This is a question I’m frequently asked, especially when a patient is considering a significant investment of time and money into some form of cosmetic dentistry, such as:
- Porcelain veneers
- Bonding (tooth-colored fillings)
- Porcelain crowns and bridges
- Teeth whitening
- Even Six-Month Braces
It’s a very understandable question, and the simple answer to the question, “How long will my dental work last, Dr. Payet?” is “It depends.”
Just like a car, your teeth and gums require regular care to ensure that they are working properly. Sure, you can go 10-20,000 miles between oil changes given how improved cars are nowadays, but do you really want to take the risk? Same thing with teeth……….some people go for 5-10 years with no dental check-ups and are fortunate when they come in to find no problems, such as cavities or gum disease. But it’s not many people that are so lucky!
I always remember a quote from some lecturer at a dental conference years ago telling us his response whenever a patient asks the question, and it’s really the most honest, best answer that can be given, “Clearly the teeth that God gave you haven’t lasted your entire life, and since I can assure you that my work is not nearly as good as God’s, unless you die first, the work I do (no matter how excellent) will not last forever either.”
So what can cause your dental work to fail?
- Grinding your teeth — when the human jaw clenches, it can create an amazing amount of force, and over time, enough clenching will cause teeth to crack and break.
- Acidity — anything that increases the acidity in your mouth is good for the bacteria that cause cavities in particular, including Acid Reflux, Sodas, Power drinks (Monster, Red Bull, etc), Sports drinks (Gatorade, Powerade, etc).
- A very sugary diet — the bacteria that cause cavities love sugar. High sugar content means the bacteria feed like crazy, produce acid, and the acid is what eats away the teeth to cause cavities.
- A compromised immune system — your saliva contains important antibodies that help keep the cavity-causing bacteria under control. If your immune system is knocked back due to a disease or some medication, those antibodies will be decreased, allowing the bacteria to grow uncontrolled.
- Decreased saliva (dry-mouth syndrome) — again, due to medications or illness, the amount of saliva may be decreased. With less saliva, there is less “washing” action of the teeth.
- Trauma — obviously. LOL One of my patients a few years ago fainted and fell face-first into a brick wall, shattering a front tooth. Another ran into a pole, shattering another front tooth. Clearly, if you are injured in such a way that your natural teeth would break, any dental work will break, too.
- Bad habits like chewing hard candy or ice regularly — hard candy and ice are just that — HARD! Ice, in particular, is easily as hard as your enamel and as porcelain or bonding. So if you bite down on ice frequently enough and/or hard enough, you can break your teeth and dental work.
That covers most of the major causes of dental work failing. With regular care, use of appropriate mouthrinses and toothpastes, proper brushing and flossing, regularly scheduled check-ups and dental x-rays, using a nightguard, and being aware of diet, etc, your dental work can and should last a very long time.
But always remember — my dental work isn’t as good as the natural teeth God gave you, so my work probably won’t last forever either. 😉
There are several factors that can make a Smile Makeover much more difficult to look good or great, and this was an instance in which pretty much ALL of them were in place, so this was quite a challenge for me; fortunately, I had the distinct pleasure of working with a terrific patient and an amazingly good dental lab to create a pretty beautiful smile in the end.
When Kat first came to us in August 2006, she’d always taken good care of her teeth, but she was ready for some real changes and improvements to her smile and wanted someone with experience in fixing real problem smiles. During my initial exam, I quickly realized there were several complicating factors that had been overlooked for years that had directly contributed to the problems she recognized. She knew about the significant gum recession, was unhappy about the dark metal lines around her dental bridge, and wanted to brighten/straighten her whole smile.
What I recognized as problems that she didn’t:
- Crowded lower front teeth that were banging against the back of the upper dental bridge
- She clenched her teeth intensely, pushing the lower front teeth powerfully against the back of the upper dental bridge
- A history of chronic migraines that did not respond to conventional treatment, and as she’ll tell you in a heartbeat, she tried EVERYTHING.
- The 2 teeth holding up the bridge had cracks in the roots deeply below the gum level.
- A very high smile line, meaning that – when she smiles big – her lip rises way up high so that even the gums show (most people don’t do this)
We spent quite a while talking about how all these things fit together, as well as discussing the possibilities to give her a beautiful smile she felt good about. Ultimately, we decided on extracting the 2 cracked teeth, placing 2 dental implants, Six-Month Braces to straighten the lower front teeth so they wouldn’t bang against the top ones, using the NTI-tss for resolving the chronic migraines (resulting from the incredibly intense muscle clenching), and finally a dental porcelain-to-metal bridge to replace the upper missing front teeth, supported by the 2 dental implants. The entire process took just under 2 years, but even Kat will tell you – it was worth it! She recently got married and says she felt so good smiling for her wedding photos with total confidence.
You know — this is the kind of thing that makes dentistry really enjoyable. We get to help people LOOK GOOD, FEEL GOOD, AND EAT THE FOODS THEY WANT. 🙂