While it is possible to have your natural teeth your whole life, there are some things you can do to increase your chances of keeping your chompers.
Did you know the average age when people need dentures is between 40 and 49 years old? Improper dental care can lead to tooth loss a lot sooner than you think.
Preventing Tooth Loss
It may sound cliche, but there are a few simple things you can do to promote the lifespan of your teeth. You learned them when you were little, and there’s a reason.
Regular Dental Visits
Prevention is key to ensuring oral health. Your regular, six-month checkups give you and your dentist a chance to catch any problems before they get worse. Getting your teeth cleaned by the hygienist annually can help prevent periodontal disease, which contributes to 70% of tooth loss cases.
Additionally, as we age we tend to lose sensitivity in our teeth. With less awareness of what’s going on in our mouths, we may miss the symptoms of a cavity. As a result, that cavity can lead to bigger problems.
Upgrading to an electric toothbrush can make a big difference in the health of your mouth. An 11-year study shows that, compared to a manual toothbrush, an electric brush can reduce gum recession by 22%, and tooth decay by 18%. Another benefit of an electric toothbrush is that it can make brushing easier; if you have any issues with motor skills in your hands, an electric brush can do some of the work for you.
While the initial investment of an electric toothbrush may deter you from making the switch, the long-term savings are worth it. For as little as $40, you can have an electric toothbrush that saves you from facing potential dental care costs five times that much.
While you’re at it, brush twice per day, whether with an electric or a manual toothbrush. You might be surprised to know that one in four adults don’t actually brush morning and night.
Even with the extra help from an electric toothbrush, flossing is still vital to good oral health. No toothbrush bristles can get between teeth, so it’s up to floss to remove food that is stuck near the gumline and between teeth. If food is left behind after brushing, it has the potential to harden and become tartar or create cavities in tooth enamel.
You may be old enough to remember sitting in a classroom, swishing a big mouthful of fluoride in your mouth for a minute. Since fluoride is not always added to public drinking water, topical application has been implemented in other ways. Some dentists offer a fluoride treatment as an option at annual visits, or you can use a toothpaste or mouthwash that includes fluoride.
Fluoride has been proven to strengthen the enamel layer of teeth, which acts as the first line of defense for your teeth to prevent cavities.
Signs You Might Need Dentures
Even if you’re taking great care of your teeth, you may notice some changes to your oral health. Not every problem will lead to tooth loss, but the following could be an indicator that you’re on the path to prosthetics.
- Teeth are shifting
- Gaps between teeth are widening
- Already missing teeth (putting more stress on remaining teeth)
- Irritated, swollen gums
Types of Dentures
If you do end up losing some or all of your teeth, there are more options for dentures than when your grandparents had them. From partial to full dentures, ask your dentist what’s best for you.
Whether you were born with missing teeth or have lost some throughout your life, you can opt for partial dentures, which can be similar to wearing a retainer. Some partial dentures can be permanent and are referred to as bridges. Removable partials are easier to clean and less expensive. Since dental bridges are permanent, it’s a more invasive procedure and they are typically harder to keep clean.
Partial dentures still allow you to eat while wearing them, and if you take good care of your removable ones they can last up to 50 years. You can opt for metal or plastic dentures, keeping in mind there are some differences with fit and sizing.
- Metal Dentures: More stable, slimmer fit.
- Plastic Dentures: Looser fit, bulkier.
Don’t worry about whether or not your partial dentures will look like obvious prosthetics. The false teeth affix to a false gum to help them blend in your mouth. Removable, partial dentures have a clasp to help affix the dentures to existing teeth in the mouth. If you’re not eligible for permanent dental implants, a removable partial denture is a great option.
The need for full dentures is more common in people over the age of 45 with a history of periodontal disease or previously lost teeth. Full dentures are an option when all the teeth are missing in either the upper or lower jaw.
Like partial dentures, full dentures are teeth affixed to a molded, gum-colored plastic that is designed to fit snugly on the jaw. Great care is taken to mold the dentures to your mouth so you have a seamless fit and can eat with them.
You don’t have to worry that tooth loss will affect your quality of life; partial and full dentures offer a new lease on life, allowing you to smile with confidence.