The lack of understanding most American adults have about the importance of dentistry is illustrated by the fact that many first think of their experiences with cavities as children. Yes, dental caries, as they are technically called, remain common: according to the National Center for Health Statistics, among those aged 20-64, 91% had tooth decay. But that is easily treated and should not be the primary concern for adults: losing teeth and not replacing them should be paramount.
Why? More than two-thirds of Americans 35-44 already have at least one missing tooth. Sometimes this is due to trauma, but mostly it is due to poor oral care habits. Few of us are taught how to do this properly, brushing twice a day for two minutes and flossing before you go to bed (have our hygienist show you the proper way to be most effective).
Teeth can Loosen Over Time
This problem gets worse over time: bones consist of living tissue and new cell growth is stimulated by chewing. A lost tooth loses this effect and, worse, if you don’t replace a missing tooth, the nearby ones lean in to fill the gap, causing them to loosen. By the time people are 74 or older, 26% have lost all their teeth.
If you have already lost many, you probably have been wearing dentures and we don’t need to tell you that they are hard to maintain, not always comfortable, and often make it difficult to chew effectively or speak clearly. But you may not be aware that the reason dentures need to be refitted every few years is that they do not prevent the continued erosion of the underlying jawbone, which starts when a tooth is lost.
Dental Implants are a Long-Term Solution
The permanent solution (with proper care) is that no matter how many teeth are missing, they should be replaced with dental implants. These consist of a screw made of biocompatible material, which is implanted into the jaw, stopping that erosion. After this heals for several months, it is attached at the top to a dental crown, which looks exactly like one of your natural teeth, including the same shade of white, so no one will know you have one or more artificial teeth. Implants also provide better support for the facial muscles than dentures, as well as a better ability to eat and speak.
But you need an experienced expert to achieve the overall 95% success rate that dental implants can have. Dr. Sherwin Louie is one of the most highly-regarded specialists in Southern California. Make an appointment with him today for an assessment of your unique dental health situation and whether implants might be right for you.