As we age, our mouth can begin to show the wear and tear of everyday life.
Below is a list of common ways teeth and gums change with age. Although your risk for these problems increase with age, none of them are guaranteed, and most can be prevented by good oral hygiene and regular visits to your dentist.
- Gum Disease – Recent studies from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) suggest more than 50% of Americans over the age of 30 have periodontitis, an advanced form of gum disease. Periodontitis infects and destroys gum tissue, and can lead to loss of teeth. It has also been associated with an increased risk for other serious health problems such as heart attacks. Proper oral hygiene and regular dental visits can help prevent or manage gum disease.
- Exposed Roots – Gums can gradually recede, exposing more of the roots of our teeth to air, food and liquid. This can create a painful, sensitive condition in the mouth where eating something sweet, salty or spicy or drinking or eating things that are hot or cold can cause a sharp, painful sensation near the exposed roots. Exposed roots cause pain because the root portion of the tooth is not covered in dense enamel like the rest of our teeth. The more porous nature of the root area allows tiny amounts of air and liquid to reach our delicate nerves, provoking them to pain. Cavities are also more likely to form on the root area, where crowns and fillings end.
- Tooth Loss – Gum disease and decay cause many people to lose teeth as they age. The more teeth we lose, the more our bite changes. The way we chew as well as the symmetry of our faces changes. This can also dramatically affect your speech.
- Dark Teeth – Another common change to our teeth as we age is their likelihood of becoming a dark yellow color instead of a sparkling white. Plaque builds up faster and changes in dentin help this discoloration along.
- Dry Mouth – As we get older, the amount of saliva our mouths produce diminishes. Less saliva means more plaque buildup and a greater sensation of dry mouth. Many medications also cause dry mouth. Over time, dry mouth can lead to cavities and tooth decay.
- Loss of Taste – Just like hearing and eyesight, unfortunately, loss of taste also often occurs with age. Dentures can also heighten this lack of taste in older mouths.
Even if your teeth have already began to show some signs of age, it doesn’t have to be depressing, and it doesn’t have to continue. Regular dental checkups and some routine maintenance can help combat many of these problems and keep them at bay.