How to Keep Your Teeth for a Lifetime
by Rod Spencer DDS
Every year I have a physical and my cholesterol checked. It always seems to run about 125. I really do not deserve a score that low, but you can't beat genetics and good living! Keeping your teeth in good shape is similar. Some people have good genetics and are immune to dental problems, and some are not. If you are in the 99% of the population that is not genetically gifted, this article on dental health should prove helpful. I can identify four main areas of dental health. All are related, yet each has its own causes and treament. These areas are greatly simplified for clarity and space limitations.
Occlusal disease: You have heard this descibed in many different ways: TMJ, TMD, clenching, grinding, etc. This is basically a bite problem that vauses too muchpressure in your dental structures--teeth, muscles, and joints. If the pressure overwhelms your muscles, you will get headaches. If it localizes on your teeth, you get wear, breakage, increased gum disease, and an increase in the need for root canals due to sensitivy. Joint pressue leads to joint noise, earaches, and limited range of movement. Much dentistry is done each year to fix problems which are really just symptoms of occlusal disease. Today, occlusal problems are easily treated.
Cosmetics: How you feel about the appearance of your smile has a lot to do with dental health. Dental health is mostly a function of care and mainenance, and the better you feel about your teeth, the better care you will take of them. Increased pride of owndership lead to better care. This may seem odd to yhou, but I see this every day. Allow me to make an analogy to a rental car. Has anybody ever washed a rental care before they return it? This never happens because there is no ownership. Now, let's say that you get in a minor wreck with your new car. Suiddently you are not interested in washing it because you are disappointedd in the way it looks. The reverse is also true. There is a big interest in care and maintenance when someone has their smile improved. Pride of ownsership and level of care go hand in hand.
Periodontal (gum) disease: Gum disease is responsible for a majority of tooth loss, and it is easily preventible. The best line of prevention is good home care, and the best home care is regular flossing and an electronic toothbrush like Sonicare. If you have your teeth cleaned and checked by a resposible dentist, you are well on your way to preventing this problem. Your cleanings should be thorough, and you need periodic "gum tests." That is when the dentist or hygienist measures the attachment level (bone) by measruing the depth of the "pockets" around each tooth. Ideally, each tooth has six measusrements, and when you look at trends in the numbers over time you can tell if you are losing bone around the teeth, which is the end result of gum disease. As mentioned above, bite problems can lead to increased gum problems, so if you are diagnosed with gum problems, so if you are diagnosed with gum problems, the bite should also be analyzed.
Problems with individual teeth: This is a category in itself, and involves either restoring a tooth structually or dealing with a damaged nerve by having a root canal. When it comes to