Today—for the first time in our country’s history—people are growing older with their natural teeth. This new shouldn’t be surprising because teeth are the most durable part of our bodies. Archeologists even find them in the rubble of ancient cities, hardly the worse for the wear.
And yet, until recently, people believed that as they aged, they had to lose teeth.
The Big News
Today the picture is different. Thanks to preventive medicine, people are living longer; and thanks to preventive dentistry, they’re keeping more of their teeth into old age.
It may surprise you to know that some people are well into their 80’s with perfect teeth and gums. Some of them may have been blessed by Nature, but most have spent a lot of time caring for them—and have done so since childhood.
The biological clock is ticking
It’s a fact that as we grow older, changes in our mouth, gums, and jawbone do occur. But neglect—not age—is the main cause of tooth loss.
While it’s true that the over-45 age group is more susceptible to oral diseases, aging and disease, are not on and the same.
Most problems can be prevented by a regimen of careful daily home care of your teeth, a healthy diet and lifestyle, and regular dental examinations.
Preventable causes of tooth loss
Periodontal Disease. The main cause of tooth loss after adolescence is a condition commonly known as pyorrhea, also called gum disease or periodontal disease. The good news is it’s preventable. And its progress can be arrested and sometimes even reversed by periodontal therapy. With treatment, your teeth not only can look younger, they can be healthier and stronger.
Root Caries. Because people are keeping their teeth longer, root caries (decay on the exposed root of the tooth) is on the rise. The condition develops as gums recede—from gum problems or too forceful tooth brushing—exposing the root to decay-causing bacteria.
Xerostomia. It’s not limited to the elderly, but xerostomia can be an unpleasant side effect of aging.
That big word really means lack of saliva or dry mouth; and it’s not only uncomfortable, but, in extreme cases, it can be dangerous. For, without a steady supply of saliva to bathe our teeth, decay can east away tooth enamel within days. Fluouride treatments and scrupulous care of teeth are needed to avoid problems.
It’s never too late
Even if you teeth are health, you may feel they’re not your best asset because they’re discolored, stained, chipped, or have large gaps between them.
But cosmetic dentistry…at your age? Absolutely!
You’ll be delighted to know that the new advanced materials and new techniques make it possible to improve the appearance of your teeth.
Bonding materials (composite resins) can fill in chips and cracks and cover yellowish-stained teeth. Newly developed porcelains and glass isonomer veneers and crown can restore teeth that are badly decayed or broken. And adult orthodontics can correct crooked, crowded or protruding teeth.
For years, it was thought that orthodontics was only for children—that adult teeth were locked into position. Then orthodontists found that teeth can be moved in adults almost as easily as in children. Now you’ll find adults—of all ages—getting into braces to improve their smiles.
An alternative to teeth
As much as we might wish to grow old with out teeth, sometimes it’s just not possible to save an injured tooth, even with the exacting and refined techniques of endodontics.
Today if it becomes necessary to replace on or more of your natural teeth., it’s mighty nice to know that research in prosthodontics has provided denture wearers with lifelike artificial teeth that look so natural they defy detection.
Or you may be a good candidate for implants. Dental implants are a viable alternative to dentures for some people. They aren’t indicated for everybody, but they may turn out to be just right for you.
Successful aging: A lifelong process
Whatever the condition of your teeth, a great deal can be done now to beautify, strengthen, and support them.
You don’t have to settle for a future of periodontitis, jawbone loss, loose and missing teeth and the kind of problems your grandparents put up with because they had no choice.
Modern dentistry represents the best investment you can make in the health of your mouth and your entire body.