The world’s population is both growing and aging. More people than ever before are surviving to their children’s adulthood – for many parts of the developing world a rarity only 50 years ago. While that’s good news, it also means that many more people are living with failing or failed teeth and gums. In developing countries this is a new phenomenon. In societies like ours, it is the victim of low expectations. We have grown to accept tooth loss as an inevitable price that we pay for our longevity.
Implant dentistry, which of course is all about replacing lost teeth, has rather paradoxically shone a light on the assumptions underlying the “culture of geriatric toothlessness”. Because many implant treatments place an implant-supported tooth among surviving natural teeth, the health of these remaining teeth and their supporting gums becomes a key factor in the success of the implant. And as the demand for post-implant oral health management continues to rise, so our understanding of how to keep natural teeth healthy has improved.
Which is great news for implant patients, but it’s all equally applicable to any of us who have reached the half century or so. Statistically, we still have decades to go. Are your teeth up to it? Only a tiny percentage of us will lose no teeth at all, and a very large number will lose enough teeth to impair function. Whether or not you envisage an implant restoration, you can benefit from these insights, saving your teeth and, in the long run, your money.
The research shows that by the time of life we’re talking about, our gums are likely to be where we can score some easy victories in the fight against anno domini. A large proportion of us develop chronic gum disease in our later years. While it may have been a minor irritant (or even gone undetected) for many years, it has a nasty tendency to accelerate as we age. So your 50th birthday is a good time to treat yourself to a thorough oral examination and a professional clean. This will provide you with an audit on the state of your gums, so that your “new leaf” oral care can take account of problem areas.
The same research found that in aged care facilities there was an alarming lack of oral health education among carers. So, if you are responsible for an elderly relative in care, make sure either that they are receiving the care they need, or arrange for them to see a hygienist.
It’s never too late to brush up on your oral health. If you’d like more advice about the care of your aging teeth, send me a question or request a consultation here.