There are many things in life that are inevitable. Taxes, changing seasons, and getting old. While there are those select few who choose to grow old gracefully, the majority of us are gonna fight it kicking and screaming. Age has a cruel way of sneaking up on us and then one day we look in the mirror and ask “OMG……what happened?’ But there it is. We see the evidence in the mirror. Lines in our face that didn’t used to be there. We notice our faces now have thinning lips and sagging skin. But before you make a long overdue appointment with the plastic surgeon, ask yourself, “ How did this happen?”
What changed? For many, it’s not what they think. It may be their teeth.
“What? I have wrinkles! I mean, sure, my smile isn’t what it used to be but how could my teeth have anything to do with this?”
Well consider the skin on our face is supported by the skeletal system underneath. And guess what is an important part of that system? Yep! That’s right: your teeth. If there is any doubt in how important a part your teeth play in supporting the face, just look at a person who has dentures but doesn’t have them in. Their face looks collapsed. That is what happens when our teeth are not there to do their job. When the skeletal system changes we see those effects literally on our face. The volume of our face has decreased. The skeletal system has diminished but all the skin is still there. Wrinkles are the result. While this is most noticeable in the lower third of the face, in reality the effects reach much higher. Though to a lesser degree, even the lines and wrinkles around the eyes may have some connection to this phenomena.
*Before & After of actual Atlanta Dental Spa patient!
There are many factors contributing to the wrinkles we see. Sun damage, changes in skin elasticity, years of lifestyle choices, and even genetics all certainly contribute to the aging process. When the loss of support for the face occurs, the result, as we have discussed, is the appearance of aging and wrinkles. But how did we lose support and what can we do about it?
Loss of skeletal support in the face is most often the result of worn teeth. Years of wear and tear from normal use is often accelerated by common habits like clenching and grinding your teeth. It is thought clenching and grinding your teeth can put up to 10x the destructive force on teeth compared to normal chewing. In addition, habits such as ice chewing and using your teeth as tools can push the teeth to their limits. The result is worn, damaged and broken teeth. As our teeth wear, the portion of the facial skeletal system supported by our teeth starts to decrease. We start to see thinning of the lips, a downward turning of the corner of the mouth, increased lines in the face especially around the nose and mouth, drooping cheeks, and lower eye wrinkles.
“But I don’t grind my teeth”
This is a common response I hear when talking about this tooth destruction. But how can you be so sure? Just because you are not aware of the habit doesn’t make it true. Ask your significant other if they hear you in your sleep. Look for wear patterns or chips on your teeth you can’t explain. Look for unexplained recession on your gums even though you brush and floss. Along with the signs that are apparent in the mouth, there are other red flags, too:
- Do you have frequent headaches?
- Ringing in your ears?
- Do you have tired or sore muscles in the jaw and face, especially in the morning?
- Ever feel like your teeth don’t meet together or your bite changes?
If you have any or all of those symptoms then you may clench or grind your teeth. The really tricky part of figuring this all out is that you may have the habit even if you have none of these symptoms.
“Okay. So I brush and floss (kinda) regularly. I get regular cleanings and checkups. Wouldn’t my dentist have told me if I have a problem?”
Unfortunately the answer is: not necessarily. Most dentists are looking for cavities or areas of pain and may not have the training to look or ask about the subtle changes happening in your mouth. This does not make them a bad dentist, but perhaps just one who does not know to look for the signs and symptoms. They may have the philosophy, like many patients, if it doesn’t hurt or bother you then they are not too worried about it. Of course, the problem with this approach is that burying your head in the sand doesn’t mean you are free of issues. Having an evaluation and diagnosis is essential to understanding what can be done and that starts with finding the right dentist. You should find a dentist and dental team concerned with your overall well being and health. A team who understands that you are a person, not just a tooth, in the chair and how your oral health can impact the rest of you.
“So is this evaluation difficult or painful?”
The answer is not at all! By doing and evaluation of your teeth, bite and face we can tell a tremendous amount about how much damage has been done. One of the first and most simple evaluations is to look at the facial symmetry. The face can be divided into thirds horizontally and an evaluation is done to see if the lower portion is in line with the other thirds proportionally. We are looking to see if the lower third is smaller or has collapsed. In an ideal situation we see proportional balance between the upper, middle, and lower thirds of the face. As the balance between the thirds changes, our lower face starts to collapse and we start to have a loss of volume that manifests itself as looking aged. It is that extra unsupported part that adds the wrinkles and lines to our face. We also notice our lips are not as full and the chin is slightly more pronounced.
A plastic surgeon will perform a face lift as a solution to this problem. This is accomplished by pulling this unsupported skin back and stitching it tighter to minimize wrinkles. While effective the underlying issue of why it occured is not being addressed. It is a solution to the symptoms only. In contrast, a dental face lift is aimed at fixing the underlying source of the condition. By establishing the correct position of the teeth and jaw we can create a better balance in the facial thirds, support loose skin, minimize lines and wrinkles. The results is looking years younger and getting a great smile in the process.
“Is a dental face lift for everyone?”
Of course not. Just like the plastic surgeon isn’t for everyone. There is never a cookie-cutter fix to a problem when we deal with individuals. If you are considering fighting back against aging, then ask yourself if you want to treat the cause or just the symptoms?
“What should I do now?”
Before you sign up for going under the knife, consider getting an evaluation from a cosmetic dentist to see if you are a candidate to fix your concerns at the source. Call (770) 727-4536 today, and set up an appointment to discuss if you’re a candidate for a dental facelift. Not only can you look years younger but you will walk away with a great smile on your face.