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Health Q&A

Posted September 19, 2012 in Advice Column, Winterset

Q: Why are routine dental X-rays necessary?

A: Since many oral diseases cannot be detected by just a visual or physical examination, X-rays (or radiographs) are a valuable diagnostic tool to help dentists detect oral health problems early. Dental X-rays are an important part of routine dental care for both adults and children. X-rays provide information about a patients’ oral health, such as cavities, gum disease, infections in the bone, abscesses or cysts, developmental abnormalities and some types of tumors.

There are a variety of X-rays that can be utilized depending on the circumstances. One example is the panoramic X-ray that shows a broad view of the jaws, teeth, sinuses, nasal area and jaw joints. This type of X-ray shows problems such as impacted teeth, bone abnormalities, cysts, tumors, infections and fractures.

State laws and regulations set specific requirements for the use of ionizing radiation. Such requirements include inspection and testing of equipment, supervision of personnel, and training or certification. Offices take precautions to protect the patient from radiation exposure, such as using a lead apron and a thyroid collar. X-ray technology has also been rapidly advancing. Digital X-rays are available, as are faster films, both of which decrease the amount of radiation a patient is exposed to. The amount of radiation that we are exposed to from dental X-rays is very small compared to the consequences of not having routine X-rays. Radiation exposure from checkup X-rays is roughly equivalent to the exposure you receive in half of a day from the sun.

Finding and treating dental problems early can save time, money and unnecessary discomfort. Visit for more detailed information.

Information provided by Dr. Christopher W. Blanchard, Blanchard Family Dental, 820 West Summit St., 462-4474

Q. What are important safety measures for the elderly?

A: Simple home safety recommendations for seniors include:

Using canes or walkers and shower seats for fall prevention if unsteady on feet
• Utilizing assist devices such as walkers, wheelchairs and scooters to promote safe mobility and independence if difficulty getting around.
• Replacing hardwood floors with carpeting for injury reduction in case of a fall. Avoid throw rugs on hardwood floors or potentially slick surfaces.
• Using hearing aids, wearing glasses and installing good lighting to diminish effects of hearing and visual problems.
• Managing medications by taking advantage of pill boxes when keeping track of medications becomes burdensome.
• Hiring caregivers or accepting assistance from family members if activities of daily living become difficult.
• Scheduling routine sleep and wake times to improve sleep quality and daytime efficiency.
• Subscribing to medical alert systems and programming emergency phone number into cell phones for easy access in cases of emergency.
• Planning regular social activities to improve social interactions.
• Driving with care and recognizing when it may be safer to stop driving.
• Preparing a properly executed advance healthcare directive, living will and trust to outline decisions and preferences in preparation for the time a person may become incapable of making sound decisions.

Information from, provided by Winterset Care Center North, 411 E. Lane St., 462-1571 and Winterset Care Center South, 715 S. Second Ave. 462-4040.

Q: It’s the time of the year when I hear about getting a flu shot. Do we really need that?

A: The “flu,” which is also known as influenza, is a highly contagious viral infection that affects mainly the nose, throat, chest and lungs. We strongly recommend that everyone (who is not restricted by age or other medical conditions) should receive a flu shot.

Influenza may cause mild to severe illness and may even lead to death. In the very young, the elderly and those with other serious medical conditions, infection can lead to severe complications such as pneumonia.

The symptoms of influenza include a high fever (typically, 100° F or higher), headache, extreme tiredness, coughing, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose and muscle aches. Some may also experience stomach symptoms but these symptoms are more common in children.

Urgent medical attention is warranted should you observe these symptoms: fast breathing or trouble with breathing, bluish skin color, not drinking enough fluids, not waking up or interacting, irritability (for example, if a child does not want to be held) and fever with rash.

Flu viruses mainly spread from person to person through coughing or sneezing of infected people. Sometimes people may become infected by touching something contaminated with flu viruses and then touching their mouth or nose. Washing hands with warm soapy water is also recommended.

The single best way to prevent the flu is to get vaccinated. Vaccinations only protect for one year and the influenza virus changes every year as it makes its way around the world. Since the exact flu viruses are almost never the same from year to year, the strains of influenza in the vaccine changes each year.

There are two types of vaccines. The “flu shot” is an inactivated vaccine (containing killed virus) that is given with a needle. The flu shot is approved for use in people 6 months of age and older, including healthy people and people with chronic medical conditions. The other method is the nasal-spray flu vaccine, which is a vaccine made with live, weakened flu viruses that do not cause the flu. Nasal mist is approved for use in healthy people 2 to 49 years of age who are not pregnant.

Vaccinations are recommended for all persons 6 months of age and older and are especially important for those people at high risk for developing flu-related complications, such as children younger than 5, adults 65 years of age and older, pregnant women and people with certain medical conditions like heart and lung problems and diabetes.

If despite your efforts to remain healthy you still get the flu, stay home from work or school, get plenty of rest and water, consult your physician, and try over-the-counter medications to relieve symptoms.

To get your flu vaccination, contact the Health Trust Physicians Clinic at (515) 462-2950 or the Earlham Medical Clinic at (515) 758-2907.

Information provided by Chris Nolte, director, Public Relations and Development, Madison County Health Care Systems, 300 West Hutchings, Winterset, 515-462-9749.

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