings of a joint study from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and the American Academy of Periodontology (AAP). The study compared the full periodontal exam that participants received for this study against partial periodontal exams participants received for an older study.

The results show the rate of periodontal disease today could be as much as 50 percent higher than earlier estimated. Shockingly, this means that about twice as many Americans as previously believed suffer from gum disease – either moderate or severe.

The Link between Chronic Illness and Periodontal Disease

Many people who have chronic medical problems don’t have dental insurance, or the money to spend on dental care. Not surprisingly, this and a lack of understanding about proper oral hygiene leads to situations in which an initially minor problem turns into something far more severe, and probably preventable.

Gum diseases and cavities are caused by infections. When you get a cavity, the infection develops in the tooth itself. You may never feel anything, so unless you get regular, twice-a-year dental exams, you might not know there is a problem.

With gum disease, the infection occurs in the bones and tissues that form the gums and support the teeth. The tissues that surround teeth, and the bones that lie below the gums, are necessary to hold your teeth in. When those aren’t strong enough to support your teeth, you lose them.

Tooth loss has been linked to heart disease, diabetes, and an increased risk for kidney disease. Gum disease and severe infections in the mouth can spread to other parts of the body faster than people realize. A healthy mouth is alkaline. It’s vital for you to maintain an alkaline pH to keep harmful bacteria away.

When people eat, their pH changes, and the environment inside the mouth becomes more acidic. Since the typical American diet is very acidic, harmful bacteria thrive in the mouth. Typical foods include breads, grains, starches, and sweets – the foods people love the most. Since it isn’t always possible for people to brush after every meal, the mouth pH remains acidic, and the acid contributes to faster tooth erosion.

What does all this mean for you? The health of your mouth is more important than you realize. Get those regular dental exams, and make sure that you and your family keep to a regular routine of brushing and flossing. Good oral hygiene can help prevent periodontal disease, and that will lower your risk of tooth loss.