Last month I discussed the concept of “dental age” vs. chronological age. The key to keeping dentally young is to change the process of dental diagnosis. It must move from tallying up disease present and treatment to reading signs of beginning disease and taking preventive measures. This can be simplified by considering that there are just four basic processes by which dental health breaks down. The four processes are: decay, aging dentistry, loss of tooth structure, and loss of foundation. Each one of these areas needs to be taken into consideration during examinations. If breakdown is beginning, intervention can prevent further damage. For instance if tooth surface is being lost, the cause needs to be determined in order for prevention to be effective. Loss due to heavy-handed tooth brushing would be treated differently than loss due to acid erosion. Worn teeth due to uneven bite forces might require straightening to evenly distribute forces, while wear from grinding might be managed with a night guard.
By using a dental examination to evaluate for various risk factors a dentist can largely predict your dental health in twenty years, for example. By using modern preventative dentistry we can then change the likely outcome to healthier (more youthful) teeth in twenty years. In the long run, this will minimize dental treatment and costs. Decay and gum disease are almost completely preventable. Wear and aging can be evaluated and taken care of before becoming significant. As we age, we don’t have to see more and more dentistry, ever-increasing expenses, and dentition aging. With appropriate intervention, the aging of teeth and reparative dentistry would be minimized.