Tooth Loss NOT Natural Part Of Aging Process

Posted on Sep 12, 2016 by William J. Claiborne, DDS MS

Many of us can remember spending the night at our grandparents’ homes and being shocked to see their teeth soaking in a glass. Seeing our grandmother’s smile in a glass by the sink was a pretty unsettling sight!

teethinglass-color-lowrezWhile our grandparents may have been resigned to an eventual life with dentures, modern dentistry knows tooth loss need not be the case. Poor oral hygiene was not always the cause of tooth loss, either. Many in our grandparents’ era were taught to use a stiff toothbrush and baking soda and scrub their teeth hard. They thought that seeing blood in the sink meant they were doing a good job.

Today we know better. Substances such as baking soda and hard bristle toothbrushes are too abrasive for tooth enamel. Once enamel is worn away, the tooth becomes vulnerable to decay and cracks. Using modern techniques in brushing, flossing and keeping sufficient moisture in the mouth, adults can enjoy a naturally-healthy smile that lasts a lifetime.

In a five-year National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, the statistics of tooth loss among older adults has declined somewhat over the years. However, still today those over the age of 65 only have an average 18.90 remaining teeth. Sadly, over 27% of seniors over the age of 65 have no remaining teeth at all.

The repercussions of tooth loss go far beyond the challenges of wearing dentures. Yet, dentures only contribute to the problems. The problem begins under the gums where your teeth were once held by the jaw bone. Without tooth roots to provide stimulation to the jaw, the bone begins to shrink. This process, known as “resorption,” leads to eventual tooth loss. This sets into motion a domino effect. It is a fact that the tooth beside where a tooth is now missing will be the next to go.

It is also a fact that people with their natural teeth live, on average, ten years longer than denture wearers. This is likely due to the ability to eat a healthy diet and stay active socially. People who wear dentures tend to decline social invitations since most are centered around food. The fear of embarrassing slips and uncomfortable rubbing makes most events seem a challenge.

You CAN keep your teeth all your life! Here are ways to help…

• Daily brushing and flossing is the gold standard in removing oral bacteria from the mouth. Brush for two minutes each time with a soft to medium bristle tooth brush using a fluoridated toothpaste. Use a swirling motion rather than a back-&-forth scrubbing motion. Floss daily. Brush your tongue or use a tongue scrapper to remove bacteria embedded in the grooves of the tongue.

• Be committed to your 6-month exams and cleanings, which give your mouth a periodic clean slate by removing accumulated tartar. Tartar is the cement-like attachments to teeth that the Hygienist scrapes off during cleanings. These are actually hardened colonies of oral bacteria that eat away at gum tissues and tooth enamel. These check-ups can also catch problems while still small.

• Keep your mouth moist. A dry mouth enables the growth of oral bacteria. Drink plenty of water throughout the day. Limit foods and beverages that are caffeinated, which are drying to oral tissues. These include coffee, tea, colas and chocolate as well as spicy foods. If you take medications that have drying side effects, use an oral rinse designed to replenish moisture. Also, chew sugarless gum to help promote saliva flow.

• Limit carbs and sugar. The acids produced in the mouth by carbohydrates and sugary foods and beverages create an ideal environment for bacterial reproduction. While all foods trigger an acid attack in the mouth for 20-30 minutes after eating, sugar and carbs super-charge the reproduction of oral bacteria. This acid also softens tooth enamel, making them especially vulnerable.

When teeth are lost, adults encounter a complicated set of issues – and hard decisions. As a Periodontal specialist, I’ve seen how simple measures can save people greatly in treatment time and expense AND prevent problems like gum disease, cavities and tooth loss.

If you have started to lose natural teeth already, let us help you halt the process! Call 828-274-9440 to schedule a consultation so we can discuss how you can regain your oral health for a lasting, healthy smile!

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