Oral Health of Seniors in America: New Report

A new report from Oral Health America, published on April 17, 2018, reveals a mixed bag for the oral health of seniors in America. In some states, the story is excellent; in others, it is disturbing. Here are some key points from the study:

  • Half of the United States received a “fair” or “poor” rating.
  • Coverage needed to pay for dental care is critical to improving the oral health of seniors.
  • One-third of older adults age 65 and older have lost 6 or more teeth.
  • Community water fluoridation increased from a state average of 71.9% (2016) to 72.6% (2018).
  • Many states do not cover basic dental treatments for older adults on Medicaid.
    • Only 42 states cover extractionsdentures and dollars

    • 31 States cover a periodic oral evaluation
    • Only 23 states cover periodontal maintenance
    • 14 states cover fluoride varnish
    • 21 states cover crowns
    • 23 states cover scaling and root planning
    • 31 states cover dentures
    • 31 cover periodic oral evaluation
    • 32 states cover composite restorations
    • 32 states cover amalgam restorations

How are States performing in terms of the oral health of older adults? The study evaluated community water fluoridation, dental visits, adult dental Medicaid coverage, severe tooth loss, and basic screening surveys. The Best States were: Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa, Connecticut, Colorado. The worst states were: Texas, Oklahoma, Louisiana, Tennessee, Mississippi. Virginia ranked in the middle area.

The increase in fluoridated water communities is good. But this does not address DENTAL CARE for our senior adults. What is a person to do to prevent decay and tooth loss? What is available to our seniors to maintain good oral health and not contribute to or exacerbate other conditions and illnesses?

The critical element of all oral health programs is PREVENTION of decay, gum disease, and tooth loss. But for many older adults, medication-caused dry mouth is very difficult to combat. Many oral health issues can be prevented or minimized by a combination of dental care and proper dental hygiene. When our seniors cannot afford a dental visit, this kind of prevention and care is a significant challenge. We need dental visits and evaluations in order to identify and treat problems as early as possible.

At Complete Dental Care in Salem, Virginia, Dr. Caroline Wallace and her team of professionals recognize the importance of dental care and the need for affordable oral health care. This is one of the primary reasons we created the COMPLETE DENTAL CARE SAVINGS PLAN. This program makes available to participants full basic dental care for a full year at a cost that is significantly lower than most commercial dental insurance or dental care plans. In addition, participants in the plan receive discounts on other procedures. We encourage local senior adults to consider the value of this plan and their need of continuing high quality dental care.

At this time, in fact, we are promoting a special offer to people whose parents are aged 60 or older. If you sign up your parents for this plan, we will help them get a good start in dental hygiene by giving them a complementary Oral-B Vitality electric toothbrush. In addition to our basic plan, we also offer a plan for periodontal care. The details of both plans can be found here: Call today for your appointment or your parent’s appointment.

To your oral health,

Caroline Wallace, DDS


12 million children in the U.S. have untreated tooth decay.

Even in the era of the Patient Protection Act and the Affordable Care Act, a recent study found that between 2011 and 2014, 12 million American children were living with untreated tooth decay. The study was intended to analyze socioeconomic and demographic factors that might have contributed to the children with untreated tooth decay. Specifically, they wanted to understand how the Affordable Care Act affected rates of untreated tooth decay in children.child w dentist pixabay cco-1437430 640

Researchers identified a number of expected and unexpected factors that were relevant to the presence of untreated tooth decay in children. These include:

  • Demographic and Socioeconomic factors
    • Age
    • Family income
    • Access to care
    • Utilization of care
  • Nonfinancial barriers
    • Lack of convenient appointment times
    • Parental busyness
    • Prohibitive distance to a dentist’s office
    • Child’s fear of the dentist

Some key statistical information from the study:

  1. Children whose families were dealing with financial barriers to treatment had more than twice the risk of developing tooth decay.
  2. Children facing nonfinancial barriers had nearly triple the risk of developing tooth decay.
  3. Children with a dental visit in the past 12 months had 44% lower chances of developing and living with untreated tooth decay.

The study pointed to “Interventions such as school-based sealant programs” that might help to overcome nonfinancial barriers by bringing the dentist to the school. There are many ways to address both financial and nonfinancial barriers to dental treatment for children. Many people are unaware of the extent of this problem. Some others are unwilling to discuss it. It remains a staggering failure of our health care system in this country that so many children are living with decaying teeth, and the pain it causes, at any given time.

The first step in any plan to overcome the barriers and provide needed dental care to all children is typically an initial conversation between a trusted dentist (one committed to creative thinking to ensure that quality dental care is made available to all children) and the child’s parents. When these conversations occur, and when parents are honest about barriers to dental care for their child, it is possible to make the parents aware of local programs available to assist with the cost of care or to provide free dental care. Often it is also the first opportunity dentists have to explain to parents that through use of relaxation dentistry and sedation dentistry children do overcome their fear of the dentist or of dental care. By working together, a committed dentist and a child’s parents can find ways to break through the barriers to care and get quality dental care for their children.

It is very rare that we see a parent who is indifferent to the possibilities to obtain quality dental care for their children. In those cases. we may be limited in the options we can make available. In other cases – the vast majority – we can help parents to become aware of and to utilize a range of local programs and ideas that will help them to overcome the barriers affecting their children.

Binge Drinking and Your Teeth

A new study from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) calls attention to the pervasiveness of binge drinking among adults. According to the study, one in every six American adults binge drink approxiately once per week. These binges include about seven drinks per person on bar-storyblocks - 3047514 640

Binge drinking is defined as "having five or more drinks for men, or four or more drinks for women, in about two hours." This kind of drinking is most common among those aged 18 to 34. The study also indicated that those with "household incomes of less than $25,000 per year and with less than a high school education consumed many more binge drinks" than those with more education and higher income.

There are many negative outcomes from binge drinking, including:

  • Alcohol impaired driving, one of the leding causes of traffic fatalities in the U.S.
  • Unsafe sex
  • Violent behavior
  • Increased risk of cancer, heart disease, liver failure, and more.

Because these outcomes do not seem to be affecting the number of people binge drinking, let's look at the effect of alcohol on your teeth and gums. How much does oral health, white teeth, and healthy gums matter to you?

  1. Alcohol consumption (especially excessive consumption) can aggravate an existing case of severe periodontal disease (also known as preiodontitis) or raise periodontal disease risk factors.
  2. The acid in many alcoholic beverages damages the enamel of teeth. Weakening the teeth and creating greater opportunity for bacteria and decay to get a foothold is one outcome of subjecting your teeth to the acid in alcohol.
  3. Alcohol abuse is the second leading factor in the appearance of oral cancer. 
  4. Mouth sores are more common among heavy drinkers.
  5. The color of beverages is created by chromogens. They attach to tooth enamel that has been weakened by the acid in alcoholic drinks and stain the teeth. 
  6. Red wine may kill the streptococci bacteria in your mouth, but it will also stain teeth and damage enamel.
  7. Beer will also stain teeth due to the malt and dark barley.
  8. Alcohol dries your mouth. Thus, if you do not drink water between alsoholic drinks, you do not remove the damaginng acid from your mouth.

In our appearance-obsessed society, the thought of ruining your teeth, gums and oral health, and losing your teeth later in life, may be persuasive -- or not. Nevertheless, the damage to one's oral health is yet another negative outcome of binge drinking. Remember: there is only so much your dentist can do to repair the damage. 


Quality of Care with Respect for Each Patient

We are acutely aware that many dentists and dental practices herd their patients through an examination in order to rush on to the next patient. We fully understand how this approach to patient care makes many people feel. This is why our practice of dentistry is different.

Complete Dental Care of Salem, Virginia practices dentistry on a different model. We are far less concerned about the number of patients we see each day than the quality of care we provide to each patient. We recognize and respect the individuality and unique needs of each patient. We adjust our approach and style of patient care to those unique needs of each patient.Caroline

Many people have deep-seated fears about dentists and dental care. We understand that. We understand that there are many reasons for these fears. We know that many people had bad experiences with dental care earlier in their lives. We also understand that other life events cause discomfort during dental treatment. Many kinds of abuse or injury are at the root of many patient fears. If you can tell us your experience or the nature of your fears, we will work with you to define your particular needs during treatment and to respect them.

If you tell us you are uncomfortable with dental treatment, we will listen to your fears and needs. Then, we will work together to find the best way to provide the care you need while respecting your personal needs and fears.

  • We do everything possible to respect the personal space of each patient while performing the needed procedures.
  • We will explain to you at the outset how you can let us know that you need a break. We will always honor that need.
  • We will explain everything we do in advance, as well as the reason it is needed. You will have the opportunity to accept or reject the proposed treatment.
  • You can refuse any treatment or procedure at any time. We will respect your needs immediately.
  • We understand that people who are experiencing stress have difficulty remembering information and instructions. For this reason, we will explain things to you and also give you written explanation or instruction for your use later.
  • If you recognize a need for dental care or treatment but cannot move forward due to your fears or discomfort, we offer some options to help you relax and endure the treatment. You might choose “relaxation dentistry” or “sedation dentistry” to make the process easier.

At Complete Dental Care in Salem, Virginia, we will always take the time to listen to your needs, concerns, and fears. Then we will work with you to decide how we will provide the care you need within your comfort zone. And we will always stop if you become uncomfortable during treatment.

The difference is that we treat people who have unique needs, because we care about the person in the chair.

Clean that Nasty Retainer!

Do you (or does your child) have a nasty retainer? Here’s what to do.


Do you (or does your child) have a nasty retainer? Here’s what to do.


First, there is a good bit of mis-information out there. You should not act on this information:

  1. You should not clean a retainer because you will kill the “good bacteria”
  2. If you brush your teeth twice each day, you don’t need to clean your retainer. Just don’t eat with the retainer in your retainer
  3. The products available that claim to be for retainer cleaning are actually not good for your retainer.
  4. If you take probiotics or other dietary supplements, your retainer and your mouth will be healthy without cleaning.
  5. All retainers begin to look cloudy after a time. This does not mean it is dirty.

What you should know about cleaning a retainer:

  • It is time to clean a retainer when: it smells or tastes bad, it is covered with a film, there are bits of food stuck to it, it breaks or cracks, it looks cloudy, it was last cleaned more than a week ago, or there are white spots on it.
  • If you use a retainer and you start to get cavities or you develop sensitivity to hot or cold, you should see your dentist or orthodontist and discuss cleaning.
  • Rinse a retainer in water throughout the day and keep it moist. Do not drink sugary beverages while wearing your retainer.
  • Brush your retainer when you brush your teeth with a soft toothbrush.
  • Denture cleaner can be used occasionally.
  • Make a toothpaste of baking soda and water (equal proportions), and use it to brush with a soft toothbrush.
  • Mix equal amounts of vinegar and water in a small dish. Soak the retainer in it for 20 minutes.
  • Castile soap can be combined with water. Dip the retainer into the mixture, brush with a soft brush, and then soak for 2 or 3 minutes. Rinse in cool water.
  • If there are no other options, the retainer can be dipped in non-alcoholic mouthwash for 2 or 3 minutes. Then rinse in cool water.
  • Use a commercially available retainer cleaning product.


Wishing you no more nasty retainers. 


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