“Yon Cassius hath a mean and hungry look!” William Shakespeare.
Older people are often described as “long in tooth.”
When you look carefully at a person in their undefinable middle age smile, you may notice that their teeth look, well, long.
The distance from the edge of their teeth to their lips seems to go on for longer. In some cases, this accounts for ‘a wolfish smile’ seen in older persons.
It’s true. Your teeth generally do appear longer with age.
Why does this happen?
Contrary to common belief, teeth never really stop growing into the mouth. The teeth have a mechanism governed by the brain that prompts them to keep erupting into the mouth until they contact the tooth in the opposite jaw. This is known as passive eruption.
When the opposite tooth is missing, due to extraction or some other reason, the said tooth continues to grow and becomes longer than those around it. It is said to have undergone Supra eruption.
Then there is the issue of the gums. As we grow older, there is often recession or a moving back of the gums, even when there is no gum disease. This process lengthens the visible surface of the teeth and makes them longer.
What about in gum disease? Gum disease, the single biggest reason for loose teeth, massive tooth loss, bleeding gums and bad breath; also causes gum recession and longer teeth. With these longer teeth, the root surfaces which are usually covered become exposed and erode away because of decay or dental caries.
Why do teeth go darker or look more yellow with age?
This is a function of the outer enamel wearing out with time and usage. The dentine layer which is the second layer of the tooth is yellow in color. As enamel gets thinner, the dentine layer shows through as yellow tint.
The next time you pass a mirror, take a look at your smile. Are your teeth looking longer?
Do your gums look like they have moved? See your dentist.
“The mouth reflects the body.”