Our Blog

Four Oral Health Issues Seniors Face

October 4th, 2017

Oral health is an important and often overlooked component of an older person’s general health and well-being. Dr. Laura Hannon 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 Dr. Laura Hannon 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 Dr. Laura Hannon 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 Dr. Laura Hannon about modifying a handle for easier use or switching to a battery-powered toothbrush.

Zirconia Dental Implants

September 27th, 2017

Since dental implants first started being implemented in the 1980s, they have been primarily made of titanium. Recent advances in implant technology have allowed dental implant manufacturers to shift from all-metal implants, to part-metal and part-ceramic implants, to the newer all-ceramic or zirconia implants.

Zirconia implants are made of high-impact resistant ceramic called tetragonal zirconia polycrystal (ZrO2+Y2O3). They remedy many of the issues and complaints doctors and patients have with traditional metal implants and have several advantages—let’s take a look at some of them.

Advantages of Zirconia Implants

  • Do not cause allergic reactions – Although titanium is considered non-toxic, some people still have allergic reactions to titanium. Zirconia implants are inert, non-corrosive, and hypoallergenic.
  • Have been used for decades in medical applications – Millions of patients have had zirconia used safely and effectively as the base material for their hip replacements. The zirconia used for medical applications also undergoes strict radiation monitoring to ensure its safety for use within the body.
  • They are incredibly strong – Unlike titanium implants, zirconia offers a much higher degree of resistance to scratching, corrosion, and fracture. The aerospace industry even uses zirconia (ZrO2) due to its high resistance to heat and fracture. This all means a safer and more aesthetically pleasing result for the patient.
  • One-piece design is more hygienic – Zirconia implants are a one-piece design, meaning there is nowhere for bacteria to build up or liquids to penetrate like with titanium implants. They are highly biocompatible (how a material reacts with the human body) which leads to healthier gums and no risk of corrosion.
  • Implant margin is at gum not bone level – With titanium implants the margin (or gap between the implant and the tooth) is at bone level, which can lead to bacterial buildup since you can’t brush there. The zirconia implant margin, which is at gum level, allows you to brush and clean your implant and restoration regularly.

If you are in need of a restorative dental implant, it would be wise to consider zirconia due to its many advantages. It might not work in every situation, but feel free to discuss your options with Dr. Laura Hannon or one of our Portage, IN staff members.

My child has canker sores! How can I help?

September 20th, 2017

According to the American Association of Pediatric Density, roughly one in five children suffers from canker sores. Canker sores are small sores that appear inside the cheeks, on the lips, on the surface of the gums, and under the tongue.

Even though, canker sores are not contagious, they do tend to run in families. There are several reasons your child may be suffering from canker sores including:

  • Children who have Vitamin B12, iron, and folic acid deficiencies tend to get canker sores more often than children who have normal levels of these vitamins and minerals.
  • Children who suffer from food allergies are also at a higher risk for developing canker sores. It’s difficult to determine what your child may be allergic to. If you feel strongly that the canker sores are related to an allergy, then a visit to an allergist is highly recommended.
  • Biting their lip or cheek can also result in a canker sore.
  • Any injury to mouth, where the skin breaks can cause a canker sore.
  • Brushing their teeth too hard can also be a problem.
  • Your child may be sensitive to an ingredient in their toothpaste. Try switching toothpastes and see if it makes a difference.
  • Emotional disturbances and stress are also factors to consider.

If your child has frequent canker sores a visit to our Portage, IN office will be beneficial. Canker sores are painful and usually last about 14 days. Dr. Laura Hannon may recommend one or a few of the following treatment options:

  • Avoid food that is acidic, salty, and spicy.
  • A toothbrush with soft bristles may be helpful.
  • Avoid mouthwash and toothpaste that contain SLS.
  • Do not feed your child foods that they may be allergic to.

Canker Sore Remedies

  • Eating yogurt that contains Acidophilus will relieve the pain and help the canker sore heal faster.
  • Put one teaspoon of baking soda in an eight-ounce glass of lukewarm water. Have your child gargle and swish it around his or her mouth several times a day. Not only does this remedy relieve the pain, the canker sore could be gone in as little as 24 hours.
  • Place a wet tea bag on the sore and hold it there for a few minutes several times a day. This remedy will help with the pain and quickly heal the sore.
  • Camphor, Benzocaine, Lidocaine, and Orajel are over-the-counter medications that can help.

If you have questions about your child’s canker sore, contact Dr. Laura Hannon to schedule an appointment.

Five Tips for Taking Tots to the Dentist

September 13th, 2017

Toddlers are notoriously balky about strangers. But their first dental visit should not be cause for fear and tears. Nor should you assume that getting your toddler to Smile Brightly is going to involve a full-blown tantrum or Mafia-style bribery. “Honey, don’t worry. We’ll go get ice cream after…” sort of defeats the purpose of making that first dental appointment.

These five tips will make your toddler’s trip to see Dr. Laura Hannon as fun as a stop at an amusement park.

1. Before you make a dental appointment for your child, take him or her on a ride-along to one of your dental appointments. Let your son or daughter experience the office and get the lay of the land. Toddlers don’t like surprises. But if your little one is already familiar with the big chair that goes up and down, the next time he or she will have no problem taking a seat.

2. About the big dental chair … well, it’s really an amusement park ride. See how it goes up and down? Toddlers love games, and turning the trip to the dentist into a game is among the oldest (and most successful) tricks in the parent playbook.

3. Positive reinforcement is a good thing. That's why Dr. Laura Hannon and our staff hand out cool toothbrushes or stickers to children after their appointment. A fun-colored toothbrush with a suction bottom is a good incentive to come back for another cleaning.

4. Timing is everything. Don’t take your child to the dentist an hour before the daily nap. Make the appointment with your child’s schedule in mind. This increases the chances of success.

5. A few days before the scheduled appointment, start reading your toddler bedtimes stories about what happens at the dentist. Dora the Explorer’s Show Me Your Smile, written by Christine Ricci, is a popular dental story that your child might relate to.

Back to Top

FIND US