We all know getting old can rob us of many things – our agility, our hair, and even our memories.
But aging also can cause physical changes to a person’s smile, which in turn can impact their sense of well being and influence their interactions with others.
“Many adults come to me complaining they have lost their smile,” says Dr. Stuart Frost, an orthodontist and author of The Artist Orthodontist: Creating An Artistic Smile is More Than Just Straightening Teeth.
“Older patients may have multiple issues that affect their smile, including mutilated or worn teeth, a misaligned bite, crowding, or problems with inflammation or recession of their gums. They may even have experienced the collapse of the underlying structures of the face due to missing teeth.“
Frost says some of the specific situations older people face with their smiles include:
Wear and tear. Some adult teeth have unattractive chips and pits that take away from a smile. These issues can be addressed with hard-tissue contouring techniques that restore the anatomy of individual teeth. Hard-tissue contouring can also eliminate the need for expensive cosmetic veneers or bonding.
Gum recession. The phrase “looking long in the tooth” comes from the fact gums recede, causing the teeth to look longer and unsightly. There are a few reasons gum recession might happen, Frost says. For example, using a toothbrush with coarse bristles can cause gum problems. Also, food can get trapped between the gum tissue and develop into tartar. Over time, tartar turns into calculus, which Frost says “acts like acid on steroids” to cause inflammation of the gums. That can eventually irritate the bone and cause it to shrink away, a condition known as gingivitis. The good news is that gum tissue can be recontoured as part of the last steps in a treatment plan. Recontouring the teeth can eliminate the little dark triangle that appears in between the teeth and the gum when the gum recedes which can be fixed with recontouring the teeth.
Misalignments. Teeth that are crowded, flared or misaligned not only affect the look of your smile, they also can have an impact on your ability to chew and can even cause some people to clench and grind their teeth, Frost says. “By aligning the teeth with braces and ensuring each tooth is in the correct position, we can bring back the functionality and youthfulness of the bite,” he says.
Narrow arch. Narrowing of the arches is typically due to extractions earlier in life. Frost says there are ways to return a more youthful appearance by widening the arch shape to broaden the smile and creates better upper lip support. As a bonus, he says, a broader arch and smile promotes better contouring of the cheekbones, which can take years off someone’s appearance.
“The last 50 years have seen a revolution in dental techniques for improving your smile that many people have yet to discover,” Frost says. “Investigating and taking advantage of some of those options can change someone’s life, regardless of age.”
About Dr. Stuart Frost
Dr. Stuart Frost, author of The Artist Orthodontist: Creating An Artistic Smile is More Than Just Straightening Teeth (www.drstuartfrost.com), is an orthodontist and sought-after speaker who has given seminars, lectures, and speeches throughout the world to dentists and the general public on groundbreaking dentistry. He graduated from the University of the Pacific School of Dentistry and has continued his education at the University of Rochester, where he accomplished a one-year fellowship in Temporomandibular Joint Disorder and a two-year certificate in orthodontics.