Dental treatment: Nothing is forever

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You can add dental treatment to the long list of things that don't last forever.
For example, it's foolish to expect fillings to remain intact for a lifetime. Fillings break, new decay occurs under and around them. Teeth tend to develop cracks around the fillings as time marches on.

These cracks allow decay to develop inside the teeth under the filling. What usually happens is that the tooth crumbles upon eating. That means the tooth will need a crown to restore its function because there is not enough tooth left to support a filling. This scenario happens a lot, even to the best of us, so don't feel bad. The idea is to properly restore a tooth at the first sign of trouble so that a crack or decayed area doesn't turn into something much more involved.

By the time a person is 60, it is possible that the teeth filled when he was a teen, and then crowned in middle age, now have new decay on the root just under the crown. That's because as people age gums recede, shrinking away from the teeth. This can happen to just one tooth, or a whole bunch of them. When this happens, the root of the tooth, which was originally covered by the gum, is exposed.

Exposed roots have no enamel, so are more susceptible to decay. In addition, as people age they may take certain medications that cause dry mouth. When you combine a dry mouth with root exposure, the stage is set for new decay. If the decay starts under a crown, the result might be the need for a new crown because the seal has been broken.

And there is the example of periodontal treatment. Someone susceptible to periodontal disease should never think that treatment prevents it from happening again. Whether the treatment was deep cleaning of the gums – root planing and scaling - or gum surgery, where the periodontist cut and repositioned gum tissue, it is possible you will need to have that work done again if the disease returns.

The point to take home is that you must keep you teeth as clean as possible for as long as you want to have them. Expect fillings and crowns to wear out or break over time. If you have already lost your teeth and wear a denture, expect it to loosen or wear out as it ages. Dentures also need replacing at some point.

Your dentist can help keep an eye on your oral health and advise you of any problems that might have developed, even if you can't detect anything wrong yourself. Make it a point to see a dental professional several times throughout the year.

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