It was a dental day to remember.
The staff, prodding and chipping at the cement that bound a old gold crown to what remains of a molar at the back of my mouth, suggested that I could sell the precious metal once it came loose.
Then ... panic!
The gold came loose.
It catapulted into my throat.
I was shoved into a sitting position.
The gold resurfaced.
Relief all around.
I haven’t taken it to sell as yet, but I have been curious about the variety of materials in crowns and along the way learned how our age affects our dental health.
Older adults, not surprisingly, are at increased risk for root caries, a weakening of the surface increasing the likelihood of decay. About 50% of people 75 and older have the root caries or decay, the American Dental Association website states.
“Age in and of itself is not a dominant or sole factor in determining oral health,” a WebMD article states. But it puts the elder population at risk for a variety of problems such as darkened teeth, chipping, greater sensitivity, decay, gum disease, loss of teeth and more.
Darkening is the result of changes in dentin, the bone-like tissue under the tooth enamel, by the thinning of the outer enamel or consuming stain-causing foods and beverages.
My penchant for a cup of hot tea doesn’t add calories, but it does tend to stain teeth, the dental hygienist tells me each visit as she scrubs before polishing.
Stories you might like
The likelihood of decay increases because our gums tend to recede with age, again exposing dental roots that have no protective enamel as a barricade against decay.
Gum disease also tends to be more common among the elderly. It may be related to anything from food left between teeth to the use of tobacco, badly-fitting bridges and dentures, or poor diet or diseases such as anemia, cancer and diabetes. All, of course, damage that tends to compound over the years.
Other influences include drifting of teeth, perhaps following the failure to replace a missing tooth, and medical conditions as arthritis that affect hands and fingers, making it harder to brush or floss.
Drugs may affect oral health or necessitate a change in dental treatment, a fact that explains why we are asked about any changes in medication at each dental appointment.
The suggestions for our daily dental care have not changed much since we were children.
Brush at least twice a day. Floss. Follow a simple diet, avoid sugary food and drink. Additionally, now, use a fluoride rinse daily.
Fortunately dental crowns do not require any additional care. They are created in a variety of materials, including metal, porcelain, resin, ceramic and combinations of those.
The metals, gold, palladium, nickel or chromium, last the longest and resist chipping and breaking.
Porcelain fused to metal have a more natural tooth color but have less resistance to chipping.
While I had a temporary crown for a few weeks until the laboratory created the replacement, some dental offices now have computer software to scan and create a new crown in a single office visit.
My wait is over. The new crown is firmly in place.
It even matches the color of my other teeth
I had to approve the color, though it is hidden where hopefully no one else outside of the dental staff ever will see it.