Elderly Treatment

Dec 08

Treatment of the Aging Population

Just a few years ago, it was assumed that by age 60, most people would have all of their teeth removed, and receive a pair of dentures.  However, today more patients are capable of holding onto their teeth much later in life.  Factors, such as physiologic changes in your teeth, saliva, diet, medicines, etc. can greatly impact your oral hygiene.  Overall, a healthy mouth equals a healthy body, which is one of our goals at Bellefonte Family Dentistry.

Yellowing and darkening of teeth is a common complaint we see from our senior patients.  This can be caused from a variety of reasons.  Changes in the dentin, which is the bone-like tissue under enamel, can show throw, causing the tooth to appear yellowed.  A lifetime consumption of stain-causing foods and beverages can also increase discoloration. Moreover, thinning of tooth enamel from acidic foods and tooth brushing contributes as well.  Treatment involves whitening agents, white “tooth” colored fillings, and veneers, all of which we would be happy to provide.

Dry mouth is also very common issue in the aging population.  Your saliva plays many roles, of which is maintaining the “healthy” bacteria in your mouth, restoring tooth structure, and washing away sugars that may cause tooth decay.  Unfortunately, many medications can cause dry mouth, and treatments for cancer, diabetes, autoimmune disorders, etc. can contribute to its severity.  We usually tell patients to drink plenty of fluids, carry a bottle of water with them, and to keep water near their bed at night.  We also suggest purchasing a Biotene type rinse that would help moisturize the mouth, especially before bedtime.

Another challenge influenced by aging is the increased chance of developing tooth decay / gum disease.  This can be from the enamel protective barrier becoming thin, making it easier for bacteria to cause destruction.   Receiving a cleaning and exam at 6 month (or less) intervals can help to control bacteria build up, which extend the life of your natural teeth.

For some, dentures become a safe and effective plan of care that accompanies the aging process.  Denture wearers have to go through some changes to become accustom to wearing their new set teeth.  We usually tell patients to chew soft foods and to cut up their food for the first few weeks.  Then, gradually, start chewing tougher foods.  At a minimum, complete denture wearers should return for a yearly exam.  At this exam we will evaluate the fit and bite of your dentures, and perform a head and neck exam.  Sore spots can occur with dentures where your gums will become inflamed and painful.  Sore spots with new dentures are normal as the denture settles in your mouth, and can easily be adjusted by a dentist.  However, sore spots in older dentures are a sign that the denture is not fitting like it used to and may need to be replaced or relined.  Dentures can also change the way food tastes due to covering some of your taste buds and temporarily increase your salivary flow.  Fortunately, these problems usually diminish with time.  Proper denture care includes brushing your gums and tongue with a toothbrush, rinsing and brushing your dentures, and storing them in water (with or without a denture cleaner). It is recommended to keep them stored in liquid to prevent warping of the plastic.  Dentures may be frustrating at first, but with time, you will love your new smile.

Giving you a beautiful, healthy mouth is our goal.  May it be through routine cleanings, complete dentures, implant retained dentures, or partial dentures, we would be happy to serve you.

IV Sedation

Dec 01


Many people wonder what Sedation Dentistry really is.   There are many options and terms out there including “twilight”, “laughing gas”, “IV Sedation”, etc.  According to Merriam-Webster, sedation is: “a relaxed, calm, or sleepy condition that results from taking a drug (called a sedative)”.  This blog will help you understand what sedation dentistry is, and what our office can offer to make your visit as relaxing as possible.

First, let’s review the different types of sedation / anesthesia, listed in order of strength:

  • Local Anesthetics: Anesthetics similar to “Novocaine” are used in all of the procedures listed below. These numb the area we are working on to keep you as comfortable as possible during the procedure.
  • Inhaled Minimal Sedation:  Nitrous Oxide, otherwise known as “laughing gas”, is inhaled through your nose via a small mask.  The gas consists of a mixture of nitrous oxide and oxygen.  It helps to make you feel relaxed, similar to getting a good night’s rest. It also helps get rid of pain, equivalent to 10 mg of morphine.  Nitrous can be used by itself, or, even better, combined with the sedation methods listed below.
  • Oral Sedation:  Oral sedation is the usage of prescription medicine, taken by mouth, to provide a relaxed state. This can provide a minimal to moderate relaxed state.  Usually, Valium or Ativan is taken an hour before and/or the night before a procedure.  Of course, an increased dose will provide greater sedation.  Many times patients fall asleep during the dental visit, but can be awakened very easily by just saying their name.
  • IV Sedation: This is a moderate type of sedation where you will receive sedation medicine via a vein. This way the drug works more quickly, allowing the dentist to control the amount of sedation easily and safely.  Typically, we will use monitors to view your blood pressure, oxygen saturation, pulse, and breathing.  This way we have a better idea of how sedated you are during the procedure.  Since each patient is unique, sometimes we will combine oral sedation techniques with IV sedation to again provide a greater state of sedation.
  • Deep Sedation / General Anesthesia:  This type of sedation is used in situations where we believe you will need a much deeper form of relaxation.  We tend to use this form of sedation on patients with multiple medical problems.  A licensed anesthesiologist is in the room with us, who provides the anesthesia while we do the dental work.  Under general anesthesia, the monitoring of your vital signs and depth of anesthesia requires more attention than the dentist can provide alone.

As with any medical / dental procedure, there are inherent risks.  We take every precaution we can to make sure your sedation visit is as safe as possible. We schedule a pre-operative visit where we perform a comprehensive screening, which includes but is not limited to: reviewing your medical history, searching for any drug interactions that may occur between our sedation drugs and your current medications, evaluating your airway, and collecting vital signs.

Our goal is to make your stay with us as comfortable and stress free as possible.  At Bellefonte Family Dentistry, we offer all of the sedation techniques listed above.  Feel free to call us at 814-355-1587 or schedule a consultation visit so we can answer any questions that you may have.  We look forward to giving you the smile that you desire!

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