Etherton offers dental advice to seniors

Published 12:00 pm Saturday, January 8, 2022

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LANETT — On Friday, Dr. Jason Etherton visited the Lanett Senior Center to offer some advice on proper dental care with advancing age.

Etherton is nearing his 25th anniversary as a local dentist. His office is located near the entrance of Valley Medical Park.

Taking care of one’s teeth isn’t something that should start when someone is of retirement age. Often, that’s the time in life problems start to show up because of bad habits during one’s younger years.

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“Young people who like to chew on ice can have problems with their teeth later in life,” Etherton said. “Microfractures that develop early in life can cause teeth to break later on in life.”

There’s an old expression of being long in the tooth. It refers to older people. Teeth can sometimes appear longer, Etherton said, when gums recede.

When those gums recede, it exposes more parts of the tooth to decay.

“It’s easy for cavities to occur here,” Etherton said. “It’s important to keep your teeth clean. It’s also a good idea to use fluoride. It hardens soft cementum.”

Enamel is the hardest substance in the human body but is hardly indestructible.  Years of consuming acidic food and drink can take a toll on the teeth.

“When patients tell me their teeth are sensitive, I ask them what they have been eating and drinking,” Etherton said.

Over time, eating something like lemons can be harmful to the teeth.

Someone asked Etherton what was the best way to clean dentures.

“Don’t clean them with toothpaste. It’s abrasive to them,” he said. “Clean them with soft hand soap or dish detergent.”

He said a 50-50 mixture of white vinegar and water is also a good idea.

Etherton said there are some good programs out there to help older people who are struggling to pay dental bills. Humana has a very good dental program, he said. There’s also an online program known as Donated Dental Services in Alabama.

The medications people often take as they get older can sometimes harm their teeth. “Some medications can make your mouth dry,” Etherton said. “That can harm your teeth. It’s a good idea to avoid acidic foods and drink. They can cause your teeth to get brittle.”

Lanett Senior Center Manager Sandra Thornton said Etherton was her dentist. “He keeps me smiling,” she said.

Mayor Jamie Heard thanked Etherton for coming by the center and speaking to the seniors.

“I encourage you to look into the benefits that may be available to you,” he said to the seniors. “You should take advantage of any program that can help you.”