According to the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research (NIDCR), 10% of Americans ages 50-64 have lost all of their teeth. The number of affected Americans jumps to a staggering 31% for seniors over the age of 74. In real world terms, almost one in three senior citizens has to try and eat and talk and smile with no teeth.
The numbers are staggering because much of this tooth loss is preventable. We live in a time where teeth can be saved and maintained for a lifetime. Just because mom and dad had dentures doesn’t mean you have to have dentures. Tooth loss is rarely genetic.
Keeping your teeth is more nurture than nature.
So what happens when teeth are lost?
The bone around our teeth (alveolar bone) exists to support our teeth. When teeth are removed (extracted), this bone begins to slowly and steadily go away. Forever. The subsequent related bone loss, decreases the distance from the tip of one’s chin to the base of one’s nose (dentists call this the lower face height). Esthetically, there is a cascade effect. The lips become thinner and wider. Jowls begin to form. Sometimes, the nose will turn down and become pointy. Finally, as an added bonus, extra wrinkles and lines form and the corners of the mouth turn down, causing a constant scowl.
These effects may also occur when a set of dentures gets old and worn down.
Fortunately, many of these problems can be reversed with well constructed replacement teeth. Facelift dentures can be made that support the lips and remove lower face lines. Deep wrinkles can be smoothed with dermal filler therapy and/or a proper bite.
Most importantly, dental implants can be placed at the time or near the time of tooth loss. These titanium tooth roots trick the alveolar bone into thinking that teeth are still there. The result is a lot less bone loss over time.
New teeth cannot make one young again. They can often provide a non-invasive face lift, a boost of confidence, and the ability to eat, laugh, and smile again. Adding dental implants to snap dentures into place can improve the results and ability to eat even more.
Life happens and all teeth cannot always be saved. Thankfully, there are plenty of tooth replacement alternatives.
It’s never too late to get a nice smile and to be able to eat what you want.
Until next week, keep smiling.
-Please send comments to Dr. Chip at DrChipParrish@gmail.com.