Everyone wants to have good dental health as they age. With age comes wisdom….and aging. Our bodies change day by day, and our mouths are no exception. We often ask ourselves: What happens to our teeth when we age? Is it inevitable to have dental problems? Should we be worried?
The good news is that there are steps that we can take starting now to keep our mouths and teeth healthy over the years. The first step is learning what dental changes to expect as we age. The second is knowing how to prevent any changes that can be avoided. There are a few developments patients should expect as they get older.
How age affects dental health
1. Yellowing teeth
This happens when dentin (the softer, inner part of the tooth) starts to turn yellow. The yellow becomes all the more noticeable thanks to thinning enamel that makes the dentin even more visible. Coffee and cigarette stains also cause tooth discoloration.
To minimize tooth discoloration, maintain a thick layer of enamel by consuming a calcium-rich diet from an early age. There are over-the-counter products that help to whiten teeth, but since some of these cause tooth sensitivity, it is always a good idea to get input from a dentist before trying to whiten teeth. Professional whitening treatments are more effective anyway.
2. Tooth loss
Weak, receding gums and a worn out jawbone are the leading causes of tooth loss in older adults. The good news is that this particular cause of tooth loss is completely preventable. That is right. Teeth actually do not have to fall out. Notice how skeletons have their teeth even after decades or centuries of being dead?
A person simply needs to avoid oral diseases that destroy the gum and jaw. This is easily done with the lifelong practice of good oral hygiene and regular dental appointments. Easy.
3. Increased spacing between teeth
From age 50 onwards, there may be noticeable thinning of the enamel at the sides of the teeth. This sometimes results in gaps between the teeth where there were none before. The thinning happens because of aging and sustained exposure of enamel to acidic substances like fizzy drinks and sugars. To keep enamel from eroding with age, all that is needed is a calcium-rich diet and good oral habits.
4. Oral health complications caused by medication
For many people, medication becomes a fact of life in old age. A side effect of many medications is dry mouth. When the mouth lacks enough saliva to clean the teeth, the chances of developing cavities and gum disease increase. One way to deal with dry mouth is to constantly drink water. When possible, have the offending medication replaced with a gentler alternative.
5. Receding gums and long tooth syndrome
Loss of bone and muscle in the face and jaw can lead to receding gums. In severe cases, the teeth become loose and eventually fall out. In most cases, receding gums simply lead to more exposure of the teeth. Usually, it is the lower teeth that become longer. The resulting look of 'shorter' upper teeth and longer lower teeth is called long tooth syndrome.
Slowing down bone and muscle loss throughout the body is the only way to mitigate long tooth syndrome. Again, calcium, vitamins and minerals are key.
Lifestyle makes all the difference
Often, good health in old age is a return on earlier investments. We invest by taking good care of our bodies and teeth from a young age. As far as investments go, healthy living costs little. If we take care of our teeth, they can last a lifetime.
Schedule a consultation with one of our dentists to learn more about how aging affects your teeth.
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Request an appointment in our Tempe dentist office here: https://www.smtfamilydental.com.