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Health Q&A

Posted January 09, 2013 in Advice Column, Des Moines West

Q: Why should I try composite fillings?

A: Some disadvantages of amalgam or silver fillings:

• Poor Aesthetics. Silver fillings don’t match the color of natural teeth.

• Destruction of more tooth structure. Healthy parts of the tooth must often be removed to make a space large enough to hold the amalgam filling.

• Discoloration. Amalgam fillings can create a grayish hue to the surrounding tooth structure.

• Cracks and fractures. Although all teeth expand and contract in the presence of hot and cold liquids, which ultimately can cause the tooth to crack or fracture, amalgam material — in comparison with composite material — may experience a wider degree of expansion and contraction leading to a higher incidence of cracks and fractures.

• Allergic reactions. A small percentage of people, are allergic to the mercury present in amalgam restorations.

Advantages of composite or white fillings:

• Aesthetics. Composite fillings can be closely matched to the color of your existing teeth so are more aesthetically pleasing.

• Bonding. They actually chemically bond to tooth structure, providing greater support to the tooth.

• Versatility. In addition to use as a filling material for decay, composite fillings can also be used to repair chipped, broken, or worn teeth.

• Tooth sparing preparation. Usually less tooth structure needs to be removed when removing decay and preparing for the filling.

To maintain fillings, follow good oral hygiene practices, visit your dentist regularly, brush at least twice daily with a fluoride toothpaste and floss.

Information from Dear Doctor magazine, provided by Dr. Dennis Winter, Iowa Dental Arts, P.C., 2901 Beaver Ave., 277-6657.

Q: How careful must a person be when cleaning dentures?

A: Dentures are very fragile. Dropping one just a few inches into a sink, say, can be an expensive slip. When you’re handling dentures, stand over a basin full of water or over a plump, folded towel. When they’re not in your mouth, keep them out of reach of children and pets.  Dogs find them irresistible.

Just like natural teeth, dentures have to be kept clean. That will keep them from getting stained and will contribute to the overall health of your mouth. Using a brush that is designed for denture cleaning, wash away all food particles. When buying a denture-cleaning product, make sure it carries the American Dental Association Seal of Acceptance. That seal means the product has been approved by independent testing for both safety and effectiveness.

Dentures can lose their shape if they dry out, so when you’re not wearing them, keep them in an approved denture-cleaning soak or in water. Don’t put them in hot water, however, because that can warp them. Talk with your dentist about other steps in the proper care of your dentures.

Information provided by Des Moines Dental Group, 708 First Ave S., 967-6611.

Q: I have concerns about my parents and their safety. How do I start this conversation?

A: We can appreciate how challenging this topic may be in some families. Most older family members want to remain as independent as possible for as long as possible. Here are a few pointers to get the conversation started:

• Don’t wait; sooner is better. Gather your observations and be sure your concerns aren’t based on a single incident or circumstance. But don’t let things go until a problem arises and solutions become more limited.

• Talk it out. Start a conversation. Share your observations and ask for their perspective. Share and then listen. Find the points you can agree upon and work from there.

• Forget the baby talk. Never use patronizing speech or tone. If an aging parent feels he or she is being talked down to, they can become defensive. This is a conversation between adults.

• Maximize independence. Always try to move towards a solution that provides the maximum amount of independence for the older person. Look for answers that optimize strengths and compensate for challenges.

• Be aware of the whole situation. Look past the symptoms to the root cause and address those topics.

• Ask for help. There are many resources available in the community.  Research all of these so that you are informed on all the options.

For more suggestions and solutions please visit

Information provided by Anne Peters, Home Instead Senior Care®, 221-0866.

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