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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
Hollywood's most fortunate faces often rely on the skills of their cosmetic dentist in ways that may surprise you.
Dustin Hoffman and Meryl Streep have perfectly nice teeth on their own. But, to meet the challenges of demanding roles in films, both used cosmetic dental appliances (dentures) to change the looks of their natural teeth.
Since women have smaller, rounder teeth, Hoffman, (who played a woman in "Tootsie") used a partial denture to make his teeth look more feminine.
To suggest the brutality of life in a concentration camp, Meryl Streep's teeth and mouth were altered for her role as Sophie Zawistowska, the poignant heroine of "Sophie's Choice."
More commonly, actors see their cosmetic dentists long before they get in front of the camera. In an image-conscious industry, it's no secret the camera is a harsh critic. And a mouth with missing teeth, or a mouthful of stained or broken teeth never helped an actor's image - or the image of a banker, doctor or secretary for that matter.
Few of us face a camera at work every day. But we all face an audience and it's the same audience that goes to the movies. The movies tell us successful people look good, failures don't. Ugly teeth can tell the tale.
Techniques such as dental veneers and tooth bonding have joined the traditional process of dental caps as ways to improve smiles. Orthodontic braces aren't just for children anymore, they're also available to adults who want straight teeth. In some cases, you can opt for teeth bleaching, or have your teeth lengthened or sculpted. If you think you would benefit from these treatments, ask your cosmetic dentist. Not all the new techniques will work for everyone, but he or she will be glad to discuss the best plan for your smile.
With today's new cosmetic dental techniques, you can cast yourself successfully in a competitive world with an award-winning smile.