What DoYou Mean My Mouth is Kind of Like My Car?

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I have been practicing dentistry (not perfect yet, still practicing) for over 31 years now. I am still amazed at the difference in the knowledge base that different patients bring to the practice. There is so much advertising done for tooth pastes and mouth washes that just about every patient has had some time of exposure to the everyday problems that bacteria can bring to the mouth. Cavities and gum disease are the primary issues that bacteria cause in the mouth and just about everyone in the good old USA knows about those problems.

But there is another area in dentistry that is just as important to understand how it affects the mouth and as patients age might even be a bigger issue in their lives. I call it functional stress. It is the way the teeth meet when you chew your food, it is about proper alignment of the teeth for protection of the teeth during function and it is about large fillings in teeth just to name a few areas of concern.

According to one of the leading clinicians in the world, teeth should wear at a rate of 1mm every 100 (HUNDRED) years. That’s all. If you have worn enough enamel off of your front teeth that you can see the dentin then you are way beyond your 100 years of wear. And in today’s world, with all the increase stress that we all seem to be faced with dentists are noticing wear at even more alarming rates on some of our young patients. And once the tooth structure is gone, it is gone. One of the biggest aspects of wear is the teeth having increased sensitivities to hot, cold and sweets.

So why is your mouth like a car? Think of it this way, you have four tires, two for the front of the car and two for the back. Let’s assume the front of the car is like the bottom jaw and the back of the car like the upper jaw and the tires are the teeth. If a car has 4 different tires with different air pressures in them you might get worse gas mileage and some wear on other aspects of the car. The rubber would definitely wear at different rates accentuating the problems even more. And what if the front tires wanted to go one way and the back tires another way…it could cause a lot of stress on the frame of the car, possibly weakening it to the point of failure.

The teeth in the mouth are no different. They should function in the same way a well matched set of tires, inflated to the right pressure and aligned properly protect a car. When your teeth are aligned right you will get more even function on the teeth and minimize wear. You can have less issues with poor muscle function and can protect your jaw joint. But when the alignment of the teeth is not proper you can get all sorts of problems (and add bacteria to the equation and you can even have further breakdown of the teeth). But poor function can affect the bones that hold the teeth in mouth which can create even more issues for the patient.

OK it is a crude analogy but I hope that I got my point across. Uneven wear of your teeth is a sign of functional issues, that left untreated, can cause even more wear and in the worst case scenario….failure of multiple teeth.

Any questions…see your dentist.

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