As we get older, our dental needs change with us. When we were younger we could eat or drink anything but as we start to age, our oral health needs regular care and attention.
In my practice, over 60s express that they want to keep their own teeth or possibly restore those that are missing to help them maintain quality of life. Avoidance of pain, increasing comfort, appearance of their smile and the ability to eat certain foods are all very important.
As we age, there can be problems associated with the bones and gums (periodontium) as well as the teeth themselves.
The most common dental problem that over 60s have is the breakdown and fracture of teeth. I see many patients that have teeth that were filled in the past or which may have new incidences of decay due to some impairment or change in factors.
The condition of your teeth and gums can be a result of factors such as your general wellbeing, social support, previous dental experiences and oral hygiene, medications and nutrition, as well as swallowing and eating abilities. Preventative dental health, salivary function, fluoride exposure, access and use of dentists can also impact your oral health. Thankfully, with advancements in technology and dentistry, we have greater options available now to retain our teeth or restore missing teeth.
How to regain your oral health
The first step and most obvious step is to seek help from a dental professional. They will conduct a thorough examination and consider your medical history, previous dental history as well as social well-being of the individual. A dentist will be able to do a full assessment of the teeth with possible x-rays to get a full picture of what is happening. They can advise on what needs to be done and how best to look after the teeth and surrounding structures.
Oral health routine
It is important also to have an oral health routine that involves twice daily brushing as well as daily flossing between teeth. This will help to control the plaque that sits on teeth and causes tooth decay.
With modern dentistry, there are many options to restore broken or missing teeth.
Broken teeth may be restored with crowns. A crown is probably the strongest and longest lasting restoration that can be placed. They wrap around the tooth and help restore badly broken teeth and protect against further fracture. They are made from tooth coloured porcelain.
Loss of teeth can be emotionally devastating but missing teeth are best restored with implants that can recapture that smile and function once again. They are perhaps the closest thing to natural teeth.
One of the main benefits of dental implants is that they look, feel and function just like natural teeth. They are also in some cases a better alternative to dental bridges or dentures.
Bridges are made up of two or more crowns on either side of a space anchoring a false tooth/teeth in between as one unit. Again these are constructed from porcelain.
False teeth or dentures are plastic teeth on a removable appliance that is placed and removed in the mouth. They are not fixed like bridges or implants and replace missing teeth. They can either be complete replacing all the upper or lower teeth or partial replacing only some teeth.
We sometimes find that dentures and false teeth are not always the most ideal option for patients; dentures can sometimes slip in a person’s mouth and feel quite unstable. Also taste can also be altered with false teeth.
The All-on-4 implant system
This is an attractive option for those who wear dentures or for those that are about to lose (or have lost) all their upper and/or lower teeth. Therefore a full arch of teeth are supported on four implants. Unlike dentures, All-on-4 dental implants look and feel natural.
Can’t I just get false teeth? Why should I bother keeping my teeth as I age?
Keeping your teeth is ideal for maximum comfort, function and appearance. Having one or more missing teeth might lead to other teeth moving out of alignment and changing your bite. It could also compromise your appearance causing differences in the look of the face with wrinkles and changed bone structure. It can also impact the strength and density of your jawbone.
As Australia’s population ages, dental health becomes more prominent to help live according to the life we are accustomed to. Loss of teeth can heavily impact health and well-being. Therefore highlighting the importance of restoring damaged teeth and replacing those that are missing.
Do you have dentures, implants, bridges or false teeth? Or do you have your original teeth? Tell us about your oral health story below.