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Monday, May 9, 2016

dental Care

an important tool for good health as we age

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an important tool for good health as we age

Here’s a riddle: “What is shifting around, wearing out and turning slightly dingy?” It’s not that old pair of jeans you just can’t throw out – it’s your teeth as you grow older. But, take heart, people are keeping more of their teeth, and those teeth look better thanks to diligent care and implants.

Three million people already have implants, and that number is growing by 500,000 a year, according to the American Academy of Implant Dentistry.

“Implants can be used to stabilize loose dentures and partials and give patients the ability to regain their ability to eat anything they want. Implants are the biggest innovation in dentistry in my lifetime,” said Shreveport dentist Benjamin M. Kacos, who estimates he has performed hundreds of dental implants.

“Dental implants are extremely predictable and can change patients’ quality of life. Implants can be used to replace one tooth, several teeth … entire smiles.” The success rate for implants is 98 percent, according to the AAID.

A relatively painless fix, yet more than 35 million Americans do not have any teeth, and 178 million people in the U.S. are missing at least one tooth, according to the American College of Prosthodontics.

It would be best to just keep our teeth in the first place, but that becomes harder as we age. The first line of defense is warding off gum disease, which leads to tooth loss but may also cause heart disease, diabetes, pneumonia and several forms of cancer.

“Gum disease is best diagnosed by a dental professional by taking measurements of your gums at least once a year. Treatments can range from education of better at-home dental hygiene techniques, to surgery to correct more severe conditions,” he said.

Early detection and treatment of gingivitis can stop the progression of infection. Often a deep cleaning method called “scaling and root planing” between the gums and teeth is needed to remove plaque and calculus. This can be done in the dentist’s office, but can often be avoided with consistent at-home brushing and flossing.

“I do not recommend a toothpaste without fluoride. I recommend flossing at least once a day with any brand of floss.”

If gums bleed during brushing, it’s an indication there’s already a problem. He also recommends one of the three types of mouthwash: alcohol-free for bad breath, fluoride to prevent decay, and anti-gingivitis, “and you can probably find crossovers” that combine these, he said.

A dental exam can also detect possible oral cancers. “If there’s a spot in your mouth that has been there longer than two weeks, it needs to be seen by a dentist. The most common would be red, white and purple spots,” Kacos said. There are many causes to oral cancer, not just smoking and the usual suspects. HPV in girls and women has been linked to oral cancer, Kacos said. He sees about six patients a year that he recommends have a spot checked further, which doesn’t mean it is cancer.

Sometimes anxiety, often a byproduct of aging, keeps people from seeing a dentist the recommended two visits a year. Dental phobia leads to higher risk of gum disease, early tooth loss and poorer general health, according to a Colgate study. It might even lower life expectancy.

Kacos said making the patient comfortable is the answer. His treatment rooms look out on a small garden, and he takes the time to talk with anxious patients. He also offers several sedation methods.

“People who smile more are more liked, are more influential and actually live longer. Smiling often portrays confidence, health and success.”

– Kathleen Ward

Dr. Benjamin M. Kacos, president-elect of the Northwest Louisiana Dental Association, is a member of the American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry and the Academy of General Dentistry. He a speaker on a podcast for dentists and founded Explorer Education, a company that offers dentists continuing education in sporting locations.

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