Nothing beats having your own teeth – the real thing. The best dental treatment is to prevent needing dental treatment in the first place. If you brush and floss well to avoid fillings, crowns, or other treatment, you have a better chance of keeping your teeth for a lifetime.
As a dentist, I consider it a beautiful thing to see a full set of teeth that have never had a cavity or a filling. What a wonderful thing to see a patient in their 70s or 80s who still have their own teeth. Studies have shown that denture wearers don’t chew their food as well as those who have their own teeth. Less-chewed food causes more work for the digestive system. Denture wearers also avoid certain foods and have vitamin deficiencies. As health declines in other areas, it becomes much more important to have a healthy mouth and be able to eat what you want. Plan to keep your own teeth for a lifetime. This will improve your quality of life, especially in the last few years of life.
The best way to keep teeth for a lifetime is to prevent dental disease, and to get early, conservative dental treatment when needed.
“Permanent” fillings don’t last forever. They may last 10 or 15 years, and then need to be replaced. Each time dental work is replaced, it gets more involved. If you get a small filling in your first molar at age seven, it’s likely that tooth will need the filling replaced two or three times during your life, each time getting bigger and compromising more of the tooth. Then the tooth may need a crown, and possibly a root canal. These cycles of filling replacements are called re-restoration. Eventually when everything has been done to prolong the use of that tooth, it may need to be extracted.
Let’s say you didn’t get a cavity in that first molar until age 25. By delaying a cavity for two or more filling cycles, the chance that tooth will last a lifetime goes up.
Routine dental cleanings every three to six months are very important. Cleanings prevent dental disease, but also give your dentist the chance to find problems when they are small. Small problems that are neglected become big problems. What might have only needed a small filling six months ago may need a root canal and crown today.
Another recommendation to keep teeth healthy is to have any missing tooth replaced as soon as possible after it is extracted with a fixed prosthesis like a dental implant or a bridge. If you’re missing a few teeth and expect 19 teeth to do the work normally done by 28 teeth, those 19 teeth are at great risk of loss.