My 87-year-old mother just had some fillings done last week. Today, one of her teeth just fell out. I don’t know what to do. Shouldn’t the dentist have noticed this? Are her other teeth at risk too? What would be the best solution for her if they are?
Dear Mary Ellen,
Yes, your dentist should definitely have noticed there was a problem. To get to the point where her teeth are just falling out means your mother has extensive gum disease. It sounds like your dentist has just been cleaning and repairing and not being proactive about her gum health, This tells me he’s not checking other things either, such as looking for oral cancer.
At this point, yes, you should be concerned about the remainder of your mother’s teeth. They are all going to start all falling out. For your mother, I would just treat her gum disease as best you can and have the rest of her teeth extracted, getting her full dentures. You don’t want to wait until they all come out because she will be self-conscious about her appearance. Even the elderly want to look as attractive as they can. By the way, this advice is ONLY because of your mother’s advanced age. I would not suggest just getting dentures to someone younger for reasons I will explain in a moment.
The Danger of Dentures
When your teeth are first removed, your body recognizes that you no longer have any teeth roots, so it begins to resorb the minerals in your jawbone to use elsewhere in your body where it perceives they will be more useful. Unfortunately, after ten or so years, you will no longer have enough jawbone in your body to even retain your dentures. This is especially true with your lower dentures which just rest on the ridge of your lower jawbone. This is known as facial collapse, it can be devastating not just to a person’s appearance, but their health as well.
The only way to prevent this from happening is to have dental implants placed and anchor dentures to them. This is known as implant overdentures. It will signal to your body that you still have teeth and it will leave your jawbone intact. Because of your mother’s advanced age, I would not invest in these.
This blog is brought to you by East Cobb Dentist Dr. Cristi Cheek.