How Oral Health Changes with Age

As we age, our bodies go through many changes, and our mouths are no exception. Taking care of our teeth and gums becomes even more important as we get older. Aging is inevitable, which is why you need to know what to expect. As a result, you can prevent certain issues from damaging your oral health. 

How Oral Health Changes with Age

Teeth Wear and Tear

Over the years, our teeth undergo a lot of wear and tear. Every time we chew, our teeth are exposed to forces that can gradually wear down the enamel, which is the hard outer layer of our teeth. This can make our teeth more susceptible to cavities and other problems. Additionally, habits like grinding your teeth or chewing on hard objects can speed up this wear and tear.

Gum Health

Gum health is a major concern as we age. In fact, gum disease is more common in older adults. It starts as gingivitis. This is an inflammation of the gums that can cause them to become red, swollen, and bleed easily. If not treated, it can progress to periodontitis. This advanced stage can damage the bone that supports your teeth and lead to tooth loss. Maintaining good oral hygiene and regular dental visits are crucial to preventing gum disease.

Dry Mouth

Many older adults experience dry mouth, a condition known as xerostomia. Dry mouth can be caused by certain medications, medical treatments like radiation therapy, or health conditions such as diabetes. Saliva is important because it helps wash away food particles and bacteria, protects teeth from decay, and aids in digestion.

Without enough saliva, your mouth can become dry, leading to an increased risk of cavities and gum disease. Drinking plenty of water, chewing sugar-free gum, and using saliva substitutes can help manage dry mouth.

Tooth Decay and Cavities

Tooth decay can affect people of all ages. However, older adults may be at a higher risk for several reasons. Receding gums, which occur when the gum tissue around the teeth pulls back, can expose the roots of the teeth. These roots are not protected by enamel and are more vulnerable to decay.

Additionally, dry mouth and a lifetime of wear and tear can increase the likelihood of developing cavities. Regular brushing, flossing, and dental check-ups are essential to prevent tooth decay.

Oral Cancer

The risk of oral cancer increases with age. Oral cancer can develop on the lips, tongue, cheeks, floor of the mouth, or throat. It’s important to watch for signs such as sores that don’t heal, lumps, or red or white patches in the mouth. Regular dental visits can help detect oral cancer early, which is key to successful treatment.

Tooth Loss

Tooth loss is more common in older adults, often due to gum disease, decay, or injury. Losing teeth can affect your ability to chew and speak properly. Losing your teeth can also lead to changes in your bite and facial structure. Replacing missing teeth with dentures, bridges, or dental implants can help maintain function and appearance.