Long in the Tooth

Ever heard the expression “Long in the Tooth”?  It usually refers to someone older or wiser.  Interestingly, this old expression is based in reality.As you may have read in earlier posts, gum disease (aka periodontal disease) results in bone loss around teeth.  Bone loss around teeth also occurs as a natural consequence of aging, albeit at a much slower rate than is seen in gum disease.  When the bone and gum around teeth recede, or draw back, the teeth appear longer, as more tooth is exposed in the mouth.

Prior to the 1950’s, most North Americans didn’t brush their teeth.  The high standards of dental hygiene, dental care, and home dental care that we enjoy today were not the norm for most of human history.  As such, bone loss used to be very common as people aged, giving rise to the association between “long teeth” and advanced age.