Staying young

08 December 2021
4 min read

There’s no doubt that adults today value youthful looks. Whether we reach for anti-aging products, look to change how to dress or consider preventive ‘tweakments’ for a little extra help, there are many ways in which we aim to postpone the signs of getting older. The same can be said for our smile. The general population are becoming increasingly aware of how the teeth and gums change with age, with many people seeking solutions to improve both their appearance and their self-confidence. Implants are just one option to enhance smile aesthetics where missing teeth are a concern and it is the role of the dental team to help patients find the right solution for them.

The face that launched a thousand ships
Though we all do our best not to ‘judge a book by its cover’, we naturally form first impressions of the people we meet within seconds – which are mostly based on appearance. Facial aesthetics are closely linked with attractiveness, which has been associated with various benefits in modern society, from upward economic mobility to improved job opportunities and several other positive social consequences.[i]

Papers have also suggested that various qualities can be identified in a person from their facial appearance, including fitness, emotion and age.[ii] With regards to the increasing importance placed on looking youthful in today’s world, the latter is particularly important for many individuals.

The tell-tell signs
As part of the natural aging process, the face changes shape. Fat becomes less evenly distributed and lower in volume, which can lead to the lips, cheeks, forehead and temples looking less plump.[iii] Like skin around the body, that on the face also slowly loses its elasticity over the years, with a reduced amount of collagen and a thinner epidermis that can cause the skin to sag.[iv]

The years also have an impact on the skeleton. For instance, bone modelling to shape or reshape bone and bone remodelling to repair damage. Whilst we are growing, the rate of bone formation exceeds the rate of bone resorption, but this reverses as we age.[v] As a result, some further facial volume can be lost, contributing to a more sucken appearance in older people.

This can be exacerbated by tooth loss. According to a Public Health England 2018 survey[vi] of adults attending general dental practices in England, 4.4 per cent of 75 to 84-year-olds had no natural teeth, increasing to 7.5 per cent for the over 85s. The data demonstrated a clear decrease in number of natural teeth over time – regardless of gender, ethnicity or level of deprivation – as well as a reduction in functional dentition from 99.9.2 per cent in 16 to 24-year-olds to 32.2 per cent in those aged 85 and over. Although missing teeth not treated were more common in posterior regions for all age groups (7.6 per cent and 73 per cent respectively), prevalence was much higher for older individuals, as would be expected.

As dental professionals know, tooth loss leads to bone resorption and atrophy of the jaw. Resorption of the alveolar ridge is quickest during the first six months of tooth loss or extraction, continuing at 0.5-1.0 per cent annually for the rest of the patient’s life.[vii] Resorption of the alveolar ridge can lead to forward-upward rotation of the mandible, a reduction in occlusion dimensions and an increase in mandibular prognathism.[viii] This can lead to further loss of support of the facial structures, creating a greater challenge for older people who wish to preserve more youthful looks for longer.

The wonders of modern medicine 
Of course, we have many potential solutions available to people in the modern world that have been designed to help preserve both youthful looks and self-esteem. There are both surgical and non-invasive procedures that can improve the appearance of the skin and prevent many of the signs of aging from developing in the first place.

In dentistry, there are also several options to avoid the functional and aesthetic consequences of tooth loss and bone resorption. Dental implants have become the gold-standard treatment for partial or complete edentulism, enhancing every part of the process. The new TLX implant system from Straumann is the latest generation of products in a long line of clinically-proven and globally popular implant portfolio. It mimics the natural anatomy, respecting the hard and soft tissue for optimal aesthetics. The innovative system combines the benefits of a tissue level connection with the stability needed for immediacy, helping patients restore their smiles and prevent resorption of both the bone and soft tissue. It even uses the same drill set and TorcFit as the Straumann BLX bone level implant for professional workflow efficiency.

Supporting patients for a lifetime
There are many reasons why patients seek medical or dental treatment to improve their appearance, their quality of life and their health. Dental professionals have various cutting-edge solutions at their disposal to help patients enhance much more than their smiles and dental implants are just one option in the modern armamentarium.

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[i] Little AC, Jones BC, DeBruine LM. Facial attractiveness: evolutionary based research. Philos Trans R Soc Lond B Biol Sci. 2011;366(1571):1638-1659. doi:10.1098/rstb.2010.0404

[ii] Zebrowitz LA, Montepare JM. Social Psychological Face Perception: Why Appearance Matters. Soc Personal Psychol Compass. 2008;2(3):1497. doi:10.1111/j.1751-9004.2008.00109.x

[iii] Why your face ages and what you can do. Harvard Health Publishing.Harvard Medical School. February 2021. [Accessed May 2021]

[iv] Ganceviciene R, Liakou AI, Theodoridis A, Makrantonaki E, Zouboulis CC. Skin anti-aging strategies. Dermatoendocrinol. 2012;4(3):308-319. doi:10.4161/derm.22804

[v] Jonasson G, Skoglund I, Rythén. The rise and fall of the alveolar process: Dependence of teeth and metabolic aspects. Archives if Oral Biology. September 2018. 96; 195-200.

[vi] Public Health England. National Dental Epidemiology Programme for England. Orla health survey of adults attending general dental practices 2018. Published June 2020. [Accessed May 2021]

[vii] Pagni G, Pellegrini G, Guannobile WV, Rasperini Giulio. Postextraction alveolar ridge preservation: Biological basis and treatment. International Journal of Dentistry. June 2021; Article ID 151030.

[viii] Kuć J, Sierpińska T. Golębiewska M. Alveolar ridge atrophy related to facial morphology in edentulous patients. Clinical Interventions in Aging. May 2017. 12; 1481-1494.