How Long Should Your Teeth Last?

Portrait of family keeping their hands one another at home

Last week our local paper, The Intelligencer (Sunday, October 25,2015), ran a terrific article by Sarah H. Kagan, PhD, RN entitled “Getting Older Doesn’t Mean You Have to Lose Your Teeth”. Dr. Kagan is a professor at the University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing where she specializes in geriatric issues. Being married to a geriatric nursing specialist has also given me the opportunity to learn quite a bit about older folks. God willing, I may someday even become one myself!

Basically, Dr. Kagan espouses what I have been telling my patients for years – which is despite the fact that we humans only get 2 sets of teeth, “baby” or primary teeth and “adult” or permanent teeth, those permanent teeth should be just that…permanent! In other words, with the knowledge and technology available to us today, people should be able to keep their teeth for a lifetime.

Now the interesting question becomes: What constitutes a “lifetime”? The February/March issue of TIME Magazine featured an infant on the cover with the headline: “This Baby Could Live to be 142 Years Old”!

Do I think that even under the best of circumstances we could keep our adult teeth for 142 years, or even 400 years as Aubrey DeGrey has suggested – once we find a cure for cancer? NO, I don’t, even though tooth enamel is the 7th hardest naturally occurring substance known to man!

Given the fact that my father and grandfather both lost all their teeth and wound up wearing dentures, this is a concern to me. In fact, it used to give me nightmares! But no more, now that we have dental implants widely available. If for some reason, despite my meticulous home care, I should lose my teeth, I would get dental implants.

Just as people who need new hips or knees can get hip and knee replacements, most patients who lose teeth can have them comfortably replaced with dental implants.But for now, let’s take care of those pearly whites that God has blessed us with.

For more on how to take care of your teeth, visit my earlier post on four dental lessons you can learn from your car, or If you have any questions in the meantime, you can contact me or the staff at my office, Dr. Laurence Stone in Doylestown, PA to discuss any concerns you may have about this or any other issue in the field of dentistry.

Dispelling Dental Myths – What you don’t know can hurt you!

(Part One)

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Over my 40 years in dentistry I have encountered many myths about oral health that are just not true. In the next series of blog posts, I hope to put these myths to rest and give you the facts you need to make informed decisions about your oral health. Welcome to dispelling dental myths. Read on and be sure to call the office if you have any questions.

1.   Root Canals Hurt.

Maybe they did at one time, but with today’s advanced anesthesia techniques no one should have any discomfort during root canal (endodontic) treatment. I’ve always felt that the association with pain came from the fact that many people needing root canal therapy were in pain to begin with. Toothache pain is one of the worst imaginable, and in some primitive societies, was the only known cause of suicide! It only stands to reason that people would blur the connection between that level of pain and the treatment needed to save a tooth.

2.   Baby (Primary) teeth are only temporary and therefore not important.

Many people still believe this. Maybe it comes from a time when teeth were routinely extracted if they had extensive decay rather than saved. The fact is, the primary teeth are not only important for a child’s nutrition and well-being, but help to ensure the proper eruption of the permanent teeth by maintaining space. Keeping the primary teeth healthy until they are lost naturally can save thousands of dollars in orthodontic treatment later. This is a classic example of the old adage: “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure”!

3.    Dentures are the answer to chronic dental problems

I’ve often heard people say, “Maybe I should just have all my teeth removed and get dentures”. It’s easy to understand how people can get frustrated with dental problems. Having grown up with a father who suffered for years with chronic dental disease I can empathize with folks who share the same fate regardless of the reasons. The truth is that having one’s teeth removed and getting dentures is not so much solving a problem as it is exchanging one set of problems for another. Why? Because dentures need maintenance too and have their own myriad set of challenges. If you went to the best dentist in the world and he or she made the best set of dentures
they ever made, they would only be about 15% as effective in chewing as your own natural teeth. The advent of dental implants has helped greatly, but it still is not the same as having your natural teeth.…just different.

Until next time…keep brushing and flossing!