Are you looking to do all you can to keep your teeth for life? Do you fear having to wear dentures just like your parents?
Most people are aware that daily cleaning habits and regular dental check-ups are important. But there’s a lot more that you can do to ensure you have teeth for life.
Read on to discover:
Why our hygienists may just offer the most valuable service in the practice
A link to my video series: The Ultimate Guide to Cleaning your teeth. (Coming soon)
A link to our Oral Health checklist and FREE personalised report (Coming soon)
Hygiene Visit + Home Whitening Kit Offer
I truly believe in the quality program our hygienists offer. And I’d love for you to meet them and benefit from their care! So I’m offering this combined treatment for an incredible price.
Hygienists may just offer the most valuable service in our practice!
Nearly 3 out of 4 adults are affected by gum disease at some time of their life, and for adults over the age of 35 it’s the most common cause of tooth loss.
Unfortunately, even with the best home routine, people can still develop gum disease.
And a big problem with gum disease is that it’s almost always silent.
You could have moderate to advanced gum disease and not notice, nor suffer many symptoms. So, it usually goes unnoticed at first, and this contributes to it being so widespread.
Once chronic gum disease is present though, it is not really curable. You could consider it to be a condition like Diabetes – once present it can’t be cured, but it definitely should be managed.
Scheduling regular soft tissue maintenance visits with a dental hygienist is the surest way to detect and manage early signs of gum disease. A dental hygienist will take gum pocket measurements to help set the most appropriate maintenance program for your particular situation.
The saying “You can’t manage what you don’t measure.” is certainly applicable for gum disease. Comparing these measurements over time is the only way we can determine what treatment is appropriate, and how regularly you should return for follow-up.
Hygienist visits should be 45 – 60 minutes in duration – the job can rarely be done in less time.
The latest research links gum disease to an increased risk of heart disease, stroke, diabetes, Alzheimer’s and even some types of cancers. We’re finding more and more proof that a healthy mouth that’s free of disease, can prolong your life.
CLICK HERE to find out more about our dental hygiene program
How your diet affects your teeth
When it comes to your diet, there are two things you must consider to help preserve your teeth – sugar and acid.
Most people are aware that sugar is bad for their teeth, but what is not often understood is that it’s not about how much sugar you have, it’s about how often you have it.
Sugar is the food that bacteria on your teeth feed upon. The by-product is acid which decays the tooth they’re sitting on. So the more times you feed the bacteria in a day, the more times your teeth are assaulted with acid.
Hidden sugars in food is also an issue. Try to be sure that between meal snacks are sugar free. This includes drinks such as coffee, tea, milk and juices.
In the presence of acid, your teeth soften and become more prone to wear.
There’s often a high number of foods and drinks in an average person’s diet that are acidic.
Do a quick search online for acidic foods and drinks – you’ll be surprised what you find. If you can, take steps to reduce or even eliminate some of those guilty culprits from your diet.
Acid attack on your teeth never happens to just one tooth. It tends to affect large surface areas of many of your teeth, all at once. Rebuilding damaged tooth structure of many worn teeth can get complicated and expensive.
Many times I’ve seen acid wear down teeth to the point where their nerve becomes infected. In such cases, there’s no simple fix. Often the rest of the mouth is heavily broken down and a complex fix is required.
Why you should be concerned if your teeth are wearing down
Teeth wearing down is usually a result of a grinding habit.
For most people, this occurs at night and can only be protected by wearing a night splint or guard.
But there could be other things accelerating the rate your teeth wear.
The most common of these that I see is acid erosion. In the presence of acid, your teeth soften and become more prone to wear. Gastric reflux and chronic dry mouth can make the saliva that your teeth are bathing in quite acidic. And you would be surprised by the number of foods and drinks in an average diet that are acidic.
Poor bites where few teeth contact each other correctly will overload the remaining teeth that do actually touch. These overloaded teeth will wear down and break at an ever-increasing rate. If your bite’s out of balance, then so will be your jaw joint. Jaw joint issues may be the end result which can be distressingly painful and extremely difficult to manage. Reconstructing a collapsed bite is the ideal solution.
How a constantly dry mouth can put your teeth at risk
Saliva is a lubricant – when there’s little of it about it your teeth will wear faster.
Also, when you have limited saliva, the saliva that is present is often more acidic than normal – so your teeth are constantly bathing in a slightly acidic solution. This softens your teeth and makes them more prone to wear.
Dry mouth can sometimes be related to a systemic condition, but more commonly it’s related to low daily water intake or a combination of prescription medications.
As well as increasing the rate that teeth will wear, dry mouth will greatly increase your risk of decay, and should be rectified if possible.
Make sure your daily water intake is adequate.
Seek guidance from your GP and explore the possibility to modify your medication regime to reduce this effect.
How a healthy balanced bite can save your teeth
The positioning of the teeth relative to each other, and their relationship to the jaw joints, are more important than most people realise.
Imagine driving around in a car where the suspension was faulty, each of the tyres was unbalanced and badly worn, and the chassis was bent. Not only would this lead to an uncomfortable ride, but every part of the car would be under more stress than it should be. It would need constant repair.
Tooth and jaw misalignment can naturally occur, or it may develop as certain teeth are removed – imagine the collapse that occurs on a tightly packed bookshelf when one or two books are removed.
Like a complex system of cogs, if even one is removed, the whole system can be thrown out. If there’s misalignment of any of the cogs, unbalanced forces can be concentrated on just a few teeth.
Cracks or wear can appear on the overloaded teeth and, as mentioned earlier, these areas can become tender to bite on.
An unstable bite will damage the overloaded teeth and any fillings, reducing their life span.
If any of the overloaded teeth need to be extracted or are lost, the instability becomes even worse and further accelerates wear-and-tear to the remaining teeth.
An unbalanced bite system can also lead to irreversible and potentially painful jaw joint damage.
The solution is to have a dentist study your bite function. Like balancing a set of car tyres, the process of balancing your bite can drastically reduce the wear-and-tear to your teeth and jaw.
Have you had braces or Invisalign? Your front teeth may look beautifully straight, but that doesn’t mean that the rest of your teeth and jaw joints were perfectly aligned when the job was completed. You’d be surprised how many teeth I’ve seen straightened that have the jaws completely out of alignment and poor fit of the back teeth.
Luckily, it’s easy and painless to check in just a couple of minutes. Ask your dentist to check your bite after some quick muscle relaxation.
How grinding may impact your teeth
Teeth grinding, either during the day or while asleep, can often go completely unnoticed. The human body is an amazing thing, and can learn to adapt to this damaging behaviour without any symptoms.
Pain is often only felt when a grinding episode is more intense – during a particularly stressful period of life, for example.
Some symptoms of grinding or clenching include cuts or sores on the inside of the cheek, along the line where the top and bottom teeth meet. While annoying, these symptoms can be treated easily with over-the-counter balms and ointments from the pharmacy.
More common symptoms are jaw aches or headaches, with teeth becoming tender in more serious cases. Often a whole group of teeth are affected.
Teeth become tender because they are being forced into the surrounding bone a little heavier than normal, effectively bruising the structures surrounding the teeth.
Regular grinding also overloads teeth and can cause cracks, particularly in teeth that are already heavily filled.
Grinding can wear the biting surface of the tooth away to expose a more sensitive material below. These sensitive areas can be painful when biting or chewing food..
The longer your teeth are unprotected from the forces of grinding, the more stress will build up within the teeth.
The lifespan of any teeth that are already filled can be significantly reduced.
Aggressive tooth wear affecting many teeth can cause all sorts of issues to these teeth in later life, often necessitating very complex treatment to correct something that could easily have been prevented.
The solution is to have your teeth assessed for tooth wear that would signal long term grinding.
Your dentist should be able to demonstrate this to you with photographs that you can both use to follow future rates of wear.
Consider a sleep test. (Night grinding can be difficult to detect, particularly if your sleep partner sleeps heavily.)
A quick and easy fix that can work for many people, is to have a night guard fitted. This requires just two quick visits to the dentist. While a night guard will not prevent grinding, it protects the damage done to your teeth and jaw, and in some cases, can even improve sleep!
If you suspect you may snore or suffer sleep apnoea, assess this before having an appliance made as sleep breathing could be made worse with a traditional grinding device.
Do you ever get headaches in the area of your temple toward the end of the day? If you find this happening on days that are particularly stressful, then it’s a good indicator that you’re likely grinding or clenching through the day!
Try this: Set an alarm to regularly remind you to check if your teeth are touching. When you’re relaxed, there should be a gap of a few millimetres between your teeth. Keep track of your results! If your teeth are touching, try using some relaxation techniques, especially before bed.
Bad Habits that put your teeth at risk
Habitual chewing and biting of things like your nails, bones or ice cubes can chip and break your teeth, making them sensitive while eating.
Teeth that are already filled, particularly those with large fillings or crowns, are most at risk.
Nail biting is particularly effective at fracturing and wearing your front teeth, leading to an irregular and worn smile line.
The only advice here is to stop the habit! Sounds simple…but for most people a long-held habit is extremely difficult to break.
There’s lots of different suggestions from others on the internet. Find one or two that resonate with you and try them – your teeth will appreciate it.