We are living longer. There is no disputing that. With the constant and ever expanding advances in modern medicine, people are able to overcome many different illnesses and ailments that would have devastated entire populations 100 years ago. However, this blessing of being able to live to a ripe old age comes with one distinct disadvantage.
Because we are living longer, we are putting more miles on our bodies than ever before. When it comes to teeth, there are only a certain number of miles that can be put on them before they break down. With advances in dentistry, people are able to keep their teeth much later in life, but this doesn’t mean there aren’t signs of wear and tear. The graph below shows how 60 years ago, over half of the elderly population had no teeth. By the 2000’s that number was cut in half. This is great news! Let’s see what happens when we put more wear and tear on our teeth.
CRACKS IN TEETH
This is a very common sight that I see every day in dentistry. It is a crack on a tooth that has an old filling and a lot of use. Seeing a crack like this scares some patients, while some patients say “so what?”. Here is the danger about these cracks: They are ticking time bombs. This tooth may stay intact and cause no problems during the patient’s lifetime, but it also might flare up and cause a whole slew of problems. If this person were to live long enough, the question then becomes a matter of when will the tooth break rather than if the tooth will break. When the crack spreads and the tooth breaks, the results can be catastrophic.
The break on this tooth is devastating, as there is nothing that can be done to save it. The fracture is too deep and significant to fix. The only course of treatment for this tooth is to extract it.
This is what a crack can look like without losing a part of the tooth. This crack is a vertical fracture and goes all the way through to the root. The only outcome is an extraction, as this tooth is unrestorable.
Once again, another cracked tooth through the root. The tooth is not restorable and must be extracted.
Sometimes the tooth breaks off and leaves the tooth still able to be saved, like this one. Luckily for this person, the break is shallow and a crown can be placed on this tooth.
Let’s not forget that a fractured tooth can be an excruciatingly painful process. By crowning the tooth, the forces of biting and chewing are then transferred to the crown and not the cracked tooth. When you go in for a dental visit and the dentist points out a crack, listen up as he or she might be able to save your tooth.