As we age, we may start to notice changes in our appearance. Graying hair and wrinkling skin are usually the main focus. But other changes to your health are just as important as changes to your appearance. Oral health, for example, can change throughout the course of our lives, making consistent dentist visits an important routine. What sort of changes to your teeth and gums might you see?
What happens to our teeth as we age?
Wear & Tear
As we age, it is inevitable that our teeth will be worn down from the everyday wear and tear of eating & drinking. That’s a normal part of aging! There are little things you can start doing today, however, to help minimize the wear & tear of your teeth. Try to avoid chewing ice or other hard foods such as candy that could potentially damage your enamel. Refrain from sugary drinks and food that can cause plaque build up and cavities. If you like acidic drinks–coffee, orange juice, ex–then be sure to use enamel-strengthening mouthwash or toothpaste. And if you suffer from nighttime teeth grinding, as known as bruxism, talk to your dentist about wearing a nightguard. All of these things will help in the long run!
Some people may think that once they reach adulthood they are immune to cavities and no longer need to see a dentist for semi annual check ups and cleanings. In fact, it’s the opposite: the average adult between the ages of 20 and 64 has three or more decayed or missing teeth. And according to the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research, those who are 65 and older have an average of 9.24 decayed or missing teeth. Yikes! Some of this is due to the natural weakening of bones that occurs when we age. However, those tips for minimizing wear & tear will also help prevent tooth decay and cavities. And make sure to visit your dentist regularly so any abnormalities can be spotted & fixed.
Gum Disease & Tooth Loss
Periodontal, also known as gum, disease and tooth loss are also associated with aging, which is why older people are more likely to need dentures than younger people. Common causes include plaque and tartar, smoking, diabetes, and certain medications. 17.2% of people 65 and older have periodontal disease, according to the NIDCR. Again, making sure you visit the dentist regularly will help catch gum disease early, giving you more time to adjust your habits before tooth loss occurs
What additional care is needed as we age?
There are plenty of ways you can help your teeth at home, as we’ve mentioned. Like with all oral health, the best way to protect your teeth is routine dental cleanings and check-ups, no matter your age.
Seeing a dentist also has benefits beyond your oral health. As you age, the risk of diseases such as heart disease and diabetes increases. Believe it or not, there are certain conditions that a dentist may be able to recognize just from a routine check up. Some symptoms of diabetes include dry mouth, inflamed gums, and difficulty tasting food. If you have any of these symptoms, be sure to tell your dentist; they may be a symptom of an overall health concern.
At Henritze Dental Group, we take great pride in watching our patients grow up in our chairs. It’s important to us that we be here for you, at every stage of your life, and that you feel as though you can rely on us for all your dental needs. Our dentists and staff are ready to guide you through your oral health journey. Remember: if, at any age, you are experiencing any kind of tooth pain, call your dentist.