With the baby boomer generation approaching retirement, dentistry has seen a large influx of new dental issues. Mainly root decay and medication induced xerostomia.
As we are living longer, we are also keeping our teeth longer.
It is very infrequent now that we provide removable partials, dentures or flippers to patients because patients simply are not missing large numbers of teeth. What I see more is root decay. With the wear and tear of chewing and normal daily tooth functions, we see more gum recession and thus more of the root of the tooth is exposed. There is also a decreased ability and range of motion in some of our senior population that makes it very difficult to remove all plaque. The root surface (cementum) is much softer than the enamel portion of the tooth and more susceptible to wear from tooth brushing, ditching due to erosion from foods or medical conditions, and more effected by the low PH of retained plaque. As a result, we have to use different filling material (still white, but better adapted to tooth root bonding) to fill. We also see a high failure of fillings due to plaque retention and dry mouth. This specialized filling material picks up ambient fluoride and acts to prevent cavities from reoccurring quite so quickly.
Medications have also wreaked havoc on our mouth and saliva flow. Think of your saliva as a natural water flow and your tongue as your natural toothbrush. Without water, we lose our natural ability to help keep our teeth clean as well as the buffering effect of saliva to dilute the acidity of the foods we eat. High acidity in our mouth means more tooth erosion, better ability of the bacteria in our mouth to start attacking the teeth and thus, more decay. We will make every effort to coordinate with your medical doctor to ensure your medications are not affecting what we see in the mouth and if there are no options for substitution, we will help you be more comfortable. Dry mouth is a horrible condition and we have seen patients whose tongue literally stuck to the roof of their mouth while talking and eating. Together we are there to help you be happier and healthier. And help combat more frequent decay and more root cavities as we keep our teeth longer.