Recently the Daily Mail published an interesting article called ‘What’s your mouth age?’
It maintained that around 90% of the UK population believed that bad teeth add years to one’s age, yet only 40 % considered whether their own teeth might be doing that to themselves.
The ‘study’ focused an all the obvious (and indeed relevant) factors: yellow teeth, poor oral hygiene and diseased and/or receding gums, decay, missing teeth etc.
I am going to address two additional rarely identified dental conditions that are very common ageing accelerators:
a) The appearance of obvious existing dental work and
b) The consequences of tooth grinding.
The appearance of obvious dental work.
A youthful appearance implies not just health and fitness, but a ‘slowing of time’. It takes time for people to develop wrinkles, bags under their eyes, grey hair, a saggy chin etc. You don’t see these signs in younger people, because not enough time has passed for them to happen yet!
Today’s youth, on the whole, have lovely light coloured, undamaged, straight teeth. Many don’t even have a filling and if they do, it’s usually tooth coloured and so ‘invisible’. Unless they suffered an accident, the front teeth are usually untouched. In a weird way, the wearing of braces may even be a youthful sign. After all, straightening teeth tends to be associated with kids!
Any visible evidence of a lot of dentistry in a mouth implies that treatment has gone on for many years. The flash of silver mercury (amalgam ) fillings that additionally make the teeth and mouth dark, obvious crowns, veneers or bridges, partial dentures or even white fillings that are leaky or discoloured , are indicative of the passage of years and certainly not associated with youth, health, vitality and even virility.
That is why modern, high quality dentistry focuses on restoring teeth to ‘look’ natural and healthy; implying that the recipient, the patient, was really ‘lucky’ to have such a naturally beautiful healthy mouth, that has never needed dentistry….just like the youngsters!
The consequences of night time tooth grinding (bruxism).
Nocturnal tooth grinders, constitute a significant proportion of the population, particularly one that works in the high stress jobs in areas such as the City of London, gradually wear away their teeth. This does not happen overnight. It may start in youth, but it can take years before the consequences become readily observable to oneself or others.
What happens over time, is that the upper and lower front teeth start to chip a bit at their edges and then start to wear down as they rub against each other.
Not only do they become shorter, but they flatten out. They end up with straight flat edges all of the same (shorter) length. Many people think that having straight flat teeth all of the same length is attractive. No, actually it isn’t.
Unworn teeth of the young, or even of older patients that never grind their teeth are of different lengths. The canines have pointy tips and are about the same length as the upper 1st incisors. The second incisors are always narrower than the first ones, but also naturally shorter. The front teeth should be about 20-25% longer than they are wide.
Worn teeth are straight and flat in one line and in becoming shorter, the ratio of height to width changes. This takes years and so obviously contradicts the appearance of youth. Is that not ageing? It certainly is!
If these consequences of this grinding habit are not arrested in youth , the only way to ‘reverse’ this very ageing dental appearance and restore the teeth to their youthful , unworn size , shape and appearance is to artificially lengthen the shortened teeth with tooth coloured quartz composite or porcelain veneers.
So, take a look in the mirror or take a good quality ‘selfie’ of your own teeth. Evaluate whether, despite all the lotions, potions, hairdressing and even Botox and fillers (perhaps)…your teeth aren’t making you look a lot older than you are or even need to look? Remember the teeth (and eyes) are the first things people look at when they meet you.