Over time, wear and tear on our pearly whites can result in functional and cosmetic issues. This is especially true for seniors, whose teeth have been subject to fifty or more years of use. Following are common dental problems seniors face and treatment suggestions to address them.
Missing Teeth: Though losing teeth is not a direct consequence of aging, it is certainly a common scenario that is faced in a more mature population. Some of the most common causes of missing teeth include: tooth decay, unchecked periodontal disease, trauma, congenital absence, and loss due to the result of long term clenching and grinding habits.
There are several options to restore missing teeth:
Full Dentures: Commonly known as “false teeth,” a full set of dentures is a solution when all of your natural teeth are missing on the upper or lower jaw (or both). Dentures are a prosthetic device that is removable. A top denture fits across the roof of your mouth. A bottom denture is a horseshoe shape that fits snuggly on your lower gums but is open to allow movement of the tongue. Learn more about dentures and compare treatment cost at your local dentists here.
Partial Dentures: Partial dentures are used when one or several of the teeth are missing. Again, they are removable and attach, usually via a metal frame, to your natural teeth- filling in the gaps of any missing spaces with a tooth replica. Both types of dentures are custom made in a dental lab from impressions taken of your mouth. Learn more about dentures and compare treatment cost at your local dentists here.
Dental Bridges- A permanent, non-removable term solution can be a dental bridge when healthy natural teeth remain on either side of the gap. The healthy teeth are prepped and become the anchor points in a series of connected crowns that span the space created by the missing tooth or teeth. Learn more about dental bridges and compare treatment cost at your local dentists here.
Dental Implants- This option functions most like natural teeth. Metal posts are placed into the jawbone and crowns are permanently attached to the post. Implants can consist of a single tooth (the most common restoration of this type) to partial or full mouth dental implants, also called implant supported bridges or dentures. Learn more about dental implants and compare treatment cost at your local dentists here.
Each of these options can be a great solution for seniors looking to replace missing teeth. The best option for you will be dependent on the health of your gum and bone tissue, the time frame in which you are hoping to have the restoration completed and your budget. Missing teeth are not just a cosmetic problem. Spaces can affect your ability to effectively chew, speak and even impact the health of the surrounding teeth. Talk with your dentist to discuss pros and cons of each method and decide on a solution that is right for you.
Teeth Stains: Age-related discoloration is one of the three main categories of tooth discoloration. It occurs for several reasons, the most common being the thinning of enamel overtime, (which allows the yellow/darker colored dentin to show through) deep staining, (caused by a lifetime of exposure to staining foods and beverages) and discoloration due to tooth damage or injury. A bright smile can be an essential part of having confidence at any age and whitening and restoring your teeth is one proven way to make you look more youthful.
There are many options for tooth whitening, from over the counter remedies to in-office procedures. The best solution to whiten teeth is dependent on the severity and cause of the discoloration and whether addressing other cosmetic issues (besides color) is necessary. Here are some pros and cons of several popular smile restoration techniques:
- Whitening Strips: Are effective at removing some stains and can whiten teeth three to four shades. Cost efficient, but not effective on all stain types and limited whitening capability.
- Over-the-Counter Whitening Trays: Offer a one size fits all bleach tray that is worn one hour to overnight, or may consist of brushing with solution twice per day. Can whiten up to six shades, however, sometimes uncomfortable to wear.
- Professional Grade Home Whitening: Is only available through your dentist. Custom trays are made allowing for more comfortable fit. Can tackle deeper, tougher stains, is available for people with sensitive teeth and whitens up to six shades.
- In-Office Whitening Procedures: Such as Power Whitening or Laser Teeth Whitening provide more immediate results and are able to address more stubborn stains. Whitens five to eight shades.
- Bonding: Dental bonding is a procedure where tooth colored resin is applied to the teeth to improve color, correct chips or gaps or even lengthen the teeth. It involves custom work done by the dentist in office (usually in a single visit) and does not require a lab to pre-manufacture pieces. Other advantages for bonding include that it is less expensive than crowns or veneers, removes very little of your natural tooth surface and in most cases, does not require anesthesia. Disadvantages to the bonding technique include: the resin material is not completely resistant to staining and chipping and it does not last as long as other restorative dental procedures.
- Veneers: In cases where teeth are severely stained, misshapen or chipped, veneers present a durable, long term solution to transform your smile. The procedure involves gluing thin pieces of porcelain or plastic to the outer surface of your teeth. Veneers are very difficult to stain and can result in a perfect smile that lasts ten to fifteen years or more. The con to veneers is that they are more expensive than bonding techniques.
Missing, discolored and misshapen teeth do not have to be a part of an aging smile. Talk to your dentist about options for tooth replacement and whitening and what solutions best meet your needs. As a senior, looking younger and feeling better are the results of restoring and rejuvenating your beaming grin.