Dental Implants Overcome The Problems Of Missing Teeth.

Posted on Jan 28, 2019 by William J. Claiborne, DDS MS

Advanced periodontal (gum) disease is the number one cause of adult tooth loss in the U.S., affecting nearly 48 percent of American adults. Although teeth play an important role in our overall health, there is a misconception with some adults that tooth loss is a natural part of the aging process.

Hopefully, this is changing.

In 1957-58, it was estimated that over 55 percent of adults over the age of 65 were totally edentulous (having no natural teeth). In 1971, a survey by the National Center For Health Statistics found that the percentage had dropped to 45.  By the year 2024, it is estimated that only 10 percent of Americans between ages 65 – 74 will be without teeth.

Teeth are more than just what you use to smile, bite, and chew. They play an important role below the gumline as well.

Tooth roots provide nourishment and stimulation to the upper or lower jaw bone. This helps the bone to maintain its mass. Without tooth roots, the jaw bone begins to shrink in a process known as resorption. Dentures wearers often notice first signs of this when their once-snug ‘appliance’ begins to move or slip when chewing.

Here’s why that is occurring…

A denture, when first made, is designed to conform to the unique contours of an existing ‘ridge.’ This is the gum-covered arches in your mouth where natural teeth were once held. Without the stimulation of tooth roots to the bone, resorption causes the ridge to gradually flatten. As it loses height, the denture becomes “slippery” or “wobbly,” as patients often describe.

When dentures slip and rub sore spots on tender gums, denture wearers quickly learn which foods are too challenging for their unstable denture. They may use denture pastes or adhesives more frequently. Eventually, many switch to a diet of soft foods that dissolve easily in the mouth.

When a diet is deficient in the fiber and nutritional components of a healthy makeup, overall health suffers. Because the act of chewing and acids in saliva flow are the first stage of digestion, denture wearers are known to take more medications and have more gastro-intestinal problems than those who still have natural teeth.

Also at risk is social involvement, now shown to be an important part of being healthy. Because of fear of embarrassment, it’s fairly common for longtime denture wearers to avoid these gatherings, especially those centered around food. (And, try to think of many social activities that don’t – at some point – include food!)

One survey of over 20,000 dentists (by the Academy of General Dentistry) showed that having a tooth removed causes many patients to feel socially embarrassed and less likely to participate in functions that are psychologically beneficial.

Psychological issues related to tooth loss are also associated with feelings of depression and being less goal-oriented in the workplace.

The decline of bone mass can even be seen, contributing to changes in facial appearance. As bone height declines, deep wrinkles form around the mouth. Even when smiling, the corners of the mouth turn downward. Jowls form as facial muscles detach. The chin becomes pointed and the mouth appears to be collapsed into the face (often described as a ‘granny look’).

To see the extent of bone loss, a denture wearer should look in the mirror without the denture in place. Because a denture ‘plumps up’ the face, it can be deceiving as to just how much bone loss has been experienced.

For those who have already experienced tooth loss, I highly recommend dental implants for replacement. There are many types of implant systems, each designed to accommodate specific needs. A Periodontist, a dental specialist, has advanced training in the diagnosis and placement of all types of implants. The type that is best for you depends on many factors that a periodontal specialist takes into consideration.

There are even implant types that can be successful for people who have already experienced a great deal of resorption. In many cases, bone rebuilding procedures can restore the height of the jaw bone with a bone graft not needed,.

Dental implants restore the look, feel and function of natural teeth while boosting one’s ability to feel confident and eat comfortably. Another bonus? Dental implants do not rely on adjacent teeth for support as with partial dentures or crown-&-bridge combinations.

The implanted portion is held by the jaw bone, just as the natural tooth roots you once had. This helps to halt the process of bone loss. Dental implants are also designed to last a lifetime, making them a wise investment.

For those who feel they are “too old” for dental implants, I remind them that many of our implant patients are well into their 80’s or 90’s.  Keep in mind that today’s adults are staying in the workplace longer, staying active in senior years, and living longer.

Since 1950, Americans added over 11 years to average life expectancy, to over age 79, according to 2013 statistics. Although females were once living an average of seven years longer than males, that gap has now narrowed to less than five.

When an adult, at any age, expresses frustration with feeling they are caught in a dental office’s revolving door, an examination typically reveals that they have some level of periodontal (gum) disease. Like most diseases that form in our bodies, gum disease begins silently. When symptoms do emerge, they include tender gums that bleed when brushing, persistent bad breath, and gums that pull away from teeth (known as gum recession).

Amazingly, so many adults have gum disease even though it is completely avoidable. Proper brushing and flossing, minimizing sugar intake, avoiding smoking, and having regular dental checkups can help curtail the cycle of dental problems.

First, you must establish a healthy foundation, which begins with healthy gums. The first step is to have a periodontal exam to determine your current gum condition. If signs of gum disease exists, we will explain the process needed to restore your gums to a healthy state. We will also make home care recommendations to help you maintain good gum health between dental checkups.

While adults are getting better at keeping their natural teeth, we still have a long way to go. I believe many adults would be more determined to keep their natural teeth if they had a better understanding of their value. Hopefully, this has helped your appreciation of what supports those pearly whites!

For more information, contact us at 828-274-9440 or tap here to being.

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