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Sunnyvale Dentist – Geriatric & Elder Care Dentistry

Sunnyvale Dentist – Geriatric & Elder Care Dentistry

Geriatric dentistry is the branch of dentistry dealing specifically with the oral health needs, treatments, and concerns of senior citizens. As our population ages this important aspect of dentistry becomes more and more relevant to a larger and larger number of patients. 

Once the first baby boomers reach retirement in 2011, the number of citizens in the United States at or above the age of 65 will increase almost exponentially until 2030 when the end of the baby boomers reach 65 years old. 

This means that a tremendous number of patients being treated over the next 50 years will be 65 years old or older. They will need dentists who are well trained in diagnosing and treating the oral health needs of senior citizens.

Elderly Medications and Dental Treatment

One of the most significant aspects of treating senior citizens is getting an accurate list of all the medications they are taking, both prescription and over-the-counter medications. In addition, the dentist should be aware of any potential adverse interactions with the medications that they place the patient on. 

As the number of medications a patient is taking increases, the chance of an adverse interaction increases dramatically. This is a significant concern to all treating physicians, not just dentists.

Today, the average senior citizen takes 5 prescription medications and 2 over-the-counter medications on a daily basis. It is not unusual for a senior citizen to be taking 10 or more prescription medications and 5 or more over the counter medications. It is quite obvious that medically managing a senior citizen is extremely complex requiring extensive pharmaceutical knowledge.

Another aspect of geriatric dentistry is accounting for the physical changes that occur as we age. One of the most significant changes that we go through as we age is that our lean muscle mass is replaced by adipose tissue (fat). This means someone who is the same weight at 65 to 80 years old as they were when they were 30 years old has more of their mass as fat and less of their mass as lean muscle. 

Also, due to the amount of drug use that occurs over a lifetime in addition to general aging, the elderly metabolize drugs differently than compared to when they were younger

These factors have profound implications on the way medications act. Referring to their potency, half-life (the time they remain in the body), complications and interactions with one another. 

In geriatric dentistry, a dentist must take into consideration the drug regimen that a patient is on, and plan their use of anesthesia and follow up care accordingly.

Increased Difficulty Maintaining Oral Hygiene

Loss of dexterity, especially in the hands, due to age related maladies can cause many patients difficulty with their daily oral hygiene. This can make it difficult to grasp a toothbrush and nearly impossible to set and manipulate dental floss with their fingers. Some solutions would be to recommend large handled toothbrushes that are easier to grasp and the use of pre-strung dental floss in a Y-shaped holder. Failing eyesight can also hinder proper hygiene. Patients can’t clean what they can’t see. Fortunately corrective eyeglasses, vision enhancement surgeries and cataract surgery all help improve patients’ vision.

Physical accessibility to a health care provider and their facility can often affect whether senior citizens receive health care. Limited personal mobility, difficulty walking, difficulty climbing stairs and difficulty attaining transportation to and from a healthcare facility can all limit and actually preclude senior citizens from receiving the health care they need. Handicap parking, handicap accessible facilities and handicap and senior public transportation can all help alleviate these obstacles to health care for the physically limited and handicapped patient.

Best Dental Care for Elderly Patients

As with all health care, a proper comprehensive health history, through examination, diagnostic tests, and good rapport with each individual patient leads to the best possible approach to treating our senior dental patients.

Having a team oriented approach in which the patient’s other health care providers are consulted with, help develop and are aware of the proposed dental treatment plan will also help to improve the patient’s oral care treatment. This multifaceted team type of approach to health care becomes even more important for geriatric patients and medically compromised patients than for healthy younger adults.

Elderly Dental Conditions that Require Treatment

Certain conditions can occur in seniors that would not normally be found in younger individuals and that can affect the health of their teeth, as well as their overall physical wellbeing.

The following conditions may be of concern and should be evaluated by Sunnyvale geriatric dentist Dr. Gupta:

  • Dry Mouth (Xerostomia)
  • Tooth Wear and Excessive Staining
  • Dental Decay (Root Surface)
  • Gum Disease (Periodontal Disease)
  • Loss or Alteration in Taste
  • Issues Related to Aging Tooth Pulp: Vascular Changes and Excessive Plaque Buildup

If you’re experiencing any of these symptoms, you should schedule an appointment with Sunnyvale Dental Care Office today.

Dry Mouth (Xerostomia)

A condition common to the elderly whereby saliva flow is decreased. The causes can include certain medical conditions, certain medications such as antihistamines, pain relievers and decongestants, among others. Other causes can be ill fitting dental appliances such as full or partial dentures.

If a person allows this continued dry mouth condition to persist, there is an increase in the level of dental decay due to the increased level of bacterial colonies and plaque accumulations. The reason for this is that saliva has a natural bathing effect on teeth that helps decrease the level of bacteria from forming.

There is also a greater risk for periodontal disease due to the decreased level of saliva. Patients are urged to see their dentist and/or physician to evaluate this condition. Certain products are available that can help correct this condition such as artificial saliva replacement drops, oral rinses such as Biotene mouthrinse and Oral Balance a moisturizing oral rinse. Sugarless lemon drops have also been found to be an excellent saliva stimulant that can help increase saliva flow.

Tooth Wear and Excessive Staining

With the increased wear of teeth over the years, many seniors may notice an unaesthetic appearance. Teeth can become unsightly and can make one appear older than they really are. Teeth can also stain, especially since these areas of enamel wear are excellent places for debris and plaque to accumulate and stain over the years. Also, as the protective enamel wear occurs, the yellowish dentin is more apparent causing teeth to appear darker.

Hypersensitivity of teeth is also common causing unnecessary discomfort in patients.

Dental Decay (Root Surface)

As one ages, the incidence for decay can increase, especially root surface decay. The exposure of the tooth’s root surface occurs in seniors primarily from gum tissue receding as one ages. Root surfaces do not have a protective enamel layer and are primarily composed of softer cementum, which easily decays. Plaque and bacterial accumulation can collect on these surfaces increasing the risk for this type of decay. Since the root surface lacks enamel, decay can more easily penetrate the tooth’s pulp (nerve), which can cause endodontic (root canal) problems and in worst scenarios, tooth loss. Older fillings may also wear and fracture as one ages causing weakening or loss of teeth.

Gum Disease (Periodontal Disease)

The most common cause of tooth loss in adults is gum disease. Bacteria create toxins which inflame and irritate gum tissue. Over the years, a slow progressive detachment occurs that affects the supporting bone, which dissolves. Tooth loss eventually results, especially if left untreated. The elderly are more prone to this condition as a result of smoking, poor diets, poor oral hygiene habits and certain medical conditions. It is imperative that one have regular dental checkups to determine if they have this condition.

Loss or Alteration in Taste

Many seniors experience the loss of their taste sensation as they age. This can occur as a normal result of aging. However, certain diseases and medications can increase the incidence of taste loss. Ill fitting dentures or other removable dental appliances can increase the alteration of taste. Patients should always notify their dentist and/or physician if they have any type of alteration or loss in their taste sensation. Many new and exciting treatment alternatives have been developed in dentistry over the years that can help seniors restore their teeth to a much more functional, healthy and youthful look.

Aging Tooth Pulp: Vascular Changes and Excessive Plaque Buildup

A geriatric dentist will have more experience in dealing with issues related to aging tooth pulp, vascular changes and excessive plaque buildup. As people age, the pulp in their teeth becomes more fibrous and show signs of more frequent scaring. Athrisclerotic plaque can appear in pulp vessels and calcification is often found in the blood vessels surrounding the tooth as well.n found in the blood vessels surrounding the tooth as well.

Elderly patients have a sweet spot in Dr. Gupta’ heart and he tries his best and makes every effort to lower the cost of delivering solid dental treatment for his elderly local patients. Dr. Gupta believes that the four pillars that any product should have are best quality, service, affordability and convenience. Dental services are no different. When it comes to dental treatments, Sunnyvale dentist Dr. Gupta ’ philosophy is providing top notch quality and reasonably priced and affordable geriatric dentistry. This is particularly important to most senior citizens since they might be living on a fixed income. When an elderly patient takes the time and spends their energy to review Sunnyvale Dental Care work is something special and priceless to Dr. Gupta . Dr.Gupta appreciates their effort and their great reviews on sites like Facebook, Yelp, Google and YouTube.

Our dental practice has been named after the city of Sunnyvale due to its central location and closeness to downtown Sunnyvale. Sunnyvale Dental Care patient base is almost evenly divided between all Sunnyvale city zip codes which are 94085, 94086, 94087, 94088 and 94089. Our practice provides treatment for all ages. Senior and elder care geriatric dentistry is no exception.

Sunnyvale Dental Care welcomes PPO dental insurance members. Being a preferred PPO provider Sunnyvale dentist, it is our pleasure to be instrumental in providing policy holders with affordable dental care. PPO dental patients can save a lot by choosing an in-network dentist for all kinds of dental treatment. The following is a list of some insurance companies that we are PPO with: Anthem BlueCross, Assurant, Aetna, Cigna, DenteMax, Geha Connection, Guardian, HealthNet, Maverest, Dentegra, Principal, Ameritas, United HealthCare, First Dental Health, Avesis, Dental Benefit Providers, MetLife, and Humana.


Learn more when you visit Sunnyvale Dental Care Practice. Call Sunnyvale Geriatric Dentist Dr. Gupta at 408-720-0900 to schedule a consultation today!



Geriatric Dentistry FAQs


Why do my teeth seem darker?

One of the changes you may notice as you grow older is that it’s harder to keep your teeth clean and white. This is because the sticky, colorless layer of bacteria, called plaque, can build up faster and in greater amounts as we age. Changes in dentin, the bone-like tissue that is under your enamel, may also cause your teeth to appear slightly darker.


Why does my mouth feel dry?

Reduced saliva flow that results in a dry mouth is a common problem among older adults. It is caused by certain medical disorders and is often a side effect of medications such as antihistamines, decongestants, pain killers and diuretics. Some of the common problems associated with dry mouth include a constant sore throat, burning sensation, problems speaking, difficulty swallowing, hoarseness or dry nasal passages. Left untreated, dry mouth can damage your teeth. Without adequate saliva to lubricate your mouth, wash away food, and neutralize the acids produced by plaque, extensive cavities can form.
Sunnyvale dentist Dr. Gupta can recommend various methods to restore moisture. Sugar-free candy or gum stimulates saliva flow, and moisture can be replaced by using artificial saliva and oral rinses.


Aren’t cavities just kid’s stuff?

No. Changes that occur with aging make cavities an adult problem, too. Recession of the gums away from the teeth, combined with an increased incidence of gum disease, can expose tooth roots to plaque. Tooth roots are covered with cementum, a softer tissue than enamel. They are susceptible to decay and are more sensitive to touch and to hot and cold. The majority of people over age 50 have tooth-root decay.
Decay around the edges, or margins, of fillings is also common to older adults. Because many older adults lacked benefits of fluoride and modern preventive dental care when they were growing up, they often have a number of dental fillings. Over the years, these fillings may weaken and tend to fracture and leak around the edges. Bacteria accumulate in these tiny crevices causing acid to build up which leads to decay.


Why am I losing my sense of taste?

You may find that you are losing your appetite due to a change in your sense of taste. Several factors can cause this change. Besides an age-related decrease in the sense of taste and smell, certain diseases, medications and dentures can contribute to a decrease in your sense of taste.


How can I fill the gap?

A bridge — a device used to replace missing teeth — attaches artificial teeth to adjacent natural teeth, called abutment teeth. Bridges can be applied either permanently (fixed bridges), or they can be removable.
Fixed bridges are applied by either placing crowns on the abutment teeth — to provide support for artificial teeth — or by bonding the artificial teeth directly to the abutment teeth. Removable bridges are attached to the teeth by either metal clasps or by precision attachments.


What about dentures?

When most or all of your teeth have been lost, dentures can restore your eating and speaking ability, as well as improve your appearance. Today’s dentures are much more effective and cosmetically appealing than they were in the past. A fitting for dentures can take place immediately after your natural teeth are removed or after the extraction sites have healed. Full dentures replace all of the natural teeth, and partial dentures replace only some of the natural teeth.


Are there other options?

An increasingly successful option to dentures and bridges is dental implants. Instead of attaching artificial teeth to existing teeth, as bridges do, implants attach directly to the jaw bone or under the gum tissues. Because implants attach so securely, they look and feel natural, and offer better chewing ability. Candidates for implants must be in good health and have enough bone with which to secure the implant. Sunnyvale dentist Dr. Gupta can let you know if implants are an option for you.


Preventing Dental Problems

Every time you eat food containing sugars and starches, the bacteria in plaque produce acids which attack your tooth enamel for 20 minutes or more. After repeated acid attacks, the tooth enamel begins to break down and a cavity forms. By limiting the number of times you snack and choosing nutritious foods from the five main food groups (vegetables; fruits; dairy; breads/cereals/grains; meat/poultry/fish), you can help save your teeth from decay. A balanced diet, plus brushing and cleaning between your teeth, can keep your mouth healthier.


Choosing Oral Care Products

Even savvy shoppers can be baffled by the seemingly endless variety of dental care products. Choose products recommended by Sunnyvale Dental Care. Toothpaste, manual and electric toothbrushes, floss and other interdental cleaning aids, mouthrinses and oral irrigators.


Brushing tips

Thorough brushing twice a day, and cleaning between the teeth daily with floss or other interdental cleaners, remove plaque. Keep these tips in mind when brushing your teeth. Use a soft-bristled toothbrush. Place the brush at a 45-degree angle to the teeth and use a gentle tooth-wide, back-and-forth motion. Remember to clean the inside teeth surfaces where plaque deposits are heavy, and clean the back teeth and tongue. Replace your brush when the bristles become frayed or worn — about every three to four months.


Cleaning between teeth

Floss and other interdental cleaners remove plaque from between the teeth and under the gumline, areas where the toothbrush can’t reach. If you haven’t been in the habit, it’s never too late to start.
When flossing, keep in mind these tips. Gently ease the floss between the teeth and gumline, never snap it. Form a “c” against the sides of both teeth and gently rub the floss up and down the tooth, moving it from under the gumline to the top of the tooth. Establish a regular pattern of flossing and remember to floss the backside of the last teeth. It’s especially important for bridge wearers to floss around the abutment teeth. These teeth must remain healthy if the bridge is to function properly.
If you use interdental cleaners, ask our staff at Sunnyvale Dental Care how to use them properly, to avoid injuring your gums.


Cleaning between teeth

Floss and other interdental cleaners remove plaque from between the teeth and under the gumline, areas where the toothbrush can’t reach. If you haven’t been in the habit, it’s never too late to start.
When flossing, keep in mind these tips. Gently ease the floss between the teeth and gumline, never snap it. Form a “c” against the sides of both teeth and gently rub the floss up and down the tooth, moving it from under the gumline to the top of the tooth. Establish a regular pattern of flossing and remember to floss the backside of the last teeth. It’s especially important for bridge wearers to floss around the abutment teeth. These teeth must remain healthy if the bridge is to function properly.
If you use interdental cleaners, ask our staff at Sunnyvale Dental Care how to use them properly, to avoid injuring your gums.


Denture care and maintenance

Cleaning your dentures daily helps remove stains and plaque that build up and irritate your gums. First, rinse your dentures. Then, use a soft-bristled denture brush and a denture-cleaning agent. Brush the denture thoroughly, but avoid damaging the plastic parts or metal clasps.
Only your dentist is qualified to diagnose your oral health condition and fit and adjust your dentures. Do-it-yourself kits and use of dental adhesives, without a dentist’s advice, can result in increased irritation, bone loss and even infections. Although your dentures were made to fit precisely, they can become loose due to naturally occurring changes in your gums and bones. Your dentist should periodically check your dentures for proper fit.


The Importance of Dental Visits

Regular dental visits are important, regardless of whether or not you have your natural teeth. Checking the condition of your teeth is just one of the many functions your dentist performs.


Why isn’t brushing enough?

Although daily brushing and flossing help remove plaque and early tartar formation, once tartar has hardened, it can only be removed by a dental professional. Some people form tartar faster than others and may need to have their teeth cleaned more often.


What else happens in a dental examination?

Besides finding and treating existing dental problems, your dentist also looks for signs of other health problems such as oral cancer. Many oral cancers are treatable if they are discovered early.

So, alert Sunnyvale dentist Dr. Gupta to any sores, swellings or discolorations that you find on your tongue, lips, cheek, throat, jaw bone or salivary glands. Because the majority of oral cancers occur in people over the age of 45, regular dental checkups are important. In addition, other medical conditions often have symptoms that first appear in the mouth.


Things to Remember…

Although our mouth goes through many changes as we age, the power to avoid dental decay and gum disease is within our grasp.
Contrary to popular belief, cavities are a common problem among older adults.
Tooth loss isn’t inevitable, but if you do lose some or all of your teeth, a number of options can be used to replace them.
Be sure to tell us at Sunnyvale Dental Care about any illnesses you have or any medications that you are taking — including those you purchase over the counter.


Getting a Grip on Your Toothbrush and Floss

If you have dexterity problems or a physical disability, you may find it difficult to hold onto your toothbrush or dental floss. This can be solved by using a few simple “home remedies” or devices listed below.

  • Use a wide elastic band to attach the brush to your hand.
  • Enlarge the brush handle with a sponge, rubber ball or bicycle handle grip. Also try winding an elastic bandage or adhesive tape around the handle.
  • Lengthen the handle with a piece of wood or plastic such as a ruler, popsicle stick or tongue depressor.
  • Tie floss into a loop for easier handling.
  • Use an electric toothbrush or commercial floss holder.


What about nursing home oral health?

When choosing a nursing home for an elderly person, inquire as to whether there is an onsite dental facility. Ask if there are on call dentists and whether staff is trained in oral health care and can recognize problems.


Are there other ways I can improve my smile?

Looking good continues to be important as we grow older, and a number of new cosmetic dental procedures can help you improve your smile. These new techniques are not just for younger people — many are options that can benefit you. Bleaching whitens stained teeth. Bonding is a technique that “paints” tooth-colored materials onto the tooth to cover stains, to rebuild chipped or cracked teeth and to close gaps. Veneers are tooth-colored materials that fit over the teeth much like a false fingernail. Ask us at Sunnyvale Dental Care what procedures would be right for you.

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