The Honest Tooth
Jan 27th, 2023
by Shenilee Hazell
Ageing—it happens to all of us and all parts of us. Our teeth and gums are no exception to the ageing rule. The truth is, the more we age, the more we are prone to teeth and gum problems but, the good news is that we can slow down the process.
Here are a few pointers:
Tooth Wear and Tear
Did you know that enamel is the hardest component of your body? Our enamel is even harder than bone. We crush our food with very strong pressures and the action of our teeth rubbing against each other or even harder foods can reduce the amount of enamel present on our teeth
Chewing gum excessively, clenching or rubbing your teeth together (bruxism) can lead to a flattened, glossy appearance on the biting surface of your teeth. Our diets in this country can be quite abrasive on our teeth. Think of the things we eat like channa, fried split peas, kurma. Over time, this can cause our teeth to become weaker. Sometimes, even crunching ice can make our tooth structures chip, fracture or even break.
Be mindful of habits like nail-biting or pen lid chewing because these habits will also cause significant wear over time.
Wear and tear of the teeth will result in shorter teeth making them look smaller.
Ask your dentist to check if you have any visual signs of bruxism which may require wearing a splint. Teeth can also be worn down by a poor bite which may require orthodontic work; lost tooth structure can be replaced with fillings and sometimes even crowns.
Gum Health-Are your gums healthy?
Gum health relies heavily on good oral hygiene habits. Bacteria present in your mouth cause plaque to constantly form on tooth surfaces. If this plaque remains on the tooth it can migrate under the gums and cause gingivitis (swelling and bleeding of your gums); if this isn’t removed, the tooth connections to the bone and even the bone itself can become irreversibly damaged.
Gingivitis and other gum problems can be treated by your dentist but if it progresses teeth can become so shaky that they may need to be removed.
Here are some signs of gum disease:
- Loose or receding gums
- Bleeding when brushing teeth
- Shaky teeth
- Bad breath
Preventing gum disease involves a good oral hygiene regimen: brush floss and visit your dentist regularly for check-ups and cleanings. If you smoke, try to quit.
Gingivitis is treatable at any age; with a combination of scaling to remove the hardened plaque and infected gum tissue, antibiotics, and—in advanced cases—surgery.
When we don’t produce enough saliva it can be very uncomfortable, making eating and swallowing difficult. A dry mouth can also cause bad breath and could increase your chance of developing cavities and infections of the gums and oral tissues.
The best and easiest thing to do is to drink a lot of water. Chewing sugar-free gum can also help. Some medications can also cause a dry mouth so, talk to your doctor if you are concerned and perhaps, switching medication may help. If you do smoke, consider stopping as this may worsen the condition.
Teeth will eventually lose their brightness and luminosity, becoming darker with time. Years of food, tea coffee, red wine and nicotine can result in permanent staining of teeth.
Regular professional cleaning with your dentist will reduce this effect, but you could also consider professional tooth whitening by your dentist to improve the cosmetic appearance of your teeth.
Some sugary drinks, citrus fruits and fruit juices contain acid. High-sugar foods and drinks can also make your mouth more acidic. If you suffer from acid reflux, this will also damage your tooth structure. Acid damages the enamel coating of the teeth by making it weaker.
A good idea would be to have something alkaline like milk or cheese to neutralise your mouth after consuming acidic food or drink. Eating sugary and starchy foods with your main meals, not as snacks, will also help.
Smoking and drinking alcohol may increase the risk of oral cancer. The mouth, lips, tongue and even throat can also be affected. To protect your lips, use a balm with sunscreen.
Visit your dentist if you are concerned about any sores, red or white patches or any other changes.