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By Reuben D. Collins, DDS
April 20, 2012
Category: Oral Health
MaintainingAProperBiteCanKeepYouLookingYoung

Even with good dental hygiene and care, your teeth may show signs of wear as you age. Fortunately, we now have ways to treat these symptoms of aging and restore a youthful look and function to your teeth and jaws.

How Do Teeth Wear?

All the tissues in your body are constantly in a process of breaking down (catabolism) and rebuilding (anabolism). During childhood the anabolic processes exceed the catabolic processes. But after you have reached physical maturity the balance changes and the breakdown process begins to draw ahead of the building up. The result: signs of wear.

In your teeth, the outer layer, the enamel, is a hard, mineralized substance that is resistant to wear. Under the enamel is a layer called dentin, which is a living tissue something like bone. As teeth age, the dentin layer thickens, causing teeth to lose some of their whiteness. Most wear to your teeth comes from the pressure of the upper and lower teeth's biting surfaces against each other. How much wear occurs depends on your bite or occlusion (how the teeth are aligned, and how they meet) and the ways in which you use your teeth.

Constant interactions between the biting surfaces of your teeth result in removal of small amounts of enamel. Your body naturally compensates for this wearing away of material. As teeth wear, they erupt from your jaws by tiny amounts, moving slightly up or down to stay in the proper occlusal relation with the teeth on the other jaw. They also slowly move toward the front of your mouth.

If the wear becomes excessive, your body can no longer compensate for it. At this point you may find that your bite relationships are not working correctly, and the lower third of your face loses height. This creates or accentuates an older appearance.

Some people clench or grind their teeth, applying greater than normal — and damaging — forces to their teeth. This problem, often a reaction to stress, is called bruxism. It can cause a number of problems from jaw pain to loose teeth or excessive wear or tooth fractures. If you suffer from excessive wear due to bruxism, a professionally made mouthguard may prevent further damage.

Modern Dentistry Can Restore a Youthful Look

Modern dentistry can successfully restore the normal shape, appearance and function of worn teeth by installing porcelain crowns or veneers. These not only replace the tooth structure lost through wear, but they also restore the bite relationship. Crowns on excessively worn teeth can dramatically improve tooth color and facial appearance, resulting in a more harmonious, younger look.

Contact us today to schedule an appointment to discuss your questions about dental wear and aging. You can also learn more by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “How and Why Teeth Wear.”

UnderstandingTheMaintenanceAndLifespanOfPorcelainVeneers

An important consideration prior to having any cosmetic dentistry is to understand both the pros and the cons of each particular dental procedure. And while porcelain laminate veneers are among the most aesthetic means of creating a beautiful, more pleasing smile, they are permanent and non-reversible and should be maintained properly.

On average, you can expect porcelain veneers to last anywhere between 7 and 20+ years. However, much of that depends whether or not you care for them properly in addition to the quality of the dental porcelain, the craftsmanship, and placement of them. How long your veneers last can also depend to some extent upon how you age. This is because the gum tissues attached to the living tooth that your veneers are cemented to may shrink or pull away from the tooth exposing its root surface. If this occurs, you should see your dentist for an evaluation, as it may require veneer replacement. Or, the issue might be resolved through some minor periodontal (gum) plastic surgery.

Porcelain veneers are a low maintenance solution for solving a multitude of cosmetic dental challenges, but they do require that you protect them during sports or vigorous activity. You should also wear an oral appliance or mouthguard (nightguard) to protect them from grinding or any other involuntary damage during sleep.

To learn more about porcelain veneers, continue reading the Dear Doctor article, “Porcelain Veneers.” If you are ready to see what cosmetic dentistry can do for you, contact us to schedule a consultation.