Dentistry for Seniors Puyallup

Our staff at Johns Family Dentistry takes the baby boomers generation seriously. Making up a quarter of the American population, it is important in our practice that we cater to the needs and treat this great generation of patients with access to the best resources available.

Good dental hygiene and oral care habits are important at any age. However; as you get older, you might find yourself wondering if your dental routine needs some tweaking, or if certain life changes have also caused changes in your mouth. Working to keep a healthy mouth is more important than ever for older adults, since most people ages 55 to 64 are keeping some or all of their natural teeth. If you have all of your original teeth, some of them or a full set of dentures, diligently caring for your mouth is just as important when you get older as it was when you were a child.

Many retirees do not realize that Medicare does not cover routine dental care. While there are supplemental insurance plans available to purchase, our office and patient experience, feel that often times these plans are very restrictive and misleading, as the coverage is very limited. We proudly offer our JFD membership plan to help make dentistry affordable and to give you a better option.

Oral Hygiene Tips for Seniors

Daily brushing and flossing of natural teeth is essential to keeping them in good oral health. Plaque can build up quickly on the teeth of seniors, especially if oral hygiene is neglected, and lead to tooth decay and gum disease.

To maintain good oral health, it is important for all individuals — regardless of age — to:

  • Brush at least twice a day with a fluoride-containing toothpaste
  • Floss at least once a day
  • Rinse with an antiseptic mouthwash once or twice a day
  • Visit your dentist on a regular schedule for cleaning and an oral exam

What Seniors Can Expect During a Dental Exam

If you are a senior headed for a check up, Dr. Johns and your dental hygienist will conduct a thorough history and dental exam. Questions that will be asked during your visit will include:

  • The approximate date of your last dental visit and the reason for the visit
  • If you have noticed any recent changes in your mouth
  • If you have noticed any loose or sensitive teeth
  • If you have noticed any difficulty tasting, chewing or swallowing
  • If you have any pain, discomfort, sores, or bleeding in your mouth
  • If you have noticed any lumps, bumps or swelling in your mouth

During an oral exam, Dr. Johns will check the following:

  • Your face and neck (for skin discoloration, mole sores, cold sores)
  • Your bite (for any problems in how the teeth come together while opening and closing your mouth)
  • Your jaw (for signs of clicking and popping in the temporomandibular joint
  • Your lymph nodes and salivary glands (for any sign of swelling or lumps)
  • Your inner cheeks (for infections, ulcers, traumatic injuries)
  • Your tongue and other interior surfaces — floor of the mouth, soft and hard palate, gum tissue (for signs of infection or oral cancer)
  • Your teeth (for decay, condition of fillings and cracks)

If you wear dentures or other appliances, Dr. Johns will ask a few questions about when you wear your dentures and when you take them out (if removable). He will check for any irritation or problems.

Gum Disease in Seniors

Many older adults have gum or periodontal disease, caused by the bacteria in plaque. One reason gum disease is so widespread among older adults is that it is often a painless condition until the advanced stage. If left untreated, gums can begin to pull away from the teeth and form spaces called pockets, where food particles and more plaque may collect. Advanced gum disease can eventually destroy the gums, bone and ligaments supporting the teeth leading to tooth loss. Regular dental visits can treat the gum disease or prevent it entirely. We recommend our Gold or Platinum JFD membership plans when treating gum disease. Managing gum disease may require 3-4 cleanings per year and these two membership plans are best suited to meet that need. The use of tobacco products, irregular dental care, poor fitting partials, poor diets and certain systemic diseases; such as anemia, cancer, heart disease and diabetes can all attribute to gum disease.

Dry Mouth

You may wonder why you’re suddenly getting cavities when you haven’t had them in years. As we age, we enter a second round of cavity prone years. One common cause of cavities in older adults is (xerostomia) dry mouth.

Dry mouth is caused by reduced saliva flow, which can be a result of cancer treatments that use radiation to the head and neck area, as well as certain systemic diseases, such as Sjogren’s syndrome and medication side effects. Dry mouth is a side-effect in more than 500 medications, including those for allergies or asthma, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, pain, anxiety or depression, Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s diseases. This is just one of the many important reasons why it is so important to tell Dr. Johns about any medications that you are taking. Dr. Johns can make recommendations to help relieve your dry mouth symptoms and prevent cavities. Here are some common recommendations:

  • Use over-the-counter oral moisturizers, such as a spray or mouthwash. (Dr. Johns recommends Biotin and Oasis.)
  • Consult with your physician on whether to change your medication or dosage.
  • Drink more water. Carry a water bottle with you and do not wait until your thirsty to drink. Your mouth needs constant lubrication.
  • Use sugar-free lozenges to stimulate saliva production.
  • Get a humidifier to help keep moisture in the air.
  • Avoid foods and beverages that irritate dry mouths, like coffee, alcohol, carbonated soft drinks and acidic fruit juices.
  • Your dentist may apply a fluoride gel or varnish to protect your teeth from cavities.
  • More frequent cleanings (3-4 per year).

Oral Cancer

According to the American Cancer Society, there are about 35,000 cases of mouth, throat and tongue cancer diagnosed each year. The average age of most people diagnosed with these cancers is 62. During dental visits, Dr. Johns will check for any signs of cancer. Regular dental visits are important because in the early stages oral cancer typically does not cause pain and early detection saves lives. Some symptoms you may see include open sores, white or reddish patches and changes in the lips, tongue and lining of the mouth that lasts for more than two weeks.

Denture Care

How to take care of your dentures

According to the American College of Prosthodontists, more than 178 million people in the United States are missing at least one tooth and tooth loss is more likely to occur in older people.

If you are among that group, it is still important to take care of those dentures just as you would take care of real teeth. Use a toothpaste that is specially made for dentures and make sure you clean them on a daily basis. You will want to brush your gums and tongue with a soft toothbrush to remove any bacteria and food particles from your mouth.

Ill-fitting dentures, poor dental hygiene or a buildup of the fungus Candida albicans can cause a condition: Denture-induced stomatitis, which is inflammation of the tissue underlying a denture.

Dr. Johns has advanced training in Implant-Supported Dentures. An implant-supported denture is more stable than a regular denture. Patient’s find it easier to speak and do not have to worry about the denture becoming loose or falling out of their mouth. They generally are able to eat foods that they could not eat prior. An implant-supported denture for the upper jaw, can be made to cover less of the palate (roof of the mouth) than a regular denture. That is because the implants are holding it in place, instead of the suction created between the full denture and your palate.

For Caregivers

You may have a parent, spouse or friend who has difficulty maintaining a healthy mouth on their own. Oral hygiene may be overlooked by older adults with dementia-related conditions or their caregivers, making these adults at an increased risk for tooth decay and gum disease and may lose their ability to brush their teeth effectively. They may pay less attention to personal grooming. Medications may complicate their oral health.

Proper care of the mouth and teeth can help prevent eating difficulties, digestive problems and extensive dental procedures down the road, however brushing is sometimes difficult because a person with dementia may forget how or why its is important to take care of his or her mouth. Often times there is limited dexterity which causes the inability for the patient to brush and floss the entire mouth properly.

Tips to assist with oral care include:

  • Provide short, simple instructions. “Brush your teeth” by itself may be too non-specific. Break down each step by saying, “Hold your toothbrush.” “Put paste on the brush.” Then, “Brush your teeth with the toothbrush.”
  • Use a “watch me” or “hand-over-hand” technique. Hold a brush and show the person how to brush his or her teeth. Or put your hand over the person’s hand, gently guiding the brush.
  • Monitor daily oral care. Brush teeth or dentures after each meal and floss daily. Remove and clean dentures every night. Very gently brush the person’s gums, tongue and roof of the mouth. Investigate any signs of mouth discomfort during mealtime. The person may refuse to eat or make strained facial expressions while eating. These signs may point to mouth pain or dentures that don’t fit properly.
  • Keep up with regular dental visits for as long as possible. A dental care routine is essential for healthy teeth. Ask Dr. Johns for suggestions or items that may help make dental care easier.

Dr. Johns is aware that patient’s with advanced dementia have both good and bad days. Often times, if a caretaker gives our practice a heads up, that you would like to bring in your loved one on a “good day,” even last minute, we will often accommodate the request.

When caring for someone who is confined to bed, they may have so many health problems that it is easy to forget about oral health. However, it is still very important because bacteria from the mouth can be inhaled into the lungs and cause pneumonia.

If you are a representative for a nursing home resident who requires dental care and is enrolled in Medicaid, there is a regulation, called an Incurred Medical Expense, that may help pay for medically necessary care as determined by a dentist or physician. The Medicaid caseworker at the nursing facility and the physician providing care can work together to apply the Incurred Medical Expense to pay for needed dental care.

Senior Cosmetic Dentistry

Older adults do not have to give up on having a beautiful smile as they age. As we get older, our dental needs change. We still want to have beautiful and healthy smiles, but often the health of our mouth has been compromised.

Johns Family Dentistry offers a wide variety of cosmetic dentistry options for seniors who want to rejuvenate their smile. Patients of Dr. Johns are pleasantly surprised by how easy and quick it is to look dramatically younger with our simple and rather painless cosmetic dental procedures.

No matter how long it has been since you have visited a dentist or how much work you think needs to be done, Dr. Johns has the right solution for you. The best way to find out about dentistry is to schedule a comprehensive examination and consultation with Johns Family Dentistry. In the consultation, you can ask all of your questions and find out what exactly you need to restore your smile in the way that you want.

Learn How Johns Family & Implant Dentistry Can Help You

When you schedule an appointment with Dr. Johns, you're taking a step towards a healthier, more beautiful smile. Learn how our friendly dental team can help you feel confident in your smile.

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