Like other parts of the body, our teeth and gums are affected by the ageing process and need regular maintenance. To postpone this maintenance is a poor decision. As our mouth and teeth are major parts of the communication process and are critical to our looks and expression, it’s essential that we take good care of them.
Every part of our bodies is integrated with the whole and poor dental health can have a negative impact on our overall health. In order to have a good smile, a healthy mouth and not cause illness or spread infections to other parts of the body, we need good oral health and should attend regular dental appointments.
These days there are fewer of us with no natural teeth and full dentures. We have more natural teeth, often restored with complex restorations and many have partial dentures and bridges.
Peter Barnard, an honorary associate professor at the University of Sydney, offers the following suggestions for good oral health:
Visit your dentist regularly for check-ups, preventive care and treatment required. Check-ups every six months (or as directed by your dentist) will ensure early detection and treatment of gum disease and dental decay.
Regular dental check-ups can insure early detection and treatment of gum disease. Your dentist or dental hygienist will examine your gums with a probe to measure the spaces between teeth and gums and show you how to brush and floss your teeth and gums. Professional cleaning will be necessary to remove plaque and hard calculus deposits from places a toothbrush and floss may have missed.
Early detection of tooth decay can make management and treatment much simpler. If tooth decay is more advanced, a filling may be needed.
Decay may reoccur in seniors with dental fillings that have been in place for many years. New filling materials are available, which can be matched to the colour of your tooth.
Fissure Sealants are used to seal deep grooves or fissures in teeth to protect them from decay. This durable plastic is painted onto the biting surface of your cleaned tooth. Glass ionomer cement (GIC) can remineralise surrounding areas of enamel.
The root surfaces do not have enamel and are much more susceptible to decay than the crowns of teeth. Oral health professionals have techniques to protect these surfaces. Remineralising agents and high fluoride toothpastes provide high level protection.
Crowns and bridges are used to strengthen damaged teeth or replace missing teeth. A crown covers or ‘caps’ a damaged tooth and can be used to improve its appearance, shape or alignment. Bridges are commonly used to replace one or more missing teeth. They span the space where the teeth are missing and are cemented to natural teeth or implants.
Dental implants are metal posts or frames that are surgically positioned into the jawbone beneath your gums. They allow your dentist to mount replacement teeth onto them. Dentures and bridges mounted to implants feel more natural and will not slip or shift in your mouth. Implants are usually more expensive than other methods of tooth replacement.
Root canal treatment is a dental procedure that replaces damaged or infected pulp in one or more of the tooth’s root canals with a filling. This damage or infection may have been caused by untreated decay beneath a filling, tooth damage, tooth grinding (bruxism) or gum disease. If left untreated an infection can spread to the jaw. Cysts may also develop and need further treatment. Removing the tooth will leave a gap that may need replacement with an artificial tooth.
Dentures are custom-made to the conditions that are found in your mouth. With changes in supporting bone and gums, dentures will require services to maintain their fit and comfort. Loose or ill-fitting dentures may require relining. See your dentist or prosthetist if the denture breaks, chips, cracks or becomes loose. Dentures should have your name on them.