The trend in dental care has evolved to include many strategies for retaining our teeth throughout our lives. Dentists can place crowns, fillings, implants, and bone grafts, in many cases. All of these efforts will be lost if we do not retain our periodontal health.
In other words, the bone that holds each tooth in our mouth must stay healthy in order for us too retain our teeth. The most important strategy for keeping our teeth includes regular dental hygiene care appointments, or dental cleanings. This includes a variety of procedures that the RDHAP can provide, including: prophylaxis. root planing, and periodontal maintenance.
Prophylaxis: Commonly called a "cleaning" or "prophy", this procedure is preventive dental hygiene care. The goal of the prophylaxis is to help the patient prevent periodontal disease from taking hold in their mouth. The RDHAP removes calculus (tartar), plaque, and stain from above and even below the gumlines. These appointments should include:
Dry mouth is a real problem*, not just a Biotene marketing tag line. Many of the medications we use have a side effect of dry mouth or a reduction of saliva. Saliva is extremely important. It makes talking, chewing, and swallowing easier. Digestion begins in the mouth with the food's exposure to the enzyme amylase in the saliva. Saliva also helps with swallowing, helping to get the food smoothly and thoroughly from our mouths to our stomachs. The neutral pH of saliva helps to neutralize the acids typical in many foods and beverages. Without the saliva present to reduce the acidity, chemical are pulled from the teeth to make this happen, hence the beginning of a cavity.
It is often difficult to change medications, but sharing with your physician that your mouth is very dry can spur the conversation about possibly finding an appropriate substitution for the offending medication. The addition of over-the-counter dry mouth reducers can help manage eating and sleeping - the time at which dry mouth can cause the most oral damage. Biotene has several different options that your RDHAP can recommend. Xylimelts from Oracoat can be beneficial in helping those with severe dry mouth sleep through the night. CTx2 Spray and CTx2 Xylitol Gum by Carifree, is easy to carry around and can aid in hydrating the mouth and facility eating, talking, and sleeping., to name a few.
Sometimes those with dry mouth may have a cool beverage handy. The dentist and RDHAP recommendation is to make that beverage water. Sugar-sweetened beverages of course contain sugar, and those sugar-free alternatives usually have a lower pH - more acidic – that make your teeth a prime target for tooth decay. The RDHAP can also place fluoride varnish to further protect teeth. This will be address in a future post.
* Shetty SR, Bhowmich S, Castelino R, Babu S. Drug induced xerostomia in elderly individuals: An institutional study. Contemporary Clinical Dentistry. 3(2). April-June 2013. Retriever from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3425100/
Elena Francisco, RDHAP, MS has been practicing dental hygiene for over 40 years and has been an RDHAP since 2005.