Occasionally, I’ll have a new patient of mature age who is frustrated by a long history of dental problems. It’s not unusual to hear them say, “I’m going to lose my teeth as I age anyway. Let’s just remove them.”
While our grandparents may have been resigned to an eventual life with dentures, modern dentistry knows this is not the case. Unfortunately, many in our grandparents’ era grew up being told to use a stiff toothbrush and baking soda. They were taught to really scrub their teeth and the bleeding 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, we can enjoy a naturally-healthy smile that lasts a lifetime. And, studies have shown there are many benefits to maintaining your natural teeth.
Your teeth are held by your jaw bone. Without tooth roots to provide stimulation to the jaw, the bone begins to shrink in mass. This bone loss leads to subsequent tooth loss. 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.
So, how do you keep your teeth all your life? Here are recommendations…
• Although the old brush-&-floss routine seems dated, it’s the gold standard in keeping oral bacteria from accumulating in the mouth. Brush 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.
• Straight teeth are healthy teeth. When teeth are crowded and/or crooked, bacteria are harder to remove. These tight angles provide an excellent breeding ground for oral bacteria. Straight teeth are not only easier to keep cle
an, they support a healthy bite alignment. This minimizes your potential for stress to the TMJ (jaw joints), which helps to prevent headaches, night-time grinding and clenching, sore jaw joints, worn teeth and cracked or chipped teeth. For comfort and convenience, we offer Invisalign, which moves teeth using clear molds that can be removed for eating or brushing.
• Maintain regular dental check-ups. Your 6-month exams and cleanings are designed to give your mouth a periodic ‘clean slate’ by removing accumulated tartar. Tartar forms the cement-like ‘chunks’ that a Hygienist scrapes away during cleanings. These are actually massive colonies of oral bacteria that feed off gum tissues and tooth enamel. These exams can also catch problems while they are still small. And, your Oral Cancer screening performed annually is very important! Oral Cancer is one of the deadliest of all cancers and kills an American every hour of every day.
• 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 are drying to the mouth, consider using an oral rinse designed to replenish oral moisture. 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 growth and damage to tooth enamel. Watch your intake of these for the good of your smile and your waistline!
Our goal is to help you KEEP your natural teeth by keeping them healthy! When problems arise, we will recommend treatment to protect and extend the life of your teeth. However, when teeth are lost, we will help you through those decisions so your other teeth do not suffer repercussions as a result.
If you feel you have a mouthful of problems or have started to lose natural teeth already (and want to halt the process!), call 910-254-4555. We will be happy to sit down with you during a no charge consultation and discuss how you can regain your oral health for a lasting, healthy smile!