As we get older, our body changes. It’s a fact of life and those changes include our teeth among other things. While the prevalence of both partial and total tooth loss in adults has decreased since the early 1970s according to the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, people over the age of 65 still have much higher rates of gum disease, dental decay, mouth infections, and tooth loss. These dental issues or deficiencies can be attributed to natural wear and tear; however, some of these conditions can become present simply based upon age even when one maintains great dental hygiene. As such, today we’ll discuss 4 ways your oral health changes over the age of 65 and what steps you can take to retain that beautiful smile as you age.
A dry mouth is one of the first ways your oral health changes over the age of 65. As we get older, the glands in our mouths produce less saliva. Combine that with the fact that many people over the age of 65 take prescriptions that cause dry mouth, and you’ve got the perfect recipe for bacterial growth, bad breath, tooth decay, and cavity formation. Additionally, a dry mouth can cause your teeth to get worn down and lose their shape.
While you can’t necessarily avoid the effects of old age, there are a couple of ways to overcome dry mouth. The first and best way to keep your mouth moist is by drinking more water, and avoiding alcoholic or caffeinated beverages as they tend to reduce the production of saliva. Secondly, you can stimulate the production of saliva by chewing on sugar-free gum. If you’re a smoker or enjoy chewing tobacco, you may also want to consider stopping as tobacco is also a common cause of dry mouth. While you can take saliva supplements, we find it’s best to try natural remedies or eliminate external causes of dry mouth first.
Yellowing teeth is another common oral health change we notice in patients over 65 years old, although it can occur at a much younger age. That yellowing occurs when the enamels wear down over time, but it can also be caused by staining due to drinking acidic drinks such as coffee, wine, tea, sodas, or tobacco.
While we might recommend whitening toothpaste, dental bleaches, or whitening strips to our younger patients with mild staining, these approaches aren’t always as effective for oral health changes over the age of 65. As such, before you use any bleaching agent, you should speak to your Raleigh dentist. Some of the ingredients in whitening products, such as peroxide, can cause teeth sensitivity which you may want to avoid.
Another common oral health change over the age of 65 is shifting teeth, which can be incredibly frustrating if you ever spent thousands of dollars on braces. Why does this happen? As we age, the bones of our upper and lower jaws weaken. As those bones weaken, your teeth will gradually begin to shift inwards and turn. They can also spread apart. While you may have had braces in your youth, your Raleigh dentist or orthodontist may recommend another round of braces or Invisalign to correct the shifting you’re experiencing.
Similarly related to shifting teeth, another oral health change you may experience over the age of 65 is crowding teeth. As we just discussed, the bones in your upper and lower jaw bone lose density and shrink as you age. As such, the size of your jaw bone no longer matches with your teeth and can lead to overcrowding on the bottom front teeth. Overcrowding can also occur as a result of other factors such as mouth breathing, tongue thrusting, reverse swallowing or facial trauma. Whatever the case may be, your Raleigh dentist can speak with you about cosmetic dental solutions to treat the situation.
If you want to know more about how your oral health changes over the age of 65, stay tuned for our next post as we discuss even more reasons (and solutions). Also, if you’re over the age of 65 and looking for a Raleigh dentist, give Dr. Katherine E. Garrett a call to schedule your appointment. New patients are always welcome, and we are proud to provide dental care for your entire family. Don’t wait until you have a dental emergency, call our office today!