From Birth to Death: The Epic Journey of Tim the Tooth
Your teeth can last you a lifetime! Did you know that? Dentures are actually not an inevitable rite-of-passage into elder-hood. With proper care, you can keep your precious pearly chewing machines healthy, functional and (most importantly) in your mouth for the rest of your days.
Let me take you on a journey – Tim the tooth’s journey, in fact. Tim is lucky because his human has given him proper care during each critical stage of his life.
BIRTH to BABY TEETH
Tim’s journey begins early – 6 weeks after conception early. He starts out as one of 20 tiny tooth buds that are formed in utero. By the time his human is born, Tim is sitting right underneath the gum surface, poised and ready to make his debut in about 2-3 months. Tim is a front tooth, meaning he will be one of the first teeth to appear in the mouth. He’s pretty proud of that.
6 months after Tim erupts, his human goes to the dentist for his very first check-up. This check-up is extremely important because it sets the tone for the rest of Tim’s life. During this visit, the dentist makes sure Tim is receiving proper home care. Proper home care will allow Tim to avoid getting cavities and then getting fillings to fix those cavities. Tim’s human doesn’t like needles, so proper home care is really important. Getting Tim’s human used to the dentist is another great reason for this visit. Early good experiences help prevent dental anxiety and teach children that dental care is an essential part of life.
As a baby tooth, Tim has some very important functions. He acts as a space holder for a permanent tooth. If Tim has to be extracted because of decay, the adult teeth may not grow in correctly, resulting in orthodontic work. Baby teeth also help children get proper nutrition. It’s hard to chew fruits, meat and vegetables without teeth!
Tim will continue see the dentist every 6 months for hygiene and every year for a recall exam. He’ll be x-rayed once a year to make sure he doesn’t have any hidden issues that the naked eye can’t detect.
BABY to ADULT TEETH
At 6 years old the time has come to say goodbye to Tim. Tim’s root is acting as a beacon, guiding the adult tooth—we’ll call him Tim II—into place. Ever wonder why you never give a tooth with a root to the Tooth Fairy? The adult tooth actually absorbs the root as it grows, so when Tim finally falls out of the mouth, only a crown is left.
Tim II emerges triumphantly. The rest of his tooth buddies have appeared by the time his human is 12-13 years old. At this age, Tim II’s human has a nice set of permanent adult teeth perfect for smiling, chewing and looking great in photos. During this time, Tim II and his tooth buddies continue their regular visits to the dentist every 6 and 12 months. The hygienist scrapes away the hardened plaque that builds up so that the gums remain healthy and disease-free, and the dentist makes sure no unexpected issues will come up such as decay, cancer or bite problems. Tim II is looking forward to a long, healthy life!
I don’t know about Tim II’s human, but when I was 17, I knew everything. I think that’s why the wisdom teeth come in around that age (16-21 years old to be exact). Thanks to evolution, human jaws have become smaller over time, so this third set of molars often doesn’t have enough room to come in properly. Most people have the teeth surgically removed.
THE AGING TOOTH
Contrary to popular belief, as Tim II ages, his need for regular dental visits increases. He becomes more prone to a host of different issues.
Xerostomia, or less saliva in the mouth, can lead to more cavities and even some mouth infections ie. thrush. Dry mouth can be caused by certain medications, disease or simply due to age. Chewing sugarless gum throughout the day can help to stimulate the salivary glands. Switching medications or using an over-the-counter artificial saliva substitute can also help.
Shrinking nerves cause Tim II to be less sensitive to problems. Cavities can develop and spread with little to no symptoms now. Tim II really appreciates x-rays because they show hard to see areas like underneath fillings and in between the teeth. Early detection is key to prevention!
Grinding of the teeth at night or during the day can also wear heavily on Tim II. Over time, he can be ground down to a significantly lower height, which can throw off the entire bite. Wearing a grinding appliance at night (also known as a night-guard) can prevent this from happening and make sure Tim II stands tall and proud for the rest of his life.
Luckily, Tim II’s human doesn’t smoke. But if he did, it would be time to quit! Not only is it terrible for health in general, smoking can make you lose your teeth. A recent study discovered that smokers lose more teeth than non-smokers. One more reason to butt-out!
Gum disease and oral cancer become more of a concern as Tim II ages as well. Again, regular hygiene and check-ups will catch these problems early and may end up saving Tim II or his human’s life!
THE END, MY FRIEND
So that’s it! Because of the great care he has received, Tim has lived a long, happy and healthy life. Enjoying the greatest honor a tooth can receive, he is buried with his human at the end of both of their days.
Give your teeth the gift of a long life! Book your dental hygiene or recall examination with our wonderful staff here at Legato today 250-860-5253.