Most of us have a time in our life when we were really happy with our smile. When we are young, our teeth gleam and they look beautiful. But that appearance is a lot harder to maintain as we get older.
But why? What makes it harder to maintain an attractive smile as we age? There are many factors that can answer this question. Here are some of the more common.
The outer layer of your tooth is called the enamel. It’s a really hard mineral, but it’s vulnerable to acid attack. As our teeth get exposed to acid, the enamel gets worn away, and that has an immediate effect on the appearance of teeth. Where the enamel started out as smooth, the acid makes it rough, with tiny pits that expose the microstructure of the enamel. This roughened surface is much more likely to trap staining molecules, which causes your teeth to discolor more readily.
Although teeth whitening can help remove the staining molecules, they’ll come back quickly if the surface remains rough and pitted. So a professional polishing can help. But it doesn’t reverse the effects of erosion.
As erosion worsens, the enamel gets thinner, too, which allows the interior of the tooth, which is darker in color, to show through. This is a permanent discoloration and can’t be treated by teeth whitening. It’s best treated with porcelain veneers if you’re really unhappy with the color of your otherwise healthy teeth.
Wear is what happens to your teeth due to repeated stresses related to pressure from food and opposing teeth. It occurs slowly over time, but it can significantly change the proportions of your teeth. This can mean that your teeth, which used to be tall and attractive are now short and squat. You may not even be able to show much of your teeth when you smile.
When teeth are getting worn down, we will first want to consider why they’re getting worn down, including investigation of bite problems like TMJ and looking at erosion, which can speed up wear.
Once we’ve figured out the cause to tooth wear, we will recommend ways to slow it or to reverse its effects, such as porcelain veneers or other restorations.
It’s not guaranteed that you’ll get cavities as you get older, but it does happen to more than 90% of American adults at some point. The risk of decay can increase with age for many reasons.
The roughening of teeth by acid erosion can make it easier for bacteria to cling to teeth as well as stains. It also gives them a head start on attacking the enamel so they can make more serious cavities more quickly.
Reduced saliva production also contributes to tooth decay risk. Saliva production can reduce naturally with age, but it’s also a common side effect of medications, which we tend to take more of as we get older.
With erosion, wear, and decay, our teeth have probably needed repair more than a few times over the course of our lives.
When placed, these fillings or crowns may have looked great, but they can lose their attractive appearance with age. And it’s not uncommon to have restorations from many different times in our lives. These restorations may have matched your teeth and one another at one point, but the different materials may age differently, both from each other and from your natural teeth.
To get an attractive smile back may require replacing some of these restorations, especially old metal amalgam fillings, which aren’t just unattractive, they’re unhealthy.
Gum disease can also be a major impact on the appearance of your smile as we age. We are at higher risk for gum disease as we get older, too, partly because of the reasons why decay risk increases, and partly for other reasons that aren’t entirely understood.
But gum disease’s impact on your smile is understood. In its early stages, it can make your gums look red, inflamed, and unhealthy. As it progresses, it can lead to receding gums. This can create unattractive spaces between your teeth, expose the roots of teeth, which have a different color and texture from your tooth enamel, and cause your teeth to move, getting more crooked. It can even lead to tooth loss.
Treating gum disease is essential to maintaining the appearance of your smile. It’s also important to replace lost teeth with implants or dentures.
Help to Keep Your Smile Beautiful
As it gets harder to keep your smile beautiful, you need the help of a dentist who is dedicated to preserving your smile though noninvasive means. At Contemporary Dentistry, we work hard to preserve your teeth as best we can using holistic dentistry approaches. This comprehensive approach means fewer restorations and a more attractive smile for life.
To learn more about how we can help you keep your smile beautiful, please call (585) 244-3337 today for an appointment at Contemporary Dentistry in Rochester, NY.