The development of root decay is providing a new challenge for dentists — and for our aging population. Root decay is more difficult to treat than normal cavities — especially if the dental cavity travels under the gum line. Traditionally, dentists treat root decay the same way they treat regular dental cavities. The procedure is not only more demanding, but also less effective, given the fact that root fillings have a much higher failure rate. Tooth filling material isn’t designed to adhere to the tooth’s porous roots; this often results in a shorter life span for the restoration, and multiple visits to the dentist to fix the problem.
As more baby boomers are becoming seniors, and more vulnerable to the issue, the dental industry is finding new ways to battle root decay. Dentists are now practicing less invasive procedures to treat early signs of root decay. Professional, in-office fluoride treatments are often recommended. At-home fluoride use is also important in the fight against tooth decay, and your dentist can prescribe a toothpaste, mouth rinse or fluoride trays as part of your ongoing dental care.
A dental cavity on the root of the tooth has more chances of affecting the pulp, so it’s important to treat root decay before it has a chance to spread. For severe damage or decay found between teeth, your dentist may need to treat the area with a dental crown. Extreme cases may require a tooth extraction followed by a dental bridge or dental implants to replace the tooth. Root decay also increases your chances of needing a root canal.
Prevention Is the Best Medicine
If your gums have receded, you should take measures to prevent root decay. Diets high in sugar will feed the dental plaque-causing bacteria found on your roots, so stay away from sweets! Dry mouth also increases your chances of getting root decay — saliva is needed to wash away food debris and neutralize acid. Without it, exposed roots may be more prone to acid attacks and resulting decay. Drinking lots of water, sucking on sugar-free candy or chewing sugarless gum can help prevent dry mouth.
If you suffer from receding gums or have just reached “a certain age,” regular dental visits allow your dentist to check for tooth root decay. Preventive measures also include gum disease treatment for receding gums that involves using an ultrasonic dental cleaning to remove dental tartar from under the gum line and help to ward off the possibility of gum disease. If necessary, a gum graft can help restore gums to their natural state. At home, soft brushing with fluoride toothpaste will also help keep your gums intact and prevent decay.
With age comes the wisdom to make excellent health choices. And now you have the knowledge you need to take even better care of your teeth and gums to help prevent tooth root decay — at any age.
Brace Yourself. You’re Not Too Old to Straighten Your Teeth.
Think braces are just for angsty teens and awkward pre-pubescents? Think again.The number of adults undergoing treatment for crooked teeth using braces or other teeth straightening treatment has been rising steadily.
Sure, crooked teeth can be a cosmetic embarrassment, but more importantly, correcting them can benefit you more than just making you look better. For example, fixing a less-than-perfect bite will ensure that you chew your food properly. And overlapping teeth can cause bacteria to get trapped, leading to difficulty with cleaning and, ultimately, tooth decay. Fortunately there are a number of ways to get teeth (of any age) on the straight and narrow.
Am I Doomed to Be a “Brace Face”?
The upside to waiting until adulthood to correct your teeth is you can avoid all those playground bullies and their hurtful name-calling. The other benefit is that trends are changing. After assessing your particular issues, your orthodontist can tell you more about all the options that are available to you today, including:
Visible braces. This type of brace is perhaps the closest to what you may envision when you think “braces.” But it’s pretty safe to say that even visible braces have improved over the years. Usually suggested to fix severe alignment problems, the brace is fixed directly onto the front of the tooth using either traditional stainless-steel brackets with metal wires, clear plastic brackets with metal wires, or ceramic brackets with metal wires. Braces must be kept clean, since food that gathers around the brackets or wires can lead to staining or decay.
Invisible braces. Invisible braces are called lingual braces and are placed on the back of the teeth. If you’re concerned about the aesthetics of having braces, these can be a great option. However, adjusting to this method can be a little tough. Often times lingual braces can cause you to speak with a lisp, and having the brackets sit between your teeth and the tongue can cause irritation.
Nearly invisible braces. This is actually a clear plastic tray that’s worn over the teeth. Every two weeks the trays are exchanged for new ones that are become closer and closer to the teeth’s ideal alignment. This method is popular because they are almost invisible to the naked eye, and can be easily removed for cleaning and eating. However, you have to be strict about wearing the trays, as anything less than 22 hours a day will result in a longer treatment time.
Retainers. Removable retainers are made from metal wires and acrylic formed to the shape of your mouth. They can be made for both the upper and lower arches of the mouth to brace and align teeth. Retainers like this are popular because they can be easily removed for special events or occasional relief, but they are prone to getting lost, so you have to make sure to keep track of them.
Porcelain veneers. Veneers are a cheaper and less time-consuming way to change the look of your teeth by simply covering up minor imperfections. As well as covering crooked teeth, they can mask chips, gaps and stains and — once they are applied — don’t need to be replaced for five to ten years.
So, instead of just hoping that your teeth decide to straighten on their own (which they won’t), put on your grown-up pants, and talk to your dentist. Because today, there are more options than ever for giving you the healthy, attractive smile you’ve always wanted.