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Everyone, even your dentist, knows that when we age, we see certain changes in our face (for example, wrinkled skin, less skin tone, shrunken appearance). The soft tissue in the lower one-third of the face is supported by the teeth and jawbone, and gives support to your smile. As we age, we lose support to our smile and we begin to appear older.
Anatomically, the face is divided into thirds: the upper, middle and lower one-third. The space between your nose and your chin is referred to as the lower one-third. The teeth support the vertical height of your lower face, and more specifically the back teeth support your lower face.
Most dentists agree that minimal and gradual wearing away of the top enamel of the teeth is considered normal during the lifespan of a patient. However, excessive wear on the top surfaces of the teeth can result in abscessed teeth, an irregular bite, decreased chewing capacity and esthetic disharmony. Patients with these types of problems often require extensive restorative cosmetic dentistry treatment.
Although the prevalence of tooth wear, or attrition, is not known, it is thought to be very common in adults over the age of 40. The wearing of the top surfaces of the teeth is most often attributed to attrition, which is the wearing away of one tooth surface by another tooth surface. Attrition is the result of bruxism, or the involuntary grinding of the teeth against each other.
Attrition can be the result of one or a combination of problems such as:
Depending on the severity of the tooth wear, teeth may be broken, shortened and unattractive. Having worn teeth can result in jaw joint pain (TMJ), a decreased ability to chew and a sunken appearance to the lower face. All of these results can make a person appear more wrinkled and older.
Generally, the worn teeth will have to have new fillings placed or redone. When severe wear occurs in the mouth, a dental crown or multiple crowns may be the only solution.
Yes, tooth wear can be prevented, but only if you make regular visits to the dentist. If detected early enough, your dentist may prescribe a plastic night guard to protect your teeth, much like an athletic mouth guard.
By Benjamin O. Watkins, III, DDS
In restorative dentistry a dental crown, or caps for teeth, look and function just like natural teeth. Your cosmetic dentist may recommend a dental crown if your tooth has enough decay that it cannot hold a filling, or if your tooth is cracked or broken and in danger of cracking down into the root if left unattended. A dental crown covers your tooth completely. It fits snugly at the gum and protects what remains of the natural tooth.
The dental crown serves two important functions. First, it restores the appearance of your teeth and your face. If your tooth is severely decayed or cracked, your cosmetic dentist will need to restore it prior to preparing a cap. Teeth also support the muscles in our faces, so anything less than a full tooth may affect the way you smile.
Second, a dental crown will be the same size and shape as the natural tooth. As a result, it will keep your jaw and bite aligned; it will also make sure that other teeth don't shift locations or take on a greater share of the work of biting and chewing.
A dental crown is most often made of gold or porcelain. A dental crown also can be made of stainless steel, but those are often temporary and not designed for long-term wear.
A porcelain dental crown is usually built on a metal base, which fits snugly over the natural tooth. Your dentist will choose a porcelain that matches the color of your natural teeth. A porcelain dental crown is usually so carefully matched in color, it cannot be distinguished from your natural teeth. Many people choose porcelain dental crowns for the cosmetic appearance and the confidence it give them.
New materials are now available in cosmetic dentistry that allow your cosmetic dentist to use an "all-ceramic" dental crown in some cases. They have a beautiful life-like appearance and short-term studies support their success, with long-term trials ongoing.
A dental crown can be made of all gold. Some people prefer not to use a gold crown because it stands out from the other teeth in appearance. At the same time, if the gold crown is on a back molar, some people feel the cosmetic issue is not a big one. Your cosmetic dentist will discuss the types of materials available if a gold crown is recommended.
Once your dental crown is in place, make sure the area is brushed well and that you floss below the gum line. While the dental crown protects your remaining tooth from further decay, you must protect the base of the dental crown from bacterial growth and gum disease. Regular brushing and flossing as you would your natural teeth will ensure that your crown will be in place for years to come!
Your Gold Crown is not just royal jewelry for your mouth!
by Danine M. Fresch, DDS