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Healthy Geezer: Teeth, poison, headaches

Q. What causes my old teeth to decay?

Tooth decay and gum disease are caused by plaque, a layer of bacteria. Plaque can build up quickly on the teeth of older people.

In addition, seniors have a greater tendency to get decay around older fillings. And we have more fillings than younger people because we didn’t all grow up with fluoride added to drinking water.

Cavities in the roots of teeth are also more common among older adults because the roots are exposed when our gums recede and we become “long in the tooth.” The root surfaces are softer than tooth enamel and decay more easily.

Dry mouth, which is a lack of saliva, promotes tooth decay. Saliva is needed to neutralize the cavity-causing acids produced by plaque. Most dry mouth, or xerostomia, is related to medications taken by older adults rather than to the effects of aging.

Despite all of the dental problems related to age, seniors are holding onto their teeth longer than they used to. One reputable survey showed that the rate that seniors lose their teeth has dropped by 60 percent since 1960. This improvement has been attributed to advancements in treatment and better oral hygiene.

Q. What should I do if someone in my home is poisoned?

If you have a poison emergency, here are some steps you can take. The order of the steps depends upon the severity of the problem.

You can call 911, call your poison control center at 800-222-1222, and search the poison’s label for instructions and an emergency phone number.

Here first-aid instructions:

If you get a poison on your skin or in your eyes, rinse the affected area in the shower for at least 15 minutes.

If you inhale toxic fumes, get fresh air immediately.

If poison is swallowed, do not use an emetic medicine such as syrup of ipecac to induce vomiting. Doctors no longer recommend using these medicines because there is no evidence they prevent poisons from entering the bloodstream.

Q. How common are headaches?

More than 45 million Americans suffer from recurring headaches. About 70 percent of headache sufferers are women.

There are primary headaches, which are unrelated to another condition, and secondary headaches, which are.

Primary headaches include: tension, migraine, mixed headache syndrome and cluster headaches.

Secondary headaches include: chronic progressive, sinus and hormone headaches.

About 90 percent of primary headaches are caused by tension. These muscle-contraction headaches cause mild-to-moderate pain and come and go.

Tension headaches are called chronic if you have them more than 15 days per month. They are episodic if you get them less than 15 days per month.

Most tension headaches can be treated with over-the-counter pain relievers such as acetaminophen, aspirin and ibuprofen.

Have a question? Email: fred@healthygeezer.com. Order “How To Be A Healthy Geezer,” 218-page compilation of columns: healthygeezer.com

All Rights Reserved &Copy; 2019 Fred Cicetti

The Times News, Inc., and affiliates (Lehigh Valley Press) do not endorse or recommend any medical products, processes, or services or provide medical advice. The views of the columnist and column do not necessarily state or reflect those of the Lehigh Valley Press. The article content is not intended as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.