Even with good dental hygiene and care, your teeth may show signs of wear as you age. Fortunately, we now have ways to treat these symptoms of aging and restore a youthful look and function to your teeth and jaws.
How Do Teeth Wear?
All the tissues in your body are constantly in a process of breaking down (catabolism) and rebuilding (anabolism). During childhood the anabolic processes exceed the catabolic processes. But after you have reached physical maturity the balance changes and the breakdown process begins to draw ahead of the building up. The result: signs of wear.
In your teeth, the outer layer, the enamel, is a hard, mineralized substance that is resistant to wear. Under the enamel is a layer called dentin, which is a living tissue something like bone. As teeth age, the dentin layer thickens, causing teeth to lose some of their whiteness. Most wear to your teeth comes from the pressure of the upper and lower teeth's biting surfaces against each other. How much wear occurs depends on your bite or occlusion (how the teeth are aligned, and how they meet) and the ways in which you use your teeth.
Constant interactions between the biting surfaces of your teeth result in removal of small amounts of enamel. Your body naturally compensates for this wearing away of material. As teeth wear, they erupt from your jaws by tiny amounts, moving slightly up or down to stay in the proper occlusal relation with the teeth on the other jaw. They also slowly move toward the front of your mouth.
If the wear becomes excessive, your body can no longer compensate for it. At this point you may find that your bite relationships are not working correctly, and the lower third of your face loses height. This creates or accentuates an older appearance.
Some people clench or grind their teeth, applying greater than normal — and damaging — forces to their teeth. This problem, often a reaction to stress, is called bruxism. It can cause a number of problems from jaw pain to loose teeth or excessive wear or tooth fractures. If you suffer from excessive wear due to bruxism, a professionally made mouthguard may prevent further damage.
Modern Dentistry Can Restore a Youthful Look
Modern dentistry can successfully restore the normal shape, appearance and function of worn teeth by installing porcelain crowns or veneers. These not only replace the tooth structure lost through wear, but they also restore the bite relationship. Crowns on excessively worn teeth can dramatically improve tooth color and facial appearance, resulting in a more harmonious, younger look.