As you get older, you inevitably see some changes to your overall health, including your dental health. While getting older can bring about desirable rewards such as retirement, more time for travel and hobbies and spending time with grandkids, it can increase the risk of unwanted dental health problems. We've outlined some of the most common oral health issues older adults face.
Darkening and Discoloured Teeth
Children and young adults tend to have whiter teeth, thanks to a thicker layer of tooth enamel that masks the true colour of the tooth in the dentin underneath. As you age, tooth enamel thins because of exposure to acids in foods and drinks and bacteria in your mouth. The thinning tooth enamel exposes the tooth's natural colour, which can be anything from yellow to orange to grey. As a result, teeth can look discoloured and stained.
A dry mouth where inadequate saliva is produced is an unpleasant condition called xerostomia, and it's often a side-effect of medications. Unfortunately, many people need to take more medications as they age, increasing the risk of xerostomia. It is a problem because saliva is a protective fluid that helps prevent infection and decay and reduces the risk of gum disease. Additionally, a lack of saliva can be very uncomfortable, especially for anyone who wears dentures.
Tooth Root Decay
Older people tend to suffer more from gum recession, especially if they have gum disease, as this exposes tooth roots. Unlike your teeth, your tooth roots are not covered in hard, protective tooth enamel. Instead, they are covered in a softer material called cementum that is more easily eroded or brushed away, leaving your tooth roots at increased risk of tooth decay.
If you wear dentures, the gum tissue underneath can become inflamed especially for those who are older with a condition called stomatitis. It's a problem frequently caused by poor oral hygiene or ill-fitting dentures.
Tooth loss is common with age; unless you replace teeth promptly, you can suffer from jawbone loss. The same problem can arise if you have advanced gum disease, a bacterial infection that destroys the gums and the bone surrounding your teeth and is a common cause of tooth loss.
How We Can Help
Anyone visiting our dental practice receives a preventive dental care plan considering various factors, including age. It outlines how frequently you should have checkups and cleans and any other treatments we think may benefit your oral health. For example, if dry mouth is a problem, we can suggest various ways to promote saliva production or prescribe artificial saliva to keep your mouth cleaner and more comfortable. We can ensure dental appliances like dentures fit well, and we can clean these appliances professionally when you visit us. Also, if you are concerned about yellowing teeth, we can discuss cosmetic dentistry to whiten them.
Although ageing may be inevitable, we can work with you to ensure you enjoy optimal dental health and a nice smile, no matter the number of candles on your birthday cake.