Health hints in in Huntingdon County about effects of aging on teeth

Various theories have been discussed as in an attempt to understand the deterioration of structure and function of teeth from aging but the truth is there is no need to look any further then the simple process of wear and tear. Tooth wear is a common finding in the elderly.

Attrition this is a form of frictional wear induced during movements by repeated contact with opposing teeth. Attrition occurs by teeth wearing one another and is greatly influenced by the consistency of ones diet. Attrition is one of the major sources of tooth structure loss. The deterioration of structure and function of teeth from aging ca casue attrition which is expected in elderly patients. Abrasion, describes the condition in which tooth substance is lost along the gum line due to stresses caused by a traumatic occlusion. It is often mistakenly explained as toothbrush abrasion. Erosion, describes the loss of enamel by the action of ingested or regurgitated acids. The main source of ingested acid is from citrus fruits, vinegars and medications.

The elderly has a tendency to believe that they are poor candidates for restorative work in the dental office. Many believe that ill health, disability and poor oral health is just the inevitability of aging. Therefore they do not seek out a dentist to restore their teeth. Unfortunately poor teeth function can lead to poor eating with nutritional imbalances at a time in a persons life when a consistent healthy diet may be their best defense against problems associated with aging.

The needs of an elderly patient are no different from the needs of any other age group. They need prevention, maintenance, function and aesthetics. They need to have an understanding of the nature of dental caries (decay) and periodontal disease as it relates to nutrition and oral hygiene. It is important to know that restorative procedures will do nothing to prevent either dental decay or periodontal disease. The only function of restorations (fillings) is to replace diseased or missing tooth structure and in some cases to protect the remaining dental hard tissues from fracturing.

The following are some important needs that the staff at Dr. Jeffery Hartman’s office, want to motivate our elderly:

  1. Oral Hygiene-Plaque in mature patients can present a problem. Loss of manual dexterity and reduction of the ability to concentrate inevitability reduce the efficiency of controlling plaque buildup challenges. The exposure of root surfaces increases the difficulty of plaque removal. A further difficulty is the sensitivity of the root surfaces when brushing exposed dentin which may discourage brushing altogether. All of these factors combine to make the prevention of dental disease difficult for the majority of elderly patients.
  2. Good Home Care-The use of disclosing solutions can help the patient know what they can do and what they should be trying to achieve. It may be that the patient’s dexterity will not support flossing or the use of wood points but the use of small brushes with handles may be possible.
  3. Fracture of Teeth-It is important for elderly patients to know that the elderly often suffer from fracture of the teeth without a history of trauma. These may range from chipping the edge of a front tooth to the loss of a single cusp of a back molar or to complete loss of the crown of a tooth. The factors that can be responsible are: Age changes the dental tissues, the effect of previous restorations and old fillings. and Biting/Occlusal Factors.
  4. Missing Teeth-Loss of teeth at any age can be demoralizing or a welcome relief from pain. When teeth are missing the remaining ones can change positions and drift into the surrounding space. What follows are choices of procedures which may prove successful at replacing missing teeth. Cost is a factor that determines the patient’s choice.

a. Removable Partial Denture-A removable partial denture helps you to properly chew your food, something that is difficult when teeth are missing. A removable partial denture can help improve your speech and prevent your face from sagging by giving support to your lips and cheeks. The patient needs to know that there may be some occlusal changes and that adjustments are usually necessary over time.

b. Complete Dentures-Periodontal health implies at least 6 mm. of healthy bone around the roots, minimal pockets and a positive attitude by the patient to good oral hygiene. If one of these is compromised and the patient has lost some or all of their natural teeth complete dentures can replace missing teeth and their smile. The denture (s) can be made to closely resemble your natural teeth. Growing accustomed to the dentures can be a challenge for some. New dentures feel awkward and possibly uncomfortable for the first few weeks. Salivary flow temporarily increases. Minor irritations or soreness is not unusual. These problems often diminish as your mouth becomes accustomed to new dentures. Your dentist can make adjustments over time.

Dr. Jeffery Hartman D.M.D. Total Wellness Dentistry believes it’s important to have improved social conditions, advances in the control of illnesses and more positive medical care which results in increased numbers of the elderly population. Death is no longer taken for granted after 70 and a greater effort is made by sons and daughters often in their fifties and sixties, to provide room and board, comfort and compassion for their parents. Today’s elderly have a greater expectation of life and Dr. Jeffery Hartman D.M.D. Total Wellness Dentistry wants to encourage the elderly and provide his professional skills and make them available to these people. We want to renew contacts with the elderly and maintain these relationships. We realize that the elderly need all the encouragement they can receive in order to make the best of their remaining years.

BY: Heather Metzler RDH at Smiles for Life, Dr Jeffery Hartman

For more questions or concerns about aging in teeth and other related issues, please contact us or visit our website.  Smiles for Life Total Health and Wellness Dentistry, office of Dr Jeffery Hartman at 814-643-9414, and our staff will be pleased to assist your needs.


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