We all know people who are “younger” than their chronological age. These people are usually active, are “young at heart”, and “ positive” in their outlook on life. They love life in Columbia SC. We often hold these folks in high esteem. Conversely, we also all know people who are “older than their years”. Plagued by aches and pains, maybe prematurely gray or balding, sometimes overweight or out of good physical condition, these unfortunate folks appear burdened by life. Life has “taken its toll”. But everyone is trying to look and feel younger around Irmo, or Lake Murray, these days. How many times do you hear things like “40 is the new 30”, or maybe “50 or 60 is the new 40”? This may be true with the way our body looks or feels. How about how our teeth look and feel?
We can divide a person’s dental age into three categories; Youth, Adult, and Elder.
A Dental Youth is categorized by little to minimal dental treatment, other than regular, preventative dental care. These patients have had regular cleanings, maybe previous orthodontic care, a few restorations (fillings), some sealants and wisdom teeth removal. These patients often benefit greatly from teeth whitening. These patients are often teenagers or young adults, who grew up with fluoridated water and regular dental care. These are typically patients in their teens to maybe thirty and beyond. Many have reaped the benefits of fluoride in the drinking water, and grew up with regular preventative maintenance. Some just were born with the right genes. Maybe their only dental treatment, other than regular “cleanings” has been some cosmetic work. Sometimes elective, and some times out of necessity. Personally, I was born with fluoridated water, and have reached my middle fifties without a cavity! I did however, get in the path of a racquetball racquet while in college, and have had extensive cosmetic dentistry done to my front teeth. Ouch!
A Dental Adult is categorized by more problems and treatment. Numerous teeth have been restored, some multiple times. Some teeth may have been lost, and are replaced with bridges or implants. They may have been treated for gum disease, or have had root canals and crowns. Cosmetic care for these patients usually involve porcelain crowns and veneers. This is a typical adult patient in my dental practice. They usually come in as a new patient looking for an exam and cleaning, sometimes with a specific problem, and sometimes by word of mouth referral or introduction, looking for solutions to a specific problem. Some are looking for sedation dentistry, to get many things done in a short period of time, while they snooze, and to relieve their dental anxiety.
A Dental Elder is often the victim or result of incomplete, inadequate or nonexistent dental care or “patchwork”. They often are missing teeth, which are replaced by partial dentures or complete dentures, or nothing at all. The teeth may be misaligned and the patient often has “bite” issues and trouble chewing their food properly. Sometimes they have to “gum it”. Often they take medications which cause a “dry mouth”, so they suffer from dental decay and have trouble wearing their dentures or partials. THIS IS NOT WHERE YOU WANT TO BE!
I have many patients in their 40’s, 50’s and 60’s who are “Dental Youths” . They are blessed with good genetics, but also are proactive with their dental care, in the office and at home.
I also have patients in their 20’s and 30’s who are “Dental Elders”. They are missing many or all of their teeth, and based on their age, are really dentally crippled. The causes could be genetic, neglect, or unfortunate circumstances (trauma, poor past dental care). They often can be successfully and comprehensively treated with dental restorations, but the treatment is complex, and can be very expensive. We will talk about comprehensive care in the next blog post!