Caring For Teeth As A Caregiver

November is National Family Caregivers Month. Being a caregiver is one of the most challenging roles in the world. If you’re responsible for a family member, you know just how important you are to your loved one’s care and comfort.

Dr. Casazza
Dr. Gerry Casazza, DMD

With the many medical concerns and day-to-day issues, dental maintenance can take a backseat. However, preventive oral care is incredibly important to systemic health, so it’s essential to the patient’s wellbeing.

In particular, poor oral health is linked to many of the illnesses and diseases that afflict our senior population. Diabetes, heart disease, dementia and arthritis have all been linked to poor oral care or gum disease (periodontitis). In one recent study, Alzheimer’s patients with gum disease showed higher rates of cognitive decline.

Brushing and flossing seem simple, but they become more difficult when patients have trouble with fine motor skills. A larger toothbrush handle can be helpful, such as those on electric brushes. Use a soft-bristled brush with only the minimum toothpaste needed.

For some patients, supervision or assistance may be necessary. This is especially true if your family member struggles with memory problems. Try covering the patient’s hand with your own, and starting the brushing motion, to jog their muscle memory.

If you take care of the brushing and flossing for your loved one, try having your family member sit on a chair. Standing behind them will make it much easier to reach all the teeth.

Here are some additional tips and advice for caregivers:

  • Prescription medications can cause dry mouth. If this is a problem for your family member, talk to our clinical staff about ADA-approved products that can help.
  • Stay on a regular schedule of dental visits. Consistency makes a profound difference in preventing serious problems.
  • Check with our office staff to make sure they have your email and phone numbers on file. That way, appointment reminders go to you instead of the patient.
  • You might be surprised how many medical conditions affect a patient’s oral health, from osteoporosis to respiratory diseases. Be sure to inform our staff of any new health issues that arise, even if they seem irrelevant.
  • Patients who struggle with speech or memory may not be able to communicate their dental problems. Look for signs such as: rubbing or touching the cheek or jaw; poor sleep; and flinching during shaving or face washing.
  • Using a basin or the kitchen sink may be easier than handling dental care in the bathroom.
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Sweet Success: Candy Collection For Troops And Vets!

Future of Dentistry helped provide a sweet surprise for local troops and veterans this month. Every year, the practice collects Halloween candy during the first week of November. With the help of residents throughout the area, we collected a record-breaking 610 pounds of candy this year!treats for troops

Our “Treats For Troops” effort is an annual tradition at Future of Dentistry. We gather the candy from staff, patients and community members. Then we sort, pack, weigh and transport it to benefit the troops. We also provide a candy buyback, paying $1 per pound for candy when children come in person to donate. While many participants simply donate their treats, the $1 buyback can make it easier for kids to give up their beloved sweets!

Here’s what Dr. Casazza had to say about our “Treats For Troops” program:

“November is the perfect time of year for this program. Kids, and even adults, have far more candy around than is healthy for them or their teeth. And with Veterans Day on Nov. 11, it’s a great time to thank all the men and women who have served or are currently serving our country.”

In addition to breaking our record, we’re excited that this year’s “Treats For Troops” program has an extremely local focus. The troops and vets are all from Massachusetts, and most of them are from the Greater Boston/North Shore area where we’re located. This was possible thanks to community partners: the local VA hospitals; Alicia Reddin of the Melrose-Wakefield-Saugus Veteran Services District; and Paula Berg, a local “booster” of the troops.

Special thanks to the schools and groups who participated. Their amazing efforts generated several hundreds pounds of our overall collection! They include: Barrows Elementary School of Reading, Little Treasures Schoolhouse of Lynnfield, Killam Elementary School in Reading, Baby Boot Camp of Woburn/Winchester, and local Girl Scout/Brownie troops. We also received some very sweet cards and notes from the children to send to the troops and veterans.

This year, we added to the fun by having pools to guess how much candy was collected, one for our staff and one for our patients on Facebook. Congratulations to Dr. Strock for winning our office pool with a guess of 562, and to Linda S. for winning the community contest, with an almost-perfect guess of 600! Both winners will receive gift cards to local businesses. You can view other guesses below.

To learn more about the Halloween candy collection, call 781-245-2299, email to info@futureofdentistry.com, or contact us through www.FutureOfDentistry.com or www.Facebook.com/FutureOfDentistry.

Put Out The Cigarettes…And E-cigs Too

The Great American Smokeout takes place every year in early November. Obviously, everyback-outside-page day is a good day to quit. The sooner you stop smoking or using smokeless tobacco, the better. However, November is an ideal time to focus on this important issue.

According to the CDC, nearly 15 of every 100 U.S. adults currently smoked cigarettes as of 2015. That’s an estimated 36.5 million adults aged 18 and up. We all know that smoking causes numerous health problems. It also causes a variety of dental health problems. More than 16 million Americans live with a smoking-related disease, according to the CDC.

Also troubling is how popular electronic cigarettes are becoming. Because this trend is so new, the medical community doesn’t fully understand the effects of “vaping,” as it’s called. What we do know is that nicotine in any form is highly addictive. And a new study from the University of Rochester suggests that e-cigarettes are as harmful to teeth and gums as regular cigarettes.

Vaping should not be considered a healthy alternative to smoking. A disturbing part of the trend is that the products seem to be marketed toward young people: brightly-colored packaging, cartoonish characters, and fruity and bubblegum flavors. Dr. Heather Strock from Future of Dentistry discussed this issue earlier this year with the Wakefield Unified Prevention (WAKE-UP) Coalition.

If you’re a parent or grandparent, please consider the Great American Smokeout as an opportunity to talk to your family about the dangers of tobacco and nicotine in all forms — including smoking, vaping, “dip,” and chewing tobacco. Because young people are often concerned with appearance, it may be helpful to remind them that smoking (and potentially vaping) can discolor their teeth.

It’s Time for Some Selfie Sanity!

Experts say the popularity of “selfie” photos is causing people to have a distorted view of their smile. Studies show that selfies cause many people to perceive their front teeth as protruding or “horsey.” In most cases, this simply isn’t true.

selfie dental dysmorphia
Selfies can either confuse or improve your perception of your dental health. Read on to learn more!

Misperceiving your smile has become so common that there’s even a term for it: dental dysmorphia. Many factors can make your “selfie teeth” appear differently than they do in real life: the angle, the closeness of the photo, the flash and even certain camera lenses. A similar problem occurs when people scrutinize the whiteness of their teeth without accounting for the effects of light and shadow.

There are many ways to improve your smile, from straightening teeth with Invisalign to repairing receding gums with surgery. Dental implants can even replace missing teeth with natural-looking replacements that look and function like real teeth.

We’re happy to help you achieve your smile goals. But before you consider cosmetic dentistry, take a good look at your teeth in non-selfie photos and in the mirror. Book a free consultation with our team. We’ll talk to you honestly about which procedures are a fit for you and which will actually get you results.

Your smile makeover should be done for the right reasons — not because you’re looking at too many misleading selfies on Facebook and Instagram!

Harness The Power Of The Selfie!

Despite the problem of dental dysmorphia, there is actually a major benefit to having so many photos on our smartphones and social media.

Taking “selfie” videos while brushing your teeth can actually help improve your oral health, according to a new study. Researchers observed an overall improvement in the participants’ skill, including more brush strokes and more accurate brushing.

The study suggests that sharing photos or videos with your dental professional can help improve the quality of your brushing. Many factors — including grip, motion, bristle angle, pressure and duration — affect the success of brushing and flossing.

If you’re not sure if you’re getting the most from your brushing and flossing, share a photo or video with your dental hygienist during your next visit!

What’s Wise For Wisdom Teeth?

Wisdom teeth, sometimes called third molars, are the source of much debate. If you’ve ever tried to Google search them, or asked a few friends about it, you know there are a variety of opinions on how to handle wisdom teeth.

Dr. Gerry Casazza
Do wisdom teeth really need to be removed? Dr. Casazza sets the record straight.

First of all, what are they and why do we get them? Wisdom teeth are a third set of molars that usually come in between age 17 and 25. Some people don’t form them at all, while other people’s wisdom teeth are concealed. There’s not a single “normal” result.

Scientists believe that early human beings ate more raw grains, plant life and other foods that required more molar surface for grinding. As we evolved and learned to cook food, our diet changed. The theory is that as we evolved, our lower jaws became smaller, leaving less space for wisdom teeth.

While we don’t need wisdom teeth, it’s not always necessary to remove them. At Future of Dentistry, we never recommend unnecessary surgery. For some people, there’s adequate room for wisdom teeth to emerge without overcrowding and the patient experiences no discomfort.

However, some wisdom teeth are impacted. If they only have room to partially emerge, “third molars” can cause infection, swelling and pain. They can affect the position and condition of neighboring teeth.

The wise choice is not to ignore wisdom teeth. Schedule a consultation and we’ll be able to determine the safe and healthy course of action.

There’s one other important factor to consider with third molars. More than half of the narcotic painkillers prescribed after wisdom teeth removal go unused, according to a new study. This increases the risk that someone other than the patient could misuse and abuse the medication, or it could be stolen. The study suggests this problem may contribute to the U.S. opiate epidemic.

Given how severe the opioid problem is in Greater Boston, this is something patients should keep in mind. If you have prescription painkillers after wisdom teeth removal, please dispose of any leftovers. You might try using one of the drop-off locations that local towns and cities have set up for safe disposal of medications.