Missing tooth solutions for seniors

Missing tooth solutions for seniors

As we get older, we begin to deeply appreciate that maintaining our oral health is crucial to our enjoyment of everyday life. Tooth loss demoralise us in our efforts, no matter whether it is the result of tooth decay, gum disease or dental trauma. In severe cases, a tooth may require extraction if it can’t be repaired through dental fillings, crowns or other restorations. However, losing a tooth does not need to have a negative impact on life. What you do about it makes all the difference.

In this blog, we’ll discuss the effects of missing teeth and the common tooth replacement options for seniors.

Australian seniors are missing over 13 teeth on average

In 2017–2018, adults aged 65 and over had an average of 13.7 missing teeth. Additionally, the percentage of adults with complete tooth loss rose with age, from 8.1% in the 55–74 age group to 21% among those aged 75 and over. (National Study of Adult Oral Health 2017-2018)

What are the effects of missing teeth?

The impact of missing teeth goes beyond just the physical appearance of your smile. Here are some of the many adverse primary effects of missing teeth:

Chewing and digestion problems:

Missing teeth can make it difficult to properly chew food, resulting in improper digestion. Poorly chewed food can strain the digestive system and reduce nutrient absorption, potentially leading to nutritional deficiencies.

Speech impairments:

Teeth play a crucial role in the formation of speech sounds and words. The absence of teeth, particularly the front teeth, can alter speech patterns, resulting in difficulties with pronunciation and communication.

Altered facial appearance:

Your teeth provide facial structure. When teeth are missing, the jawbone may begin to deteriorate, causing facial shape changes and a sunken appearance.

Bone loss:

The roots of your teeth stimulate the jawbone, preserving its strength and density. When teeth are missing, this stimulation decreases, resulting in gradual bone loss. This can affect your facial structure and make future dental implant placement more difficult.

Adjacent teeth shifting:

When a tooth is missing, the teeth next to it may start to shift or tilt into the empty space. This can lead to misalignment, bite problems and difficulty correctly cleaning the teeth.

Gum and periodontal issues:

Due to exposed areas where teeth are missing, the gums can become more susceptible to irritation and infection. These areas are particularly prone to developing gum disease and periodontal problems.

Self-esteem and confidence:

Missing teeth can result in self-consciousness, lowering your confidence and self-esteem. You may feel awkward when you smile or interact with others.

Joint and bite issues:

Missing teeth can change the proper alignment of your bite, causing problems like temporomandibular joint (TMJ) disorders, headaches and jaw pain.

Oral health complications:

Untreated missing teeth can result in a progression of oral health issues, including gum disease, tooth decay and additional tooth loss. It can lead to a deteriorating state of oral health.

tooth decay

Increased risk of tooth decay:

The presence of gaps between teeth may trap food particles and make cleaning more difficult. This increases the risk of tooth decay and cavities in neighbouring teeth.

Limited food choices:

Certain foods, especially those that require significant chewing, may be difficult to consume if you have missing teeth. This may result in a diet with less variety and possible nutritional deficiencies.

Aesthetic concerns:

While this is generally the most visible effect, the appearance of missing teeth can have an impact on your self-image and how others view you.

It is essential to replace missing teeth to prevent future dental problems and preserve oral health, overall well-being and quality of life.

What are the solutions for missing teeth?

Dentures

Traditional removable option

Dentures have been a popular option for seniors with missing teeth for decades. There are two types of removable replacements: full dentures for those with complete tooth loss and partial dentures for those missing only a few teeth. The advancements in dentistry have resulted in dentures that are more functional and aesthetically pleasing, as well as more comfortable and lifelike.

missing tooth solutions

Dental bridges

Bridging the gap

Seniors often utilise dental bridges as a fixed solution when they are missing one or more adjacent teeth. These artificial teeth are attached to the natural teeth on either side of the gap. Bridges restore proper chewing function and preserve the alignment of the surrounding teeth.

Implant-supported dentures

Enhanced stability

Implant-supported dentures are the optimal solution for seniors desiring the benefits of both dentures and dental implants. These dentures are attached securely to dental implants, ensuring their stability while eating and speaking. This option combines the convenience of dentures with the durability of implants.

Dental Implants

Long-lasting restoration

Dental implants can provide permanent natural-looking replacements for missing teeth. These titanium posts are surgically implanted into the jawbone to serve as a stable foundation for prosthetic teeth. Dental implants restore chewing function and stimulate the jawbone to prevent bone loss over time, which increases in importance as we age.

Bone augmentation

Strengthening the foundation

Some seniors may experience bone loss in the jaw due to missing teeth over time. Bone augmentation, also known as bone grafting, is a procedure that enhances the density of the jawbone. This procedure creates a solid base for dental implants and ensures their long-term success.

Regular dental check-ups

Prevention and maintenance

Prevention is essential for maintaining oral health, particularly for seniors. Regular dental check-ups allow for early detection of potential problems and provide the opportunity to discuss tooth replacement options with your dentist. Your dentist can assist in customising a treatment plan to your specific requirements and desires.

dental check up

Regain your smile, comfort and functionality

Small investments in oral health typically provide massive returns in quality of life. Modern solutions for missing teeth offer a range of options for restoring oral function, appearance and overall well-being. Whether you opt for dental implants, dentures, bridges or a combination of treatments, consulting your dentist is the first step in achieving a more confident smile that lasts throughout your senior years.

Composite bonding / veneers / edge bonding – the conservative tooth repair solution

Composite bonding / veneers / edge bonding – the conservative tooth repair solution

What is composite bonding?

Composite bonding, composite veneers or edge bonding are dental techniques used when your dentist applies a tooth-coloured resin to the full frontal surface or the edges (i.e. tips and sides) of the teeth. You can also receive composite bonding and composite veneers as parts of the same treatment plan.

What dental issues can composite bonding treat?

Composite bonding is a really versatile, gentle and conservative dental treatment used to fix chipped teeth, close gaps, change the shape and size of teeth, and alter a tooth’s colour and shade.

Whether bonding is used over traditional veneers depends on what issues you have regarding your defective teeth. This includes what shape, size, shape and position you want in the final result. For example, if you have a few minor chips but are still happy with the shape and colour of your teeth, then composite edge bonding is a highly recommended treatment option.

However, if you’re looking to correct more complex issues such as the shape or size of teeth, alignment, and/or want them looking whiter, then covering the full surfaces of a tooth to build up a composite veneer may be recommended.

Composite bonding is getting more and more popular as a more affordable alternative to porcelain veneers. It’s also a more conservative and less invasive treatment that requires minimal preparation of your natural teeth and removal of tooth structure and enamel.

Are you suitable for composite bonding treatment?

Your suitability for composite bonding treatment is dependent on what results you want to achieve and how healthy your teeth are. These factors can only be assessed via a thorough oral examination in the dental chair.

During this examination, your dentist will assess your teeth, gums and bite. If you have any dental issues, such as tooth decay, cavities or gum disease, these oral conditions should be treated prior to commencing composite bonding treatment. Likewise, if you clench or grind your teeth, resolving these issues may be required before any cosmetic work can be done.

Additionally, if your teeth are misaligned, then you may need to have orthodontic treatment, such as braces or clear aligners such as Invisalign. If you don’t have your teeth straightened first, then your final results may be compromised in the long term. It’s also a recommended to complete a teeth whitening session before composite bonding or veneer treatment since the colour of the resin cannot be altered once cured.

White dental fillings – CEREC porcelain vs composite resin

White dental fillings – CEREC porcelain vs composite resin

White fillings are a popular type of dental filling used to restore decayed teeth or cavities. Because they are available in a number of colour options, they can blend seamlessly with your affected tooth’s remaining structure and the surrounding teeth – as opposed to highly visible metal fillings. White fillings can also be used to change the shape and size of your teeth, which is especially beneficial in cases of damaged, worn or eroded teeth.

The difference between CEREC porcelain and composite resin fillings

Not all white fillings are the same. While different types of white fillings may look very similar, they come in two main options based on the filling material used – porcelain or composite resin. Glass Ionomer fillings (GIC) are another white filling option but are typically used in cases of child tooth decay, adult temporary fillings and sub-gingival fillings (below the gumline). The difference between porcelain and composite filling materials is like comparing apples to oranges. Porcelain fillings – also known as inlays, CEREC or ceramic restorations – are a lot harder and durable than “composite resin” fillings which are also referred to as plastic, resin or composite fillings.

Composite resin – the low-cost but less durable filling option

Composite fillings are definitely the least expensive filling option – but you get what you pay for. Despite the advantage of saving on your short term dental costs, composite fillings don’t have the same success rate as porcelain fillings. They need to be replaced after 5 or 6 years since they cannot withstand the pressures of heavy chewing over time. This may result in a higher risk of fractures and a breakage which means you may have to repair or replace them more often. Another problem with composite fillings is that they can shrink over time thus pulling away from and stressing the natural tooth structure walls surrounding the fillings.

So, not only can the filling fail but your remaining original tooth may fracture also. Additionally, once composite fillings start to contract, tooth decay can start to penetrate between the filling and original tooth structure and cause more oral issues. If left untreated, this can result in hidden decay, catastrophic failure and tooth loss. Lastly, colour integrity is also an issue since composites can fade or discolour and start standing out from the rest of your teeth.

CEREC porcelain fillings – the more natural looking and long-lasting filling

Porcelain fillings are a better and more stable long term filling solution. If they are CEREC fillings, these super-hard restorations are created using the latest 3D CAD-CAM dental technologies – for a perfect and very stable fit that lasts 15 years or more. When completed successfully, they can also support the remaining tooth structure and prevent further deterioration.

Since there is minimal wear and tear on porcelain fillings, there is less of a requirement to excavate and prep a tooth. This means you’ll be able to retain more of your natural tooth structure – to create a stronger foundation for your filling. CEREC fillings are more expensive without a doubt, but when you factor in the replacement expenses of composites over time, the cost differential is negligible.

Why do you need retainers after teeth straightening?

Why do you need retainers after teeth straightening?

Most people are unaware of the effects mouth breathing has on orthodontic treatment until after they get their teeth straightened or realigned. Whether they have received braces or Invisalign aligner treatment, a relapse usually occurs to some degree, even after a 100% successful realignment. In the event of a relapse – where the straightened teeth start to gradually shift back towards their original positions – retainers may need to be worn temporarily to allow supportive gum tissue more time to strengthen and stabilise realigned teeth. However, there is another potential risk factor that may be constantly forcing realigned teeth to shift back – how you breathe and your tongue posture.

The tongue – nature’s perfect retainer for straight teeth

Long before the availability of braces or aligner treatments to straighten teeth, nature provided the perfect “retainer” to ensure that your teeth develop and erupt evenly – your tongue. In opposition to the inward forces exerted by the cheek muscles (buccinators), your tongue provides an opposing lateral force that pushes the teeth out. When both forces are equally balanced at approximately 500 gm and your dental arches are well developed, your primary teeth should erupt evenly in all their proper positions during childhood.

How mouth breathing causes straightened teeth to shift back

If you are a mouth-breather – as opposed to a nasal-breather – your bottom jaw sits lower which results in low tongue posture. This leaves your upper jaw (maxilla) without the support and outward force required to counteract the cheek muscles’ inward forces. Without this counterbalancing effect, the inward force exertion causes the arches to narrow during development thus creating a narrow arch, less space for erupting teeth and misaligned or crowded teeth as a result. Now, when you jump forward in time to the teen or adult that has received orthodontic treatment, it is important to understand the very same oral forces that have caused teeth misalignment issues during development are probably still in play after treatment. 

Orthotropic treatment can help minimise the need for retainers

While orthodontic treatment such as braces and aligners focuses on straightening teeth, orthotropic treatment focuses on rectifying breathing and postural habits that cause teeth to misalign in the first place. When children and teens receive orthotropic treatment, adopting new mouth and tongue postural habits can improve their oral development. This can result in better teeth alignment all the way into adulthood. However, just because you’re an adult receiving orthodontic treatment, it doesn’t mean you’ve missed out on all the benefits of orthotropics. By simply ensuring that you breathe through your nose, keep your mouth closed and position your tongue correctly on the palate of the mouth, you can help minimise the forces acting against your newly positioned and straightened teeth. This allows supportive ligaments to strengthen and stabilise teeth in their sockets sooner rather than later – and less time spent wearing retainers!

How aesthetic dentistry can give you a healthier smile makeover

How aesthetic dentistry can give you a healthier smile makeover

To get a better idea of how aesthetic dentistry can improve oral health outcomes for cosmetic treatments, let’s take a look at a situation where a young adult with healthy teeth wants full veneers for purely cosmetic reasons. 

Why are veneers so popular among social media users?

Veneers have become a tremendously popular way to cover up stained, chipped, crooked, misaligned, misshapen or worn out teeth – mainly due to the growing obsession among social media users with having the perfect “selfie smile”. In situations where patients have severely damaged or malformed teeth that cannot be whitened, veneers are a great way to improve your smile and strengthen weakened teeth. But what if you already have healthy teeth but think that you want a full set of veneers for that perfect selfie smile?

The disadvantages of getting veneers for purely cosmetic reasons

Typically, a healthy patient wanting veneers for cosmetic reasons prefers to take the quickest route to achieve the perfect smile. Then presto, they have an instant perfect smile. However, the trade-off that a patient makes for a dozen bright white porcelain veneers over their own healthy teeth may include:

  • Losing natural, healthy teeth structure unnecessarily during prep,
  • The need to replace veneers up to a few times in their lifetime,
  • A higher risk of future oral health complications, and
  • Ongoing follow-up dental treatment costs that may be expensive.

Aesthetic dental veneer options for healthy teeth and gums

A dentist following aesthetic dental principles might recommend a more comprehensive treatment plan to avoid or minimise the impact of these potential oral issues. For example, an aesthetic dentist might recommend a “compromise” treatment resulting in the need for less invasive prep and veneers. This is made possible by straightening a patient’s teeth first via orthodontics. The thought of undergoing orthodontic treatment might put off a lot of patients who can’t wait. However, short-term aligners, such as Invisalign clear aligners, have been developed specifically for the cosmetic industry. Invisalign aligners can be used to straighten the front teeth in as little as 14 weeks. This is a much shorter time frame compared to standard orthodontics. Once a patient realises that this dental option is available, they soon realise they can achieve the smile they desire, along with better long term oral health and functional benefits – just by taking that extra step. They can still get their veneers but will only need to be fitted with minimal veneers involving less invasive prep. 

The veneer-free path to a beautiful smile

An aesthetic dentist might also be able to persuade the patient to refuse veneers altogether. As a patient’s treatment progresses step-by-step, their perspective and decision-making process change. They will be able to see how close the combination of orthodontic treatment and teeth whitening has got them to their perfect smile. From there, all that might be required to complete the smile makeover is composite edge bonding to perfect the teeth’s shape. The aesthetic dental approach in this instance has just saved the patient’s natural teeth from an otherwise invasive smile makeover treatment. No tooth structure or gum tissue has been removed. Instead, they have a beautiful, healthy smile with their very own natural teeth!  

Comprehensive treatment planning – the key to success at Leeming Dental

At the end of the day, each individual experiences changing perspectives on their oral health and smile at each new life stage.  In addition to clinical reasons, there are often psychological reasons for seeking treatment to improve their smile.  All these reasons are often perfectly valid, and acting on them can make a profoundly positive impact on a patient’s long term health and well being – something we always see in our clinic. There are a lot of clinical factors that need to be considered when treatment planning for an aesthetic smile makeover. When treatment is planned properly and takes each patient’s individual practical needs into account, significant improvements can be made – without sacrificing long term health. We recommend that our patients spend a lot of time in the consultation and planning stages to discuss your needs. By doing so, you’ll be fully informed about how different treatment options can alter the course of your long term health. Our aim is to fully understand your personal situation first, in order to prevent any harm to your oral health and build from a solid foundation.  

Let’s get started on your new smile at Leeming Dental!

Aesthetic dental treatment innovations can help you achieve a smile that is natural, beautiful and healthy. To schedule a consultation at Leeming Dental with our aesthetic dental specialists, call our helpful reception on 08 9310 3367 or book online today.