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Dental Issues for Baby Boomers

You've graduated from your cavity prone years into your gum problem years. Gone is the opportunity for sealants you never had, the loose baby teeth and the mysterious "tooth fairy". Gone are the incessant everyday sweets and the occasional tooth brushing. Alas, your teeth have made it into dental adulthood but now what do you have to look forward to and how can you beat the odds?

The profile of the "average" adult patient includes a myriad of dental disorders. The problems start with bad breath from the gum disease they don't know they have (affecting three out of four adults) and end with very large silver amalgam fillings in their back teeth that are close to both fracture and or root canal. In between is staining and yellowing, and a fair amount of wear.

Evidenced is characteristic notching along the gum line and concomitant temperature sensitivity from the stress induced grinding or clenching common to life in 1993. Missing teeth are also found as are the negative effects of decreased salivary flow as a result of many drug therapies (antianxiety agents, antidepressants, antihistamines, antihypertensives, and diuretics to name just a few), diabetes and radiation therapy. We also see rapid adult decay on the roots of teeth exposed by gum recession.

Although these "maladies" and others sneak up on patients without much warning, they are all readily resolved or reversed. If left untreated, the joys of "Polygrip" or implant surgery are around the corner!

How did we get into this dental dilemma? Interestingly enough dental disease is behavioral disease. If you have the behavior of brushing and flossing efficiently coupled with professional care you won't get any disease. On the other hand, since there was little emphasis on prevention when we were younger, we escaped the typical "oral hygiene motivational lectures" of today. God knows every card carrying dental prophet has a podium in his back pocket, pre-dusted and equipped with Mr. Microphone.

The primary cause of tooth loss is gum disease. Over 100 million Americans suffer missing teeth and some ten million are having difficulty with their dentures. The basic dental tenet is if you avoid the dentist you won't avoid dentures. Obviously you want to treat any disease as aggressively as the disease is treating you.

In the case of dentistry we have the technologies, protocols and materials in our arsenal to insure an aesthetically pleasing, fully functional and comfortable smile.

Some of the weapons that aid patients in 2000 are effective non-surgical gum therapies,implants, well engineered metals like JRVT (the Mercedes Benz of golds), desensitizing agents, bonding for desensitizing and cosmetics, nightguards, bleaching technologies, antimicrobial mouth washes, and artificial saliva. One of the best facilitators for the critical areas of education and motivation are the intra-oral camera and photograph systems. Additionally there is a revolutionary new product line (a tooth paste, mouth wash, breath spray and floss) that promises to decrease the surface tension of the tooth thus reducing the gum disease culprit plaque from sticking. Initial indications are this might be the next fluoride in dentistry.

If you consider for a moment where your body's headquarters or operational center is located, in a non-religious way, certainly your mouth is the center of it all. From speech and communication, tasting and enjoying your food with proper digestion, to sexuality and smiling, your teeth's condition is an investment in your health, happiness and success. If you think perhaps fake teeth are a viable alternative you might consider how effective any other fake or replacement body part functions. A fake eye, hand, leg etc., may look the part but sure doesn't provide the psychological or physical comfort of the real McCoy.

Sound recommendations are to visit your dentist at the frequency recommended and follow their instructions. If the dentists of America could gain a better compliance rate dental disease and spending would spiral downward dramatically. May you chew and smile in good health.

Editorial Staff

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