Smile Enhancements for Healthy Aging

Earlier this month, we discussed common dental problems which affect us as we grow older and how to address them.  In this installment, we will describe three popular methods to improve both the appearance and the function of your teeth. At the end of this article, we will reinforce what we believe to be the best ways to improve the health and beauty of your smile.

smile enhancementsYou may be surprised to hear about the first popular procedure which has increased in frequency over the past several years.  Once considered only appropriate for adolescents and teenagers, orthodontics has become an excellent means for adults (even those well into their 60s) to improve their smile, take years off their facial appearance, and improve their self-esteem.  This, in turn, improves their overall outlook on life. Alternatives to the metal braces commonly seen in the past have grown in popularity as they have become more comfortable, effective and invisible.  In our office, Invisalign™ orthodontics has proven to be a discrete and successful method for adults to address bite issues and crooked teeth.  Even patients who had braces as a teenager find the system an excellent way to realign teeth which have relapsed over the years.

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Invisalign™orthodontic treatment, combined with either tooth bleaching and/or bonding, can help you to achieve your dream smile, improve your appearance, help you look younger, and feel a renewed sense of self confidence.  In addition, a properly aligned bite serves to preserve your overall health and well-being.  Teeth which are not aligned and bites which are not properly balanced are much more at risk for a variety of dental issues.  These issues include tooth fractures, tooth wear, loosening teeth, gum recession, ineffective chewing ability as well as a variety of jaw, neck, and shoulder pain and headaches.

The second popular dental enhancement which has steadily gained in popularity over the last twenty-five plus years is implants. Titanium implants have evolved and become a staple in the replacement of missing teeth for those who wish for comfort, convenience, and excellent appearance. Implants can be used in a number of different ways to replace missing teeth. The simplest way, of course, is for replacing a single missing tooth. But implants can also be used to replace a series of missing teeth or even an entire arch of missing teeth. Contrary to popular opinion, the placement of implants does not involve significant discomfort and their success rate is very high.

implant, smile enhancements

There are many patients who have struggled with dentures for years. Such patients have had as few as two implants placed to stabilize their existing dentures. The benefits of such procedures are astounding for those who have struggled to eat and speak with loose plates for years. We even see patients who are about to lose all their remaining teeth in one or both arches. Such patients can have their hopeless teeth removed, four implants placed, and a set of teeth mounted on those implants all in a single appointment. That procedure is called “All-On-Four” and requires collaboration between a prosthetic dentist, an implant surgeon and a laboratory technician.  The results in these cases are life changing.

The third popular smile enhancement involves bonding or porcelain to restore worn, broken, or otherwise damaged teeth. “Bonding” utilizes tooth-colored filling material which is placed on one or a group of teeth to restore natural appearance, shape, and color. Similarly, porcelain is used in more advanced cases for those patients who wish to have the most long-lasting and cosmetic solution to their dental problems. Porcelain can be used to cover the entire tooth or limited areas of the tooth as needed in any given situation. The porcelain is bonded to the teeth which results in a very strong, cosmetic, and natural result.

Bonding and porcelain can be used to enhance smiles in a number of different ways. Teeth which have mild misalignment can be made to look perfectly aligned instantly using these materials. Similarly, problems with symmetry, proportion, color and shape can all be addressed using these materials. The next time that you are in our office, make sure to look at some of the photographs on our walls which exhibit the results gained by using these materials.

Finally, let us reiterate the best ways to ensure healthy aging at least as far as oral health is concerned.  As we grow older, we are all more prone to have decay which can sometimes develop very quickly.  It is not uncommon for adult patients to have some gum recession which results in the exposure of root surfaces.  Such surfaces are very prone to decay and must be carefully monitored both at home and in the dental office.  In addition, as our gums recede, food is more likely to lodge between the teeth creating another cause for decay developing.  Increased use of medications and other medical issues may lead to a condition of dry mouth.  Without the buffering effects of saliva, the likelihood for increased dental decay as well as gum disease is highly likely.

dental care, smile enhancements

So what is one to do to prevent an increase in gum disease and dental decay? Here are our favorite as well as most effective recommendations:

  1. Use an electric toothbrush and brush where the teeth and gums meet.
  2. Clean between your teeth with an appropriate sized tool. Large spaces require a proxy brush and smaller spaces require fluffy floss.
  3. Brush before bed!
  4. Rinse with a fluoride mouthwash especially before bed.  During this month we have been handing out Listerine Zero which is a good product found in the grocery store but any similar product which includes no alcohol can be used.
  5. Have regular checkups! This is the best way to make sure that small problems do not become big ones! In the past few years, we have seen more and more patients who have returned after extended periods with more severe problems. Regular checkups will save you money and give you more peace of mind.

In closing, cosmetic dentistry may be key to a person’s health in later life.  Here is a quote from a cosmetic dentist in Texas:

“We often hear older patients just wanting things patched up as opposed to getting something aesthetic. They may have the idea that they are not worth it, or their families have the idea that they are too old for cosmetic dentistry. This may lead to an attitude that things are ending.

“Improving an older person’s mouth can bring them more happiness and joy, not only by improving chewing efficiency, but also bringing joy back. They will want to smile more.”

If you have any questions concerning this article or any other dental questions, please call our office at 908.359.6655 or contact us via our website at www.designsfordentalhealth.com.

 

 

A Healthy Mouth and Healthy Aging

For over 20 years, September has been designated healthy aging month. This is an annual celebration of the positive side to growing older. During this month, a variety of sources provide Inspiration and ideas for baby boomers and adults aged 45 and above to help them to improve their physical, mental, social, as well as financial well-being.  It is our hope that we at Designs For Dental Health can provide some pertinent information to contribute to our fellow baby boomers.

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It is interesting to note that there are over 76 million baby boomers today over the age of fifty and the first of the 82 million Generation X-ers are about to reach that milestone in 2015.  Why not use September as a time to look back on where you’ve been and consider what you might truly like to do with the rest of your life.  If you’re happy and fulfilled with what you’re currently doing, keep on keeping on!  If not, this is definitely the time to make a change.  From my point of view, I’m happy to keep on doing what we, as your dental care providers, love to do most.  Help to keep you healthy! dreamstime_l_21764121

So, with that in mind, here’s our question for you today: How’s your smile? 

  

First of all, research supports the idea that those who smile more are just plain happier.  Secondly, those with a healthy mouth are much less likely to develop a myriad of diseases commonly suffered by those of us in the 60+ population. So ask yourself- when is the last time that you had a comprehensive dental examination to determine your overall oral health and the best methods used to maintain it?  I promise to provide such a comprehensive examination free of charge for anyone over age 55 who has been a patient in our practice for more than 5 years and who requests it.  That’s right!  All you have to do is ask! I’ll sit down with you for as long as it takes to discuss your concerns and desires.  Then, we’ll do a comprehensive examination including an oral cancer screening, evaluation of your teeth, gums, and bite. Together, we’ll discuss any options that might be available to you to improve your dental health and from that discussion we will arrive at the best treatment plan for you.

 

Consider this – a mere 60 years ago, it was assumed that we would lose all of our natural teeth as we aged.  Now we know that a healthy mouth and teeth will help you to not only look good, but to eat delicious and nutritious foods, to speak clearly and to be confident.  An excellent quality of life demands a vibrantly healthy mouth.  Just consider the fact that those whose oral health is subpar are at risk for various serious medical conditions including: heart disease, stroke, diabetes, pneumonia, cancer, and various other diseases which are common in older adults.

 

What are some common oral health problems?

 

  1. Dry mouth.   Reduced salivary flow is most commonly the result of cancer treatments, the use of certain medications, and certain diseases. Dry mouth is a significant cause of decay and gum disease in older patients because saliva serves to buffer acids that are produced as we eat.  Without the protection of these buffers, rapidly advancing problems occur. 

  2. Darkened teeth.   Our teeth tend to darken with time as the pulp in our teeth recedes and the outer layer of enamel becomes thinner, thus allowing the darker dentin to show through. There are various methods available to whiten the teeth for a more youthful appearance.  These techniques do not harm teeth and most patients are extremely happy with their whiter, more beautiful smiles. 

  3. Root decay. As the gums recede, exposure of the tooth roots result. Exposed root surfaces are less resistant to decay than enamel and decay here is quite common. Good brushing and plaque removing habits go a long way to protect these surfaces. In addition, the judicious use of fluoride rinses can be most helpful to protect these exposed surfaces. 

  4. Gum disease. Inflammation of the gums and resulting bone loss in more advanced cases is quite common in adults over the age of 50.  Gum disease is worsened by poorly fitting tooth restorations, less than ideal dietary choices, and certain diseases like anemia, cancer, and diabetes.  The best way to fight gum disease is to practice excellent oral hygiene and have regular dental exams and cleanings as recommended in your particular case. 

  5. Tooth loss. Gum disease is the number one cause of tooth loss; however, teeth which have broken due to old, large silver fillings or simple attrition require prompt attention to avoid unnecessary loss of teeth!  Restoring a broken tooth is always better and less expensive than losing a tooth and later trying to replace it. 

  6. Uneven jawbone. This common problem is a result of premature tooth loss.  Once a tooth is lost, the bone previously around that root vanishes and teeth adjacent to and opposing the missing tooth will shift.  This causes an uneven bite and places for food and bacteria to become trapped. 

  7. Oral cancer. Routine examinations are essential to identify possible cancerous conditions in the mouth. Always report unusual lumps or bumps or discolorations to your dentist or hygienists promptly! 

So what is the best way to maintain your good oral health?  It’s the same regardless of your age!    

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  1. Brush at least twice a day with good quality toothpaste as recommended by your dentist or hygienist. The most important time to brush is just before bed!! 

  1. Floss or otherwise thoroughly clean between your teeth at least one time each day. 

  1. Visit your dentist or hygienist on a regular basis as recommended by them for regular cleanings and oral examinations.  

  1. Use appropriate rinses or fluorides or other such adjuncts as recommended by your dental professionals. 

healthy-aging

If you have any questions about healthy aging month or would like a complementary comprehensive examination please call us at 908.359.6655 or contact us via our website at www.DesignsForDentalHealth.com