In our lives everything is impermanent: you can’t avoid change and like everything else in life your smile will undergo some changes, too. One day you’re looking in the mirror and see a six-year old with a missing front tooth smiling back at you. When you blink the reflection has changed and you’re thinking “I need braces or a whiter smile.” Fast forward to our elderly smiles with their associated chipped, worn or stained teeth. When it comes to smiles and our teeth, change is inevitable. But what exactly causes your teeth to shift and your smile to change?
Just like your eyes, hair and body composition, your smile and teeth are inherited. You may have heard people close to you say you have Aunt Harriet’s smile or Uncle John’s overbite. You can actually inherent your tongue shape, tooth size and tooth dimensions. Most of these are able to be modified nowadays, for instance with orthodontics crooked or misaligned teeth are no longer something you have to live with for the rest of your life. What’s even better is that technology has allowed dental repairs and improvements to be less invasive than ever before.
As we age, our smiles change with us. The constant wear and tear over time causes teeth to shift and wear down. It can actually change the dimensions of our teeth. Sometimes tooth wear over time shows up mostly on the front teeth, but it usually is accompanied by significant wear on the back teeth. This back tooth wear results in the bite collapsing down and is one of the primary reason for skin sagging and wrinkles around our mouths, not to mention an “older” look to our faces. As we bite and chew our way through a lifetime of family meals and wonderful food, our teeth inevitably shift and realign against this constant contact and pressure. Teeth evolved to serve a primate (us) whose lifespan was only 3-4 decades. Now that we all live much longer the trick is to help our teeth last as long as we do!
Tooth loss can happen by accident, especially if you play contact sports. But tooth loss is also common in both young children and older adults. Children go through a stage where they lose their baby or primary teeth to make room for permanent teeth. As we age, our permanent teeth must last through a lifetime of stress and pressure. Other than wear and tear, additional factors contributing to adult tooth loss include adult caries, gum disease, or illnesses.
With tooth loss, the surrounding and opposing teeth will compensate for what’s missing by shifting and tilting into that vacant space. One common occurrence is the moving downwards of an upper tooth when there is no contact made with a bottom opposing tooth, often referred to as “over eruption.” For instance, if there is no lower upward opposing force to the top tooth it will over erupt out of the line of your natural bite (essentially “hang down” below your other teeth) and appear to have grown “longer”.
As teeth tilt or shift into unusual positions, decay can develop between the teeth. Dental caries, or ectopic caries, can develop wherever plaque can hide and buildup. If you’re considering replacing a missing tooth, it’s best to do so sooner rather than later. The longer you wait the more challenging and expensive it can be to repair or replace it.
It’s impossible to avoid stress. Yet, physical responses to stress can reveal itself in strange ways. People react to stress in their daily life in different ways such as grinding their teeth while they sleep. This condition is called bruxism, and it can cause enamel erosion and also result in TMJ (temporomandibular joint) symptoms. If you’re waking up with achy jaws or find it difficult to chew, open or close your mouth, you may be bruxing your teeth in your sleep. Bruxism is a huge cause of abnormal tooth wear and musculoskeletal TMJ disorders.
How Can We Help Keep Your Smile from Changing?
We all agree that you can’t stop change. Our children grow up, we get older and so on. But if you have increasingly misaligned, chipped or badly discolored teeth, it doesn’t have to be permanent. You may choose the type of change where you have some control, and you do have options.
Porcelain veneers are so much better than they were just a decade ago. What makes these such a popular option? Porcelain veneers resist staining and look gorgeous when properly and expertly done. So if you’re a coffee, tea or wine drinker, you can stop worrying about losing that beautiful, white smile. Another benefit to today’s porcelain veneers is its natural appearance. When bonded to your own teeth, veneers are strong and can withstand the day-to-day pressure of biting and chewing. They are also relatively conservative compared to full ceramic crowns.
If you’ve recently suffered a tooth loss, dental implants are an excellent, probably the best option to replace missing teeth. Ask yourself if having one will improve your ability to chew, eat or smile. Implants offer distinct advantages over bridges and dentures. Because dental implants are permanently anchored to your jawbone, it keeps the bone from deteriorating. It’s a stronger alternative, since it can withstand the pressure of chewing and biting. Unlike a fixed (non-removable) bridge, it doesn’t involve disturbing or preparing the adjacent teeth for crowns. And unlike dentures or partial dentures you won’t have to worry about slippage or shifting when chewing or speaking and won’t have to look at yourself in the mirror at night without teeth.
For some people however, removable replacements like dentures or partial dentures are the only option. Many times we can place a few implants under the denture to retain and support it in a manner that makes it quite retentive. But if you’re just not comfortable with dental implants, be assured that we also offer excellent partial or complete dentures which will improve your ability to eat and smile.
If you suffer from bruxism, we can create a mouth guard to wear at night. Wearing one nightly can keep your gums from receding and your teeth from wearing down. You’ll also notice a vast improvement in jaw joint function and a reduction in musculosketal jaw pain.
Over time circumstances and your smile do indeed change. But that doesn’t mean you have to live in pain or be afraid to smile. At Dr. Mark W Langberg, DDS, MAGD, PC, we will help you find the answers to your most pressing dental issues. We look forward to showing you the latest in dental advancements so that you’ll feel comfortable with your choices. Give us a call at 248-356-8790 and find out the difference a great dentist makes at any stage of your life!
Until Next Time,
Mark W Langberg, DDS, MAGD
Your Southfield Family Dentist
Tel: (248) 356-8790