Up to about only thirty years ago very many people even in a sophisticated first-world country such as the UK expected their teeth to last about forty or so years and that they would have to live with, at least partial, if not full dentures, for the last twenty or thirty years of their lives.
Occasionally one still hears horror stories of people, particularly in the poorer parts of London, having all their teeth electively taken out in youth and replaced with dentures ….. to save them the costs of dental treatment later! This sounds pretty barbaric and even, medieval yet it was not an uncommon practice even up to only seventy years ago ….. one’s grand or great-grandparents?
Today people not only live a couple of decades longer (and hopefully healthier), but the expectation is now to keep teeth for life.
Many of the young, albeit with certain caveats, grow up with healthy teeth, no or slow no cavities and good dietary and oral hygiene habits. They will achieve the goal with both little effort and little expense.
Their middle-aged parents, are likely to have had a fair amount of dentistry throughout their lives, starting in childhood. They may well have most of their own teeth, albeit with a few root canal treatments, lots of fillings, some crown and bridgework and even the odd implant. They have their ‘issues’ around dentistry, mainly because for better or worse, they have had so much during their lives). Yet they go to the time, effort and not insignificant expense of continuing dental treatment in order to keep their teeth (and in doing so avoid any form of dentures), for the rest of their lives.
The older generation, those in excess of say eighty years old, are increasingly doing the same (as heir middle aged children) and succeeding …… if they ‘bought into’ the concept early enough.
They were either lucky with their teeth or had really a very ‘modern’ attitude and good quality dental care even fifty or more years ago. One has to remember that our famed NHS did not exactly promote ‘teeth for life’ and was quite happy to provide inexpensive dentures for teeth that were removed, often that could have been saved.
I have an example of one of my patients. She is a lovely bright educated lady who used to be a teacher in London and now lives in Yorkshire. She has been my patient for almost twenty years and visits me at Cap City Dental regularly every six months. I carried out some major dental re-crowning treatment about sixteen years ago and since then, I have needed to do very little other than regular check-ups, scalings and the odd re-filling. She was born in 1920 and that makes her ninety-five years old! She is one tooth short of a full complement (excluding wisdom teeth) and her teeth will outlive her. Needless to say, she has no problems chewing or smiling!
I finish off with that unfortunate ‘caveat’ I mentioned earlier … Recently the press has brought to our attention that the most common cause of hospital admission in the UK today of kids between three and eleven years old is for tooth extractions! Unless something ‘dramatic’ changes in these kid’s diets, hygiene habits and attitudes (or rather, their parent’s) … they will NOT keep their teeth for life. Unfortunately, these kids are mainly from the poorer, less educated sections of our society. So, unfortunately, the concept of teeth for life may be a great social divide …. Even though it need not be.