If your smile is more dingy yellow than pearly white or you have noticed that your teeth are shifting, don’t worry. You don’t have to grin and bear the bad news. Although discolored teeth, receding gums, and chips and gaps are signs of aging teeth, there are many things you can do to restore your sparkling smile.
Teeth have a tough job, and not everyone likes the look of the effects of decades of wear and tear. According to dentists, the top aging teeth issues include discoloration, crowding or gaps, and loss of enamel. Dr. Mark Nguyen of OC Healthy Smiles says that loss of enamel, the outermost and protective layer of your teeth, results in both darker and shorter teeth, and shorter teeth can move. That leads to a whole host of other issues, he says, including crowding, overlapping, and gaps.
Gum recession is also common among older adults. “When your gums recede, the roots of the teeth can be exposed,” says Dr. Nguyen. Not only does it look unappealing, but it can lead to tooth damage or tooth loss if left untreated. Tackling these age-related issues usually requires a multipronged approach that takes into account aesthetic, functional, and health concerns.
“If your teeth are still in good shape, think prevention,” says Dr. Mark Nguyen, who, for two consecutive years, has been voted by board-certified California dentists as Top Cosmetic Dentist in Orange Coast Magazine. His recommendations — in addition to good daily oral hygiene and professional teeth cleaning every three to six months — is to avoid acidic foods like coffee, tea, sparkling water, soda, and red wine. It’s also a good idea to brush well after eating foods such as blueberries and beets, which can stain teeth. And curb bad habits like biting fingernails and chewing ice, Dr. Nguyen says.
It may not be the prettiest thing to wear to bed, but dentists often recommend a night guard to protect teeth from grinding while you sleep. “Grinding and clenching of teeth is a huge concern with aging teeth,” says Dr. Nguyen. “When you grind and clench you create a situation where the enamel wears away. It’s similar to rubbing your teeth with a very fine sandpaper over the years. You thin out the edges and teeth chip or wear away.” Grinding and clenching can also move teeth, leading to spacing or crowding.
For teeth that have already shifted, Invisalign clear aligners can give you a brighter, straighter smile. This clear aligner systems can work faster than traditional braces if coupled with an experienced dentist, like those at OC Healthy Smiles, and propel technology. The propel technology can safely correct your smile up to 50% faster, so if timing is a concern, be sure to ask about this treatment option. Though that might sound like a great idea, every case is different. Do your homework before you make a commitment. Most dentists offer free Invisalign consultations, so be sure to schedule one to get all your questions answered.
One of the more common ways to remedy darkening or yellowing teeth is whitening. For external stains, Dr. Nguyen recommends over-the-counter teeth-whitening products include strips, gels, and rinses. They can take anywhere from a few hours to a few weeks to see results. The cost range is usually between $15 to $50.
For internal tooth stains, however, you may want to schedule a professional whitening at your dentist’s office or have a dentist make custom whitening trays that you can wear at night. The in-office process is more dramatic and much faster than over the counter methods because it involves a stronger bleaching agent and laser or heat light to boost results. The good news is that it takes only 90 minutes. The enamel-safe whitening agent used by dentists will brighten your natural teeth, but tooth-colored fillings, crowns, veneers, bonding, and bridges don’t whiten, so be sure to discuss previous dental work with your practitioner if you go this route.
To fix the shape of your teeth or to repair broken, uneven teeth, you have essentially two options: bonding and veneers. Bonding is typically used to repair small cracks and chips in teeth. It’s fairly affordable, but it can easily darken and chip. Veneers are the gold standard for tooth repair. “Veneers can be used to do more significant cosmetic enhancements and still look very natural,” says Dr. Nguyen
For gums that have receded, dentists and oral surgeons usually recommend gum grafting to cover the area of the tooth that is exposed. In the past, this was a pretty painful procedure, because tissue had to be harvested from the roof of the patient’s mouth. But there’s a new technique that Dr. Nguyen calls a game changer. The results are fantastic and the patient won’t have to worry about discomfort due to advancements in anesthetics and oral surgery.
For more information or to schedule now, call your dentist at OC Healthy Smiles (714) 545-0484