Whether it’s in a cup or a can, today’s “meals-on-the-go” are risky. As adults we are constantly trying to squeeze 25 hours into a 24-hour day. Not only is our health suffering, but in conjunction so are our teeth.
Dental decay in children remains a significant problem even with the proven benefits of fluoridated water in many municipalities and fluoride-containing products. How is this happening in spite of parents having such a heightened awareness of nutrition, health, and fitness?
Young Adult Decay (Ages 17 to 25)
Caries is still the most common dental disease seen in adults. Soft drink consumption has increased significantly in the last 50 years. Frequency of consumption between meals seems to be the major factor.
Adult Decay (Ages 35 to 44)
With the eating habits of adults in this age group, it should not be surprising that a significant number have lost at least one tooth from decay. However, it should be alarming with what we know today.
Older Adults (Ages 65 and up)
With this age group, eating habits are just one obstacle to overcome. Our patients consistently return for recare appointments with recurrent, rampant, root, or xerostomia caries.
Other challenges for older adults could be acid reflux or digestive disorders. The constant use of sugar-containing antacids poses a problem.
WHAT CAN WE DO?
Our first course of action as healthcare providers is to increase awareness: educate, educate, educate. We must ask our patients about their dietary habits and encourage them to take notice of what they are consuming. Can we be more proactive? What about having patients e-mail you a 1-week dietary intake log? We assume our patients are aware of nutrition, but are they aware of what they are consuming?
Comprehensive exams should consist of but not be limited to:
(1) DIAGNOdent (KaVo) for virgin teeth.
(2) Radiographs every 12 months.
(3) Use of loupes for clinical evaluation.
(4) Review and updating of medical histories.
(5) Evaluation of any risk factors.
(6) Plaque control.
Consider reviewing risk assessment and management strategies for the different types of dental decay. Evaluate such items as risk factors, medical history, dietary habits, social/cultural history, fluoride exposure, plaque control, and clinical evidence. Recommend the proper strategies according to the needs of the patient.
Laclede, Inc. has also developed a xylitol gum that is sugar free and helps when brushing between meals is not possible.
The gauntlet has been placed. Your mission, should you choose to accept it, will be to increase your awareness of patients’ dietary intake. Take this mission to heart and become passionate about “you are what you eat/drink.”
Ms. Lorah is a coach with Hygiene Mastery. For a complimentary analysis of your hygiene department, including therapeutic fluoride programs, call (888) 347-4785 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.