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Four Oral Health Issues Seniors Face

April 9th, 2014

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

April is Oral Cancer Awareness Month

April 2nd, 2014

What is oral cancer?

April is Oral Cancer Awareness Month. If you have been putting off a visit to our Sioux Falls, SD office, now is an excellent time to schedule one. Regular visits to Dental Comfort Center can be the first line of defense against oral cancer, by identifying early warning signs of the disease, or helping you with preventive care tips to lower your chances of developing it.

Oral Cancer Rates in America

Nearly 40,000 people in the U.S. will be diagnosed with oral cancer this year, and more than 8,000 die every year from this disease. It is a devastating illness: most people who are diagnosed with it do not live more than five years beyond their diagnosis. Oral cancer has a higher death rate than many other common cancers, including cervical cancer, testicular cancer, Hodgkin’s lymphoma, and thyroid or skin cancers. The high death rate results from the fact that most oral cancers go undiagnosed until the disease is well advanced and has spread to another part of the body—most often, the lymph nodes in the neck.

What causes oral cancer?

While there is no way to predict exactly which individuals will get oral cancer, there are some potential causes you should know about—because in some cases, you can minimize these risk factors.

  • Age (most patients diagnosed with oral cancer are over the age of 40)
  • Tobacco use, either from cigarettes or smokeless chewing tobacco
  • Excessive alcohol consumption (especially in combination with tobacco use)
  • Persistent viral infections, such as HPV16
  • A diet low in fruits and vegetables

In addition, oral cancer tends to occur at a rate six times greater in men than in women, and more often for African Americans than other ethnic groups. No genetic links have been identified to explain the higher incidence in these populations, so lifestyle choices remain the likeliest cause.

Oral Cancer Treatments

Once a diagnosis has been made, treatment of oral cancer usually involves a multi-disciplinary team that includes surgeons, oncologists, dentists, nutritionists, and rehabilitation and restorative specialists. Our team will decide on the best approach for each patient, depending on the risk factors and how far the cancer has progressed. The strategy will be different in every case. Some of the most common methods include chemotherapy, radiation, and potential surgery.

Finding out you have cancer can be devastating news. If you are concerned that you might be at risk for developing oral cancer, talk to us about screenings and other things you can do to reduce your risk.

How can veneers improve my smile?

March 26th, 2014

Dr. Cody Henriksen and our team at Dental Comfort Center know your smile is an important part of your appearance; it can be a source of pride or embarrassment. Everyone deserves beautiful, straight teeth that complement their features, but few are born with natural dental perfection. Fortunately, cosmetic dentistry has come a long way in recent years, with veneers making it possible to make over your smile completely.

With dental veneers, the smile of your dreams can become a reality. These thin, wafer-like shells are crafted of porcelain and completely customized to fit your smile. Once your tooth size, shape, and color have been determined, veneers are adhered to the surface of your natural tooth, instantly transforming your appearance. What used to be a secret of the rich and famous is now highly accessible to dental patients around the world.

Benefits of dental veneers

Appearance

Dental veneers are very natural in appearance and virtually undetectable to other people. Their non-porous surfaces make them resistant to staining, which ensures they do not change color over time.

Improvements

Dental veneers can be used to improve the appearance of many kinds of imperfections. In fact, an entirely new smile can be crafted from veneers, to cover up chipped teeth, discoloration, and gaps between teeth.

Durability

Veneers are long-lasting cosmetic enhancements that can survive many years with appropriate care and maintenance. They are specially fabricated to be resistant to scratches and chipping, which makes them a practical solution for the average person.

Flexibility

Dental veneers are highly adaptable. You can opt for only a single veneer to repair a chipped or cracked tooth, or you can modify multiple teeth at once for a smile makeover.

Considerations

Keep in mind that cosmetic treatments like dental veneers are secondary to primary dental care. You must have healthy teeth and disease-free gums to be a candidate for cosmetic procedures. An initial consultation at our convenient Sioux Falls, SD office will reveal any underlying decay or other problems that must be addressed prior to getting veneers. Give us a call today!

Are dental X-rays safe?

March 19th, 2014

YES! X-rays have been used in dentistry for a long time, and the amount of radiation has significantly decreased with advances in technology. While there is risk in every health diagnostic procedure at Dental Comfort Center, the benefits must outweigh the risks. Dental X-rays do indeed fall into this category.

X-rays are exposed to a type of film to produce an image. The amount of X-rays required to produce this image differs with film speeds. Speed E or F is highly recommended, and digital X-rays require up to 50% less than speed E or F film. The digital X-ray software can adjust the exposure to produce a quality image. Digital X-rays are becoming a new standard and are most common.

Lead aprons have been used to reduce the amount of scatter radiation. All X-ray units have a cone to focus the X-ray beam so the exposure is highly localized. Lead aprons continue to be worn as a precaution for pregnant women, and a thyroid collar should also be worn. In most cases, this is sewn into the lead apron.

We get radiation exposure from environmental factors as well as healthcare diagnostic and treatment tools. To place this in perspective, in one year a person is expected to have 360mRem per year from the sun, air etc. By comparison, a single set of bitewing X-rays is 0.3mRem. Radiation can accumulate in our body over a lifetime, and additional exposure should be avoided whenever possible.

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