Teeth can last a lifetime if they are properly cared for. However, different factors can influence the appearance and quality of your teeth over time.
Chips, fractures, and broken teeth
Chipping and fracturing teeth occurs when one bites on something very hard, like a popcorn kernel or stale bread. This is particularly common if the teeth has a filling or a root canal treatment has been done, as these teeth are not as strong as the regular ones. Even intact teeth can have chips and fractures if the individual happens to bite down the wrong way. Steven E. Schonfeld, DDS, PhD, a dentist in a private practice and spokesman for the American Dental Association, says the chipping and fracturing of teeth is not very common in intact teeth, but can be seen very often in those with fillings.
Teeth are more often broken during sports injuries or accidents. A recent study on the participants of Pan American World Games shows that almost half of the athletes had broken or fractured teeth. Most of them reported to have broken or injured their teeth during training or competing. Sports most commonly associated with teeth injuries are wrestling, boxing, basketball and karate. Roller-blading and skiing can also lead to teeth injuries.
If the back molars have fillings, it is better to avoid chewing hard substances like ice, hard candies and bones using these teeth. Wearing a mouth guard during sports activities provides adequate protection against teeth injuries. A study conducted in 2002 on basketball players show that wearing mouth guards reduces the risk of teeth injuries considerably. Mouth guards can be bought in a sports store or can be custom made. Chipped teeth also can be repaired by a dentist. Fractured teeth are harder to repair, especially if the fracture extends below the gum line. If the teeth have fractured too much, it may have to be removed.
Although the normal function of the teeth is to chew and grind the foods, unconscious grinding, and clenching may damage the chewing surfaces of the teeth. Grinding, or bruxism, can cause micro cracks in the enamel. These small cracks increase the risk of tooth decay. “It may also wear down the pointed surfaces of the molars, affecting its function”, says Anthony M. Iacopino, DMD, PhD, dean of the University of Manitoba Faculty of Dentistry. Grinding of tooth may cause headaches, muscle pain, and jaw injury. Unfortunately, people do not realize that they grind their teeth. It is diagnosed only when the dentist sees the signs of teeth grinding on the tooth surface.
Stress and anger may be some of the reasons for teeth grinding. A study conducted in 2010 reported an interesting observation that people who grind their teeth unconsciously have more chances of having trouble at work and physical problems, when compared to those who do not grind their teeth.
One of the best ways to avoid bruxism is to reduce the stress levels. Relaxation techniques like walking, meditation, and avoiding stressful and frustrating situations helps to reduce the stress, says Declan Devereux, DDS, a dentist in private practice in Hawaii. In some patients, stress reduction reduces tooth grinding to a large extent. In others, the dentist may recommend a mouth guard or splint to protect the teeth from damage due to grinding.
When the acid levels in the mouth increases, it gradually erodes the enamel increasing the risk of tooth decay. This is mostly caused by acidic foods and drinks, and acid producing bacteria in the mouth. Other conditions, like bulimia, chronic gastritis, and recurrent vomiting may also lead to enamel erosion. Chronic gastro esophageal reflux disease (GERD) also increase the risk of enamel erosion.
GERD causes the acidic contents of the stomach to get back into the esophagus and sometimes the mouth. If it reaches the mouth, the acidic content erodes the enamel causing tooth decay. People who suffer from GERD have an increased risk of this condition.
The best way to control enamel erosion is to control GERD. If the condition is caused by GERD, the dentist may direct you to a gastroenterologist. GERD can be controlled to a certain extent using over-the-counter medications like antacids. In addition, raising the head of the bed also helps to alleviate the symptoms of the condition. This will prevent the reflux of the acid back into the esophagus and mouth. Chewing sugarless gum helps to stimulate the production of saliva, which washes away the decay-promoting bacteria and food particles from the mouth.