Everyone wants to feel better, enjoy better health, and look better even as we get older – maybe especially as we get older! When it comes to our appearance, our smiles and teeth can make an incredible difference. It is common for Baby Boomers to face dental challenges as they age, and sometimes, for both function and appearance, it is necessary to remove natural teeth and replace them with dentures or dental implants. Let’s take a closer look at these options for times when natural teeth need to be replaced.
What Happens to Teeth as Baby Boomers Age
As a whole, baby boomers are living healthier lives by eating better and getting regular exercise. They are living longer than previous generations, but this also means that taking care of their teeth is even more important. Poor dental care can lead to tooth loss and play a role in chronic diseases, such as diabetes and cardiovascular disease. Taking care of your teeth as you age is more than just about your smile, it can have a serious impact on your overall health.
One of the effects of aging is that the tooth enamel tends to wear away. Some medications also have the side effect of causing the teeth and bones to break down. Medications, poor diet, and the effects of aging on the immune system tend to lower resistance to infections. This can lead to gum disease and bone disease. As you age, there is also an increased risk for oral cancer. All of these factors not only affect your teeth and gums but also affect your overall health.
Another factor that leads to tooth damage as you age is that you tend to produce less saliva. Dry mouth can lead to receding gums and tooth decay. Periodontal disease is a major cause of tooth loss as you age. This an infection of the gums that causes the gums to recede and allow more damage to the tooth. In its early stages, this is called gingivitis. In advanced stages, it can cause significant damage to the bone that supports the teeth.
All of these factors might make it seem like time is against you when it comes to keeping your smile healthy. Proper brushing, regular dental visits, and a good diet all contribute to your overall health and the health of your smile. Sometimes, even though you are doing everything right to keep your teeth healthy, things still go wrong, and you can still lose your natural teeth. If you do, you have several options that are available to help.
Dentures as an Option
Dental plates are a traditional option that has been around for many centuries. Today’s dental plates are technologically advanced to provide better comfort and to make them easier to clean. Sometimes, they are called a partial if only a section of the teeth has been removed. It is estimated that nearly 32 million people in the United States have dental plates, and this number continues to increase as boomers age.
Pros of Dentures
Here are a few of the advantages of a dental plate or partial over other options.
- Cost-effective and less expensive than implants
- Other than removing the teeth, does not require extensive surgery
- Achieve a perfect looking smile
- Able to eat solid foods
- Advanced technology for a perfect fit
- Must be properly cleaned every day
Cons of Dentures
Here are some of the disadvantages of dental plates
- Wear out in 5-10 years
- Can be difficult to maintain
- Take some time to get used to
What Are Dental Implants?
Implants are becoming a popular option for boomers who have lost their natural teeth. Implants are an option if you have healthy bone and only a few teeth that need to be removed. They can be installed with little damage to surrounding teeth. If all of your natural teeth need to be removed, you can have a full mouth of dental implants.
Implants are a metal fixture that is attached to the bone below the gum line. They are a replacement for your natural tooth root. Either permanent or removable replacement teeth are screwed to the fixture. Eventually, your bone grows around the fixture, and it becomes a permanent part of your jaw. They are made from titanium and will last for decades.
Pros of Dental Implants
Here are a few of the advantages of implants over other options.
- Look and feel like your natural teeth
- Can stop further bone loss by removing diseased tooth root
- Fuses with your bone and forms a stable base
- Offers more permanent solution than dental plates
- Can care for them like your natural teeth
Cons of Dental Implants
Here are some of the disadvantages of implants.
- More expensive than dental plates
- Lengthy process with multiple steps to the procedure
- More invasive surgical procedure than dentures
- Might require additional surgeries, such as a bone graft or sinus lift
- Might not be an option for people with significant bone loss
- Might not be recommended for people with certain medical conditions
Taking Care of Your Teeth
Whether you opt for dental plates or implants is a decision that only you and your dentist can decide. Many factors go into this decision, including the advantages and disadvantages of both options for you. The best option is to keep your natural teeth for as long as possible. Here are a few things that you can do to keep your natural teeth healthy.
- Brush and floss daily as recommended by your dentist
- Use and electric toothbrush that is easy to grip for older persons
- Eat a healthy diet that provides the vitamins and minerals that you need
- Quit smoking and consuming excess alcohol
- Avoid sugar and processed foods
- See your dentist for regular checkups
Taking care of your teeth is an important part of your health. Your goal should be to take care of your teeth for as long as possible, but sometimes, things happen that cannot be avoided. If this happens to you, it is good to know that you now have several options so that you and your dentist can choose the one that is right for you.