There are many factors that contribute to how one’s face ages and they are well known. But one cause of facial aging is not so apparent…your dental health. At least according to a newsletter that I recently received from a local dentist.
According to the newsletter…’untreated dental problems can have dire consequences on oral and overall health and can also contribute to rapid facial aging. Together we can do something about it!!’
While this was obviously a promotional piece from a local dental practice, there is more than just a smidgeon of truth to it. Having had formal dental education and a degree as part of my long plastic surgery education, I can speak for the relationship between the state of your teeth and gums and how your face looks and ages.
A more youthful and defined jawline is part of an attractive face and is the result of the underlying shape and density of the jawbone. (mandible) Loosing teeth, regardless of the cause, results in loss of its supporting bone known as the alveolus. (top part of the jawline.) The body simply recognizes that it doesn’t need as much bone when there are less teeth transmitting forces to it. (it’s a lot like losing bone mass in the leg bones from being immobilized or bedridden for awhile) Thus as the teeth go so goes the mass of the mandible and some shape of the jawline.
As the most common cause of tooth loss with aging is gum or periodontal disease, advanced gum disease can contribute to gradually reshaping your jawbone. As the jawbone loses structure it provides less support to the overlying soft tissues. With loss of soft tissue support, skin sagging over the jawline (jowls) and into the neck becomes more apparent.
Therefore, there is a correlation between dental health and facial aging. In time, the loss of jawbone support results in collapse of the supporting muscle and tissues between the cheeks and the jawline as well. This creates that caved in look which is magnified in the face of natural fat atrophy which is not a well recognized phenomenon of facial aging.
Gum disease, in addition to causing alveolar jawbone loss, is well known to cause the gum levels to recede. (the height of the gums simply follows the underlying level of the bone) As the gums recede it make your teeth look longer, hence the well known phrase getting ‘longer in the tooth’. Between longer looking teeth and sagging face with a weakened jawline, the appearance of facial aging becomes very apparent.
While plastic surgery provides many excellent facial procedures to reverse some of the very visible problems caused by facial aging, good dental health focuses on providing sustained support to slow the process down.
Dr. Barry Eppley