The Effects of Aging on Your Teeth and Mouth
Our teeth are with us for most of our lives, if we are lucky and careful. We learn to adapt our habits and hygiene patterns as we age. Knowledge is power and knowing what to expect as we grow older helps not only keep us informed but allows us to better take care of ourselves.
Today, we will discuss the effects of aging on your teeth, mouth, and gums, as well as how you can slow the aging process by keeping up healthy hygiene habits well into your golden years.
The Effects of Aging
Cavities are quite common in all age groups, however they are even more common in older adults as more adults are keeping their teeth for their lifetime due to dental technologies advancing. Since older adults often have receding gums, the bacteria that causes cavities is more likely to develop at the root of the tooth.
In addition, the nerves in your teeth lose sensitivity as you age, so the inflammation and pain caused by tooth decay may not be detected until it has progressed, requiring a root canal or implant. You may even lose the tooth, resulting in the need for dentures. Always make sure you follow your dentist’s recommended examination schedule and continue to brush, floss, and rinse as directed.
While your teeth are incredibly strong, a lifetime of wear and tear can really put some strain on their enamel. Acidic foods also can weaken your teeth’s enamel throughout the years, leaving cracks in the outer surface, setting the stage for bigger issues like cavities, stains, infections, and tooth loss. Attentive brushing and flossing are crucial in our later years, as tooth enamel continues to age along with us.
Periodontal disease (gum disease) is the leading cause of tooth loss in older adults. We also see the most advanced cases of gum disease affecting older adults due to long-term plaque build-up. That plaque build-up can lead to swelling and bleeding of the gums, which in turn can cause infections in the bones of the mouth.
Gum disease is more likely to be seen in people with poor oral hygiene habits, those who smoke, and people with certain health issues such as diabetes, poor nutrition, chronic dry mouth, leukemia, and auto-immune disorders.
Our teeth stain due to the foods and drinks we enjoy over the years. Stains can become darker and more noticeable over time no matter how hard or often you brush, but fortunately staining is a cosmetic issue and relatively easy to remedy.
If you are feeling self-conscious about yellowing teeth, there are many ways to whiten them, such as whitening toothpaste, whitening strips, and in-office professional whitening.
Dry mouth often starts becoming a more prevalent issue as we age. It can be caused by a myriad of issues, such as certain medications (antihistamines, muscle relaxers) and diseases (diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis.)
Dry mouth develops when the salivary glands aren’t producing enough saliva, which is a serious issue when it comes to oral health. Saliva defends against acid erosion, bacteria and restores minerals to your teeth. Without it, dry mouth can cause bacteria to build-up in the mouth more rapidly, which leads to accelerated tooth decay. To prevent dry mouth, it is recommended to drink water regularly (8 glasses a day if possible) and to brush and floss twice daily.
Smoking is not good for us at any age, but the risks to our health increase greatly the older we get. While rarer than the other issues listed above, oral cancer is a serious health issue that happens to people more often after the age of 45, primarily to those who smoke. Make sure you are getting regular screenings with your dentist and stick with your regular oral hygiene routine as well.
Protect Your Teeth
Regardless of age, proper oral hygiene is your best bet to keeping teeth and gums healthy. The best things you can do for your oral health are to:
- Brush and floss daily.
- See your dentist every 6 months.
- Quit smoking.
- Avoid sweets and acidic drinks as much as possible.
Get Helpful and Professional Care at Any Age
Carrie Muzny DDS offers the highest-quality dental services for our patients in The Woodlands and surrounding areas. Our highly acclaimed dental team are not only exceptionally trained in modern preventative techniques, but also have attained academic honors and continue to refine their craft year after year in preventative dentistry, restorative dentistry, pain-free surgical procedures, and cosmetic dentistry.
With our state-of-the-art technology and vast range of smile-perfecting procedures, we stay atop the field and deliver smiles as sunny as the state of Texas!
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