DontLetTheseAgingPitfallsRobYouofGoodOralHealthLaterinLife

Boomers, Gen X, Millennials, Gen Z—we're all different. But regardless of our particular birth generation, we do have one thing in common: we're all getting older. Sooner (Boomers) or later (Gen Z), we're all going to face some challenging realities related to aging—including regarding our teeth and gums.

Even if you've enjoyed optimal oral health throughout your life, aging can still have an impact. As we recognize Older Americans Month this May, here are some potential issues you might face as you get older with your teeth and gums, and how you can start minimizing those issues now.

Wearing. After tens of thousands of meals, you can expect your teeth to show some wear. The question is, how much. Crunching ice or using your teeth as a nutcracker accelerates normal wear, as can an unconscious teeth-grinding habit. It's important, then, to keep an eye on dental wearing and adjust your lifestyle habits (or get help with them from your dentist) to minimize the rate of wear.

Discoloration. Teeth naturally yellow as we get older, but just like dental wearing, there are things that can make it worse: Drinking coffee, tea, or red wine, smoking, or neglecting oral hygiene. Restricting foods that cause staining, quitting smoking, and renewing your brushing and flossing habit (along with regular dental cleanings) can help keep staining to a minimum.

Dental disease. Fifty percent of people over 30 will contend at some point in their lives with gum disease—and that percentage mushrooms to 70 percent after age 65. And, it's not just gum disease—older adults have a higher risk for tooth decay, as well as oral cancer. Besides practicing good oral hygiene habits, it's especially important to visit your dentist regularly for checkups, and to eat a healthy diet of whole foods and less processed, sugar-laden foods.

Disability. Our ability to take care of ourselves can diminish as we get older, which could have an effect on our oral health. Both physical disability and cognitive decline may make it harder to brush and floss, or to keep up with regular dental care. Along the way, you may need to make adjustments to your oral hygiene routine like using larger-handled or power toothbrushes, flossing picks, or water flossers. And if the time comes, seek out help from a caretaker or loved one to help you keep up with your oral care.

A long and happy life isn't challenge-free and your oral health may well be one of those challenges. But with a continuing focus on good personal and dental care, you can meet those challenges with a healthy mouth and a beautiful smile.

If you would like more information about the effects of aging on oral health, please contact us or schedule a consultation. To learn more, read the Dear Doctor magazine article “Aging and Dental Health.”

Implant-SupportedDenturesMayHelpYouAvoidBoneLoss

Although we have more replacement options for missing teeth than our forebears of a century ago, people who've lost all their teeth overwhelmingly choose dentures, a restoration that would have been quite familiar to past generations. And for good reason! Dentures have a long history of effectively restoring dental form and function.

Even so, dentures do have their weaknesses, and one in particular—they can't stop bone loss, a common occurrence after losing teeth. The forces we generate when we chew stimulate the bone in the jaw to produce new cells after older cells die off. The stimulation ends, however, where teeth go missing, which can cause replacement growth of bone to significantly lag behind and create a deficit in the bone.

What's worse, dentures may even accelerate further bone damage. The pressure they exert resting on the gums irritate the bony ridges beneath, resulting in more bone loss. The dentures' once tight fit may then become overly loose, making them unstable and uncomfortable to wear, and in need of repair or replacement.

There is a way, though, to address this weakness with dentures through dental implants. By strategically placing a few implants to support either a removable denture (overdenture) or a fixed denture, we may actually be able to slow or stop further bone loss.

As few as 3 implants might be needed to support an upper denture, which connects to them through special fittings, or perhaps only 2 for a lower denture. A fixed denture that's permanently affixed to the implants may require 4 to 6 for adequate support.

With the dentures' support shifted to the implants rather than the gums, it's obvious how these hybrid teeth replacements could be more secure. But what can they do to deter bone loss?

Implants are essentially a titanium metal post imbedded in the jawbone.  Bone naturally attracts to titanium, and will readily grow and adhere to its metal surface. Besides creating a durable bond, the relationship between implant and bone can generate new bone growth even in areas of previous loss.

An implant-supported denture can feel more secure in your mouth. More importantly, it might help you avoid further bone loss.

If you would like more information on implant-supported dentures or bridges, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more about this topic by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “Overdentures & Fixed Dentures.”

YouMayNotBeanMMAFighterLikeDevinClarkButYouMightStillBeatRiskforMouthInjury

Mixed martial artists undoubtedly carry a greater risk for physical injury than the average person—just ask Devin Clark. The star fighter with the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) has had his share of cuts and bruises over his successful career. His most recent bout was especially brutal—on his teeth.

During his September fight with Ion Cu?elaba in Las Vegas, "Brown Bear" (his nickname among fans) took a knee to the mouth. He went on to lose the fight—and nearly some teeth. Fortunately, an emergency dental visit saved the teeth displaced from their normal alignment.

You might not be an MMA fighter, but you're still at risk for dental trauma if you have an active lifestyle or play contact sports. Wearing a mouthguard will certainly lower your risk significantly. But what if the unthinkable still happens? An impact to the mouth could leave you with a chipped, cracked, loosened or even knocked out tooth.

If you or someone you know experiences dental trauma, here are 3 common sense tips to cope with the injury and minimize the damage.

See a dentist.  If you've seen pictures of Devin Clark's injury right after his September fight, you'd say it was a no-brainer he needed a dentist ASAP. Likewise, so should any injured person with obvious tooth or gum damage. But it's also a good idea to have a dentist check the teeth, gums and jaws within a day or two after any hard mouth contact for underlying damage.

Retrieve tooth fragments. The blunt force of a hard mouth impact can cause pieces of a tooth (or the whole tooth itself) to come loose. Before heading to the dentist, try to retrieve as many dental fragments as you can—they may be able to re-bond them to the tooth. Just be sure to clear the fragments of any debris and secure them in a container with milk or clean water.

Re-insert a knocked-out tooth. As mentioned earlier, a tooth could be knocked completely out of its socket during a hard impact. Even so, there's a good chance of saving it if you act quickly. First, retrieve the tooth and, holding it by the crown and not the root end, clear away dirt and debris with clean water. Then, press it firmly back into its socket. The person should then go immediately to a dentist or emergency room.

You're probably not at as much risk as an MMA fighter for dental trauma, but it can still happen. So, take precautions by wearing a mouthguard during high-risk activities. And should an injury occur, act promptly to protect yours or the other person's dental health.

If you would like more information about preventing and managing a mouth-related injury, please contact us or schedule a consultation. To learn more, read the Dear Doctor magazine article “Athletic Mouthguards.”

By James P. Watts, DMD
May 01, 2022
Category: Oral Health
Tags: oral health  
4RiskAreasThatCouldAffectYourLong-termOralHealth

Good oral health doesn't just happen. It is often the byproduct of a long-term care plan developed by a patient with their dentist. The plan's strategy is simple—stay well ahead of any potential threats to teeth and gum health through prevention and early treatment.

We can categorize these potential threats into 4 different areas of risk. By first assessing the state of your current oral health in relation to these areas, we find out where the greatest risks to your oral health lie. From there, we can put together the specifics of your plan to minimize that risk.

Here, then, is an overview of these 4 risk areas, and how to mitigate their effect on your oral health.

Teeth. Healthy teeth can endure for a lifetime. But tooth decay, a bacterial disease that erodes enamel and other dental tissues, can destroy a tooth's health and longevity. Our first priority is to prevent decay through daily brushing and flossing and regular dental cleanings. We also want to promptly treat any diagnosed decay with fillings or root canal therapy to limit any structural damage to an affected tooth.

Gums and bone. Teeth depend on the gums and bone for support and stability. But periodontal (gum) disease weakens and damages both of these supporting structures, and may lead to possible tooth loss. As with tooth decay, our highest priority is to prevent gum disease through daily hygiene and regular dental care. When it does occur, we want to aggressively treat it to stop the infection and minimize damage.

Bite function. Misaligned teeth and other bite problems can diminish oral health over time. A poor bite can impair oral function, leading to structural dental damage. Misaligned teeth are also harder to clean and maintain, which increases their risk for dental disease. Correcting these problems through orthodontics or bite adjustment measures can help alleviate these risks.

Appearance. How your smile looks may or may not be related to your mouth's health and function, but an unattractive smile can affect your emotional health, and thus worthy of consideration in your overall care plan. Improving appearance is often a mix of both cosmetic and therapeutic treatments, so treating a tooth or gum problem could also have a positive impact on your smile.

If you would like more information on long-term dental care strategies, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more about this topic by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “Successful Dental Treatment.”

AnImplantCouldFailifSupportingStructuresBecomeDiseased

From an appearance standpoint, it might be difficult to tell a new dental implant and crown from a natural tooth. There is, however, one big difference between an implant and crown from a real tooth, one which could impact an implant's longevity: how each attach to the jaw.

A natural tooth is held in place by a tough, but elastic gum tissue called the periodontal ligament. The ligament lies between the tooth and the bone, extending out tiny fibers that attach to both. This holds the teeth firmly in place, while also allowing the tooth to gradually move in response to mouth changes. It also facilitates the delivery of infection-fighting agents to protect the teeth and gums against disease.

By contrast, an implant is imbedded in a prepared channel shaped into the jaw bone. Over time, bone cells grow and adhere to the titanium surface, which serves to fully secure the implant to the jaw. The periodontal ligament doesn't attach to the implant, so it relies solely for stability on its attachment to the bone.

Thus, although highly durable, implants don't share the properties real teeth have because of their connection with the periodontal ligament. They don't move dynamically like real teeth; and more importantly, they lack some of the disease-fighting resources available to natural teeth.

So, what difference would the latter make? Implants aren't composed of organic material, and are therefore unaffected by bacterial infection. The problem, though, is that the gums and bone supporting the implant are susceptible to disease. And, because an implant lacks the defenses of a real tooth that the periodontal ligament provides, an infection within these tissues could quickly undermine their support and cause the implant to fail.

To avoid this and protect the longevity of your implant, it's important that you practice daily oral hygiene. You should brush and floss your implant to clear away disease-causing plaque from the surrounding tissues just as you do natural teeth.

Your dental provider will also include cleaning around your implants during your regular visits, albeit with different tools that are more protective of the implant and crown surfaces. During these visits they'll also closely inspect the tissues around the implant for any signs of infection and initiate prompt treatment if necessary.

If you would like more information on taking care of your implants, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more about this topic by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “Dental Implant Maintenance.”





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