An ornery cuspid

While noting this trend toward tooth retention by us older folks, Michael Blowhard recounts a couple of stories:

An old lady once told me that back in the 1920s, when she was a child, you just assumed that anyone over 40 was wearing dentures. A dentist recently explained to me that one reason teeth-whitening has become such a big business in recent years is that people’s teeth are generally so good these days that dentists otherwise don’t have many services beyond cleaning to sell to most patients.

Of my original thirty-two, I still have twenty-six, including one of the often-troublesome wisdoms. I do, however, get a couple of cleanings every year, and in the last five years I’ve had to replace three outdated fillings. (One of them is now officially unfillable: I am informed that if it goes again, it’s root-canal time.) Spacing has always been dubious, however; I have a Lettermanesque gap up front, and it’s not getting any narrower.


  1. xarcadia »

    7 January 2009 · 9:05 am

    I too have a gap. And I notice it getting bigger – which is a problem since it wasn’t that small to begin with. I think just ripping all my teeth out and getting dentures may actually be the way to go.

  2. fillyjonk »

    7 January 2009 · 10:03 am

    I remember my maternal grandma telling me, when I was still quite small, how horrible dentures were and how I should take care of my teeth so I didn’t have to deal with them.

    I think perhaps part of the reason older people look “younger” now than they did in my grandparents’ generation (my parents are the age now my grandparents were when I first remember grandparents, and my parents look at least 10 years younger than I remember my grandparents as looking) is that people are keeping their teeth.

    Perhaps orthodontia contributes in part to this; one reason my pedodontist told my parents I needed braces was that the crowded teeth were more likely to suffer decay in odd places. Having braces was kind of miserable, and I still lack a movie-star smile, but I guess it beats having to have teeth removed while still in my 30s.

    I will say that I hope I can avoid as much heavy-duty dental work as possible in the future. Two crown preps is enough.

  3. Tatyana »

    7 January 2009 · 12:46 pm

    As I have learned lately, it’s not the teeth that troublesome for people after 40, it’s the state of their gums. Receding gums is what dentists used to call “long in the tooth” condition (which considered non-PC now, as my doctor informed me). It was the reason my mom had to remove some of her perfectly healthy teeth and get a bridge with artificial ones – since even simple process of breathing (cold air in, warmed – out) triggered terrible pain in her exposed roots.
    Apparently, contemporary dentistry offers no solution to this problem. Or so the dentists we dealt with make us believe.

  4. CGHill »

    7 January 2009 · 1:05 pm

    I’m inclined to believe it, since I’ve had some serious gum erosion over the years, and there seems to be no way to build the stuff back.

  5. fillyjonk »

    7 January 2009 · 2:17 pm

    I think there’s a type of extreme surgery used in some cases of receding gums – gum grafts. My brother, having been graced with the bad crooked tooth genes that we all seem to have in my family, had big problems as a small child with the piled-up bottom front teeth and the gum starting to recede from them. So the orthodontist and dentist he went to recommended a gum graft.

    Remembering the recovery he went through, I don’t recommend gum grafts except in extreme cases. He was perhaps 6 or 7 at the time and I remember for several days after the surgery, my mother had to mix up Carnation Instant Breakfast and basically pour it down his throat while he tipped his head back because of the danger of disturbing the dressings.

    My teeth may be going for crap, but at least I’m blessed with good gums (knock wood). They do this freaky little test every couple years sticking a sensor between tooth and gum and in many places, they can’t get the sensor in far enough for a reading, which they tell me is a GOOD thing.

  6. McGehee »

    7 January 2009 · 6:20 pm

    I hope your teeth stay healthy, Charles. I’d hate to see a post here titled “Cuspid’s Last Stand.”

  7. CGHill »

    7 January 2009 · 6:44 pm

    Would I do a thing like that? (“Yes.” -Ed.)

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