What happened to my teeth?

Have you ever asked yourself, “What happened to my teeth?”  It’s important to realize that typically, changes in your oral condition are the result of many factors that affect the teeth and gums over the course of many years.  Brushing and flossing is as important as ever, but even with meticulous oral hygiene, other factors throughout the entire body can cause your dental health to suffer.

Most adults had cavities as children and fillings were done to restore these teeth.  Fillings, if taken care of, can last many years.  In your 40s and 50s, these restorations will start breaking down and will need to be replaced. With the addition of other age related health conditions, these old restorations may break down more rapidly.  Here are a few examples of age related health conditions that can affect your teeth and gums.

XEROSTOMIA or “DRY MOUTH” can be due to lowered salivary function while taking medications to treat health conditions such as high blood pressure, depression and allergies. Dry mouth will also occur following radiation therapy to treat head or neck cancers. Other factors that can cause dry mouth are smoking, alcohol use, and vitamin deficiencies. Saliva is very important in maintaining a healthy chemistry in the mouth and without it, you will become more susceptible to diseases of the teeth and gums.  There are several products available to increase or supplement salivary flow.

GERD or “ACID REFLUX” is a very common condition in which stomach contents flow into the  mouth and damage the teeth.  These acidic fluids, over time, will cause tooth structures to erode, decay and can even cause tooth loss.  If diagnosed, there are medications that can be used to treat GERD.

GRINDING AND CLENCHING of the teeth is extremely common, especially with high levels of stress.  Grinding and clenching will put strain on the teeth that they are not designed to withstand. Teeth are designed for chewing. Moving the jaw up and down (open and closed) is the only way teeth can withstand the force of chewing. When we grind, we slide our jaws left, right, and forward. We do this with ten times the force that we chew with. This causes problems not only in the teeth but also the jaw and muscles of your head and neck.  Over time, the teeth will begin to wear away and will break or fracture.  Devices are available to create barriers between the upper and lower teeth to reduce this strain. Store bought mouth guards work okay, but often don’t fit properly. The best solution is to see a dentist to have a high quality mouth guard that you can rely on for years.

SMOKING can have several adverse effects on the oral cavity.  Tobacco use greatly increases risk for cancers, and not just in the mouth and throat.  Smoking cigarettes or chewing tobacco will also cause the blood vessels in the tissues of the mouth to become smaller, reducing the ability of your body to fight bacteria and infection.  This will make you much more susceptible periodontal disease and tooth decay…  Treatment of this disease is critical to slow its progression and prevent further damage. It has been calculated that for every 7 years of smoking, one tooth will be lost.

PERIODONTAL DISEASE is a chronic infection of the gums and bone.  These structures are the support system for the teeth.  Without adequate support, the teeth will become unstable.  Without treatment, loss of teeth is inevitable.  Early detection and treatment of gum disease can slow or stop this disease progression.  People with periodontal disease need more frequent visits than healthy mouths to manage their condition.
Visits every three or four months are normal.

To maximize the potential for a healthy mouth, it is very important to see your dentist regularly.  Proactive and preventive dentistry allows us to increase the health and lifespan of the teeth and gums by treating conditions early.  Yearly exams and routine cleanings are vital for your oral health and your whole body’s health.

Fine out how we can help you have the healthy, beautiful smile you’ve always wanted. Call us at 603-466-5015 in Gorham or 603-733-5515 in North Conway.

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