Teeth should last a lifetime. Dr Christopher Ho explains how to maintain strong, healthy teeth long into the future.
Is it normal to lose teeth as I get older?
With proper care, teeth should last a lifetime. Brushing twice a day, daily flossing, regular visits to your dentist and appropriate diet should ensure this is the case.
Missing a tooth or two seems harmless but it can have serious consequences in the long term.
Adult tooth loss is usually attributed to disease or trauma.
- The most common forms of trauma are a knock to the teeth but can include injury from misusing teeth, to open bottles, for example. Clenching or grinding puts tremendous pressure on your teeth and leads to wear, fractures and, eventually, tooth loss. This is avoided by wearing an occlusal splint, or ‘night guard’ as you sleep.
- Periodontitis (gum disease) is a common cause of tooth loss and it is easy to ignore symptoms which include swollen or bright red gums, bleeding when brushing, bad breath or taste in the mouth, receding gums or pus between the teeth and gums. Regular visits to the dentist every six months for a hygiene treatment will prevent this. Ignoring the symptoms can lead to eventual tooth loss. Serious diseases such as Diabetes and Cancer can also lead to tooth loss.
Should I change the way I take care of my teeth as I age?
Brushing for two minutes twice a day and daily flossing are vital. Don’t brush too hard, use a soft toothbrush and, if you are having difficulty holding your brush, consider using a power toothbrush which accesses those hard to reach areas far more easily. To floss, wrap a long piece of floss around your middle fingers and use your index fingers to guide it between your teeth.
How do I notice problems before real damage is done?
Unfortunately, dental problems do not get noticed until too late but six-monthly visits to your dentist will ensure your oral health is maintained. Your dentist will also check for signs of oral cancer, which makes up 5 per cent of all cancers.
Q: I have missing teeth. Is it ok to leave them?
A: No. A missing tooth can cause adjacent teeth to collapse into the gap while teeth in the opposing jaw can grow into the gap. Also, missing teeth can cause bone to break down which gives a sunken face. The loss of a tooth can have considerable impact on a person’s self-esteem; they often avoid smiling or going out and are generally embarrassed.
Q: How can teeth be replaced?
Options include crown and bridge work, dentures or dental implants.
Q: How do I know which option is the best for me?
See your dentist. They can advise you of the various costs, assess which would be most suitable for you and, with radiographic imaging, check if you have sufficient bone levels for dental implants to be placed.