Aging and Teeth (Broken Crown)–2: Important Factors in Treating Old/Older People + New Technology

Sr. Advisor R had a problem. The crown on her tooth broke. She didn’t want to sit in a dental chair and experience an “ordeal,” as she put it, which I’m sure it is for a woman who’s 100. While R makes every effort to take good care of herself, deciding about options (extract tooth, make new crown using new technology, or using traditional technology) was causing stress.

A relative living in Washington state, weighed in. She just had the newest technology for crown restoration, using CAD/CAM computer-aided design and computer-aided manufacturing. The new crown was made during the appointment; she went home “all fixed up.” All went well.

NY Times October 8, 2013 column describes the procedure. It requires only one appointment. That is very appealing to an old person. In the end, however, Sr. Advisor R chose to have the traditional “tried and true” method.

I discussed Sr. Advisor R with my dentist, Gary Markovits, DDS. He’s highly experienced, skilled, comes from a dental family, and is sensitive to old people’s needs (his wife’s parents are in their 80’s). I wanted to know if old/older patients need special consideration.

“For our senior patient population,” he says “it’s important to:

1. Keep treatment time as brief as possible.
2. Reduce recurrent and repetitive procedures, such as anesthesia and office visits.
3. Complete treatment quickly and thus, as cost effectively as possible.”

Since he has the CAD/CAM technology, I also asked for a brief explanation.

While CAD/CAM technology clearly provides the potential to achieve the above for elders, there’s a reality that Dr. Markovits reminds us of through an analogy:

“Technological advancements don’t necessarily lead to improvements in quality. When there’s a human operator at some level, “quality” may be enhanced by improved technologies but these tools are only as good as their user.  An average carpenter using state of the art tools will likely continue to produce average work, whereas a master carpenter using basic or even out dated tools will likely still produce high quality work.”

That said, Dr. Markovits explains that there are additional factors to consider when (in this instance) making a crown. “Since each case has its own requirements, one technology can’t necessarily be applied to all situations, he says.”

For example, just-taken X-rays, visual inspection of the tooth (with crown removed if that tooth is causing problems), and a digital laser scanner’s 3-D imaging, may reveal new issues, which make it unwise to put a permanent crown in place that very day. Thus a temporary crown is put on the tooth because the 1-visit CAD/CAM crown replacement isn’t appropriate; and at least one more appointment is necessary before a permanent crown can be put in place.

TEETH. Probably not the first thing we think about when our goal is to help parents age as well as possible. That said, our having the preceding general information –and staying abreast of the new dental technology–will no doubt come in handy for our elders now and as they continue to age.

Check out “Newsworthy” (right sidebar). Links to timely information,  research from top universities, plus some some fun stuff–-to help parents age well.

2 thoughts on “Aging and Teeth (Broken Crown)–2: Important Factors in Treating Old/Older People + New Technology

  1. This a great article about dental care in elderly patients. It’s important for patients to have a dentist that will work with them with issues regarding age or other medical issues. Thanks so much for the info!

Leave a Comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s