I was recently sitting at a dinner table in Vietnam with fellow tourists on one of our first nights together. The woman sitting next to me said something I didn’t hear because I was distracted by the poor condition of her teeth. 

Her teeth were a shade of gray flecked with yellow, and it was obvious they had never been embraced by braces either as a child or adult. Her eye teeth were jutting forward. I felt guilty for judging, and I meant no disrespect.

Yet, I began to notice that my seat-mate was not the only tourist at the table who had neglected the basic primary oral care. People over 60 can look more attractive and younger-looking with good dental hygiene.

A Wake-up Call

It was a wake-up call when my significant other told me that I should do something about my crooked bottom lower teeth. Although I had been obsessed with good dental care for years, I never saw my bottom teeth as a cosmetic concern. 

I immediately went to my son’s orthodontist and got braces on my lower teeth. The snaggle tooth problem was solved. With retainers (upper to keep my bite in line and lower to keep the teeth straight), I was personally pleased and more confident. 

Another Dental Issue

Through the years, I realized that the porcelain cap on my chipped front tooth, acquired after falling over a railing in the summer of going into the fifth grade, needed work. 

The gums underneath the tooth were impaired and bacteria was prevalent due to bad dental hygiene (translated: the dental hygienist never cleaned the area). Despite the fact that I faithfully cleaned my teeth twice a year since I was eight years old.

Lessons learned: your best friends are your dental hygienist and a dentist who understands what creates a beautiful smile, preferably one that displays white teeth instead of aging gray. 

Find an Amazing Dental Hygienist 

The moment my dentist told me that the reason for bacteria build up behind my capped front tooth was a result of a lack of deep cleaning by previous dental hygienists, I decided to find a great dental hygienist and make her your best friend. 

Gums get soft with age and can often develop abscesses as they pull away from the bone and separate from the teeth, my new dental hygienist suggested I get my teeth cleaned every four months instead of twice a year. 

Most boomers don’t have dental insurance with a medi-gap plan. If you do have insurance, it is quite possible that you get the recommended teeth cleanings twice a year. Any other dental work, such as crowns (maybe you get a discount for a crown), comes out of pocket. 

If you want to keep your teeth sparkling white, maintain healthy gums, go the extra mile to create a devastating smile. Be aware that scheduling four dental visits a year instead of two, insurance won’t provide coverage.

Find a Dentist who Specializes in Smiles

More and more, you see signs on dentists’ offices that announce that they Specialize in Smiles. I was fortunate to have been going to a dentist who was way ahead of the curve and was doing cosmetic dentistry for years before it became popular. 

Today, Smiles are a trend. More and more people are concerned about the appearance of their teeth. Bad teeth are an indication of aging, even in young people, but especially with boomers.

Way back in 1956, Dr. Kagan decided to put a plastic cap over my chipped tooth as I went into the seventh grade. Over a span of two years, the cap discolored, and I would have to get a new one every other year. Finally, at 40, I had the chipped tooth recapped again.

No dentist I saw suggested to file down the old tooth, which was definitely dead. When I started to see a dentist in Las Vegas,, I found myself in good hands with a knowledgeable and professional dental hygienist. 

As soon as the hygienist began poking around my cap, she realized the cap had to come off. Bacteria was discovered in the dead tooth, causing the gums to pull away.  

The dentist decided to not just put on a crown, but to match that crown with a veneer – all color matched in the lab. It was transformational. 

And they even offered trays to wear at night to keep my teeth straight. The only downside to my amazing procedure was that I was not able to do teeth whitening. Once you have a crown or a veneer with permanent color, you cannot whiten your teeth because the coloring will not match any longer.

Make Your Teeth Sparkling White

If you have bridges or crowns in your mouth, it is unlikely you are a candidate for whitening. But if you want whiter teeth, ask your dentist for suggestions. 

Many years ago, I remember buying a whitening kit over the counter. It actually worked until the dentist asked me what I was doing to my teeth. I told him I was whitening them. That’s when I learned that my porcelain cap was not ever going to become the same color as my whiter teeth.

A dentist’s office has a procedure for whitening. It is a professional service and undoubtedly costs more than the over-the-counter whitening kit, which I purchased years ago. Be aware, this procedure takes several office visits to the dentist, but it is well worth it to have beautiful, white teeth.

Dental Hygiene is Cumulative

I can’t stress enough the cumulative effect of finding a dental hygienist who understands all the variables of not just teeth cleaning four times a year, but also of gum disease and cracks in cavities, one who recommends you get rid of the mercury fillings of the past and replace them with an amalgam, and one who has a good working relationship with his/her dentist.  

Awareness of how beautiful your smile will be with straight, white teeth will give boomers more confidence and a sense of looking youthful. It’s well worth the cost and effort.

Please check out my other articles in the healthy aging series: how to take care of your eyes, and your hearing.

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