Your teeth are amazingly resilient. Think about the amount of chewing, brushing, crunching, biting, tearing and chattering they do every single day. Sometimes it’s impressive that they can stay so solid. However, every day wear and tear combined with natural ageing does start to take its toll, and as we get older we will start to see changes in our teeth. These signs can vary, from darkening teeth and gums, tooth decay, loosening of teeth, widening of gaps in between teeth or even tooth loss. While some of these signs of aging can’t be avoided, improper teeth and gum care, inadequate oral hygiene and unhealthy diet can speed them up.
But the biggest concern for most people with otherwise healthy teeth is the development of gaps in between the teeth, and their continued growth. These gaps are called diastema, and can be caused by nature, or by your own behaviour. Diastema is particularly common in children. This is because as children grow very quickly, so do their bones and jaw. Gaps start appearing when their jaws grow, but their baby teeth stay the same size. As their baby teeth fall out (creating more gaps!) they are replaced with adult sized teeth, which fit their new adult jaw size.
In adults, the most common cause of tooth gaps is simply age. As we get older, our teeth will naturally shift around and our gums will recede slightly, leading to small gaps in between our teeth. Sometimes this will only be noticeable between a few teeth – usually the front two, but sometimes it applies to all of them. If you have had a tooth removed and not yet had it replaced, the entire bridge of your mouth might move – the teeth surrounding the missing tooth all shifting together to form gaps elsewhere. Tooth gaps can be a source of great embarrassment or even shame, but luckily it is easy to fix. There are a umber of simple cosmetic dentistry options available to correct the problem, including bonding, braces and implants.
Mechanical Wear & Tear
The primary function of our teeth is mechanical. They break up, mash and grind food to make it easier for us to digest. Because of this function, evolution has made our teeth resistant to most cracks and chips. ‘Contrary to what many people assume, teeth do not become more brittle with age,’ says Steven E. Schonfeld, a private practice dentist and spokesperson for the American Dental Association. ‘Still, we see patients all the time who have cracked or chipped a tooth biting down hard on something like an olive that still has a pit or a kernel of unpopped popcorn.’ Unfortunately, teeth that have been weakened with fillings or root canals are especially vulnerable, as they don’t have the internal structure to support hard chewing. One of the main things that causes wear and tear problems in adulthood is the grinding or clenching of teeth, also known as bruxism. Because bruxism is often caused by stress or anxiety, it tends to develop most commonly in adults. Over time, the grinding and clenching of teeth wears down the biting surfaces of your teeth, making them thinner and more susceptible to decay. To prevent mechanical wear and tear on your teeth, avoid chewing very hard foods like ice, and double check to make sure that pitted foods have no pits or seeds left inside before you bite down on them.
Our bodies are entirely organic, and it’s not surprising that they change with age. Just as we did in puberty, we will see a vast array of changes in our bodies as we get older. But when it comes to our teeth, we tend to try and avoid thinking about them. But unlike hair, your adult teeth won’t grow back, so it’s important to take care of them. Make sure you see your dentist regularly, as they will be able to spot cracks or damage, gum disease and the early signs of bruxism, and can recommend techniques or treatments to prevent any further damage. If you think your teeth are changing and you want some advice, get in touch to book your consultation.