Chewing on the Facts About Aging and Teeth
Oh, the concept of aging. It’s not anything any of us want to talk about. But let’s face it. We’re getting older. Think of those aches and pains the last time you got out of bed or your soreness after your morning run that you didn’t seem to experience when you were younger. And it’s not just our bodies that are affected—aging impacts our teeth too.
Though tooth loss in adults has declined over the last century, it is only because of better resources and improved dental education on the causes of tooth decay and gum disease. This said, despite our best efforts at a quality oral care routine, we risk developing specific oral health problems as we age. So what should we expect when it comes to aging and teeth, and what can we do to combat it?
What You Need to Know About Aging and Teeth
As we get older, there are certain ailments that we become more susceptible to. But knowing what causes them and what to do about them can certainly minimize the impact, keeping your smile and facial features looking and feeling younger for longer.
Despite our best efforts at brushing and flossing, our teeth will inevitably start to yellow over time. Chewing and exposure to acids in various foods and beverages can cause the dental enamel to wear away. As this enamel thins with aging, it can take on a grayish or yellowish tint due to the exposed dentin underneath. If your teeth are yellowing, reduce your consumption of coffee, tea, and caramel-colored sodas. Stop smoking or using tobacco. And, consider professional teeth whitening, a popular cosmetic dentistry treatment available to you at Tomasik Family Dental.
As you age, you may experience health conditions that you must treat with medication. But some of these medications have a side effect called dry mouth. Mouth breathers are also highly susceptible to dry mouth. Patients with dry mouth are at a higher risk of developing tooth decay and gum disease. Try chewing sugar-free gum to stimulate saliva production. Limit caffeine intake, stop tobacco usage in all forms, avoid mouthwashes containing alcohol, and ensure you are getting in the recommended amount of water each day.
Nobody likes bad breath, especially not the people around you. But bad breath is more common as we get older and is usually caused by dry mouth, poor oral hygiene, or oral thrush. To combat your halitosis, brush your teeth after you eat, replace your toothbrush every three to four months, clean your dentures or dental appliances per your dentist’s recommendations, brush your tongue daily, and make sure to floss between all of your teeth before you go to bed at night. Adjusting your diet to avoid foods such as garlic, onions, or sugary foods can help too.
Gum bleeding is most often caused by gum disease, which is exacerbated by dry mouth, smoking, or poor oral hygiene. If you are experiencing bleeding gums, you should know that no, bleeding gums are not normal. Be sure to request an appointment with your family dentist so that they can assess you for gum disease. Stopping gum disease early on can save your teeth later. Stop smoking if you are a smoker, get more Vitamin C and Vitamin K, and rinse your mouth with a saltwater rinse to kill bacteria.
As you get older, your saliva production begins to deteriorate, and as a result, your taste becomes less acute. Further, as you age, the number of taste buds in your mouth decreases. For females, this tends to happen in your 40s, and for men, in your 50s. And this means that you just won’t taste your foods the way you used to. But this doesn’t mean that it’s time to start throwing more salt onto your food. Look for heart-healthy and tooth-friendly options to reinvigorate your taste buds, such as adding different herbs and spices to your dishes.
As the dentin underneath your dental enamel becomes exposed, you are more likely to experience sensitive teeth. If you have bruxism (tooth grinding and clenching), you are more at risk for dental sensitivity too. If you are grinding your teeth when you sleep, ask your dentist for a night guard that can help protect those pearly whites. Your dentist may also recommend the use of sensitive toothpaste.
As we get older, we tend to experience more stress due to more and more responsibilities being added to our plates. And many patients who find themselves stressed out suffer from jaw pain, also referred to as temporomandibular disorder (TMD). Bruxism is also a common contributor to jaw pain. If you are experiencing jaw discomfort or pain, be sure to let your dentist know. Over-the-counter pain relievers may help as well as a cold compress over the affected area.
Mouth ulcers or canker sores can be extremely uncomfortable and make it difficult for some people to eat, drink, and brush their teeth. Usually, these are brought on by a vitamin deficiency or acid reflux. But in rare situations, mouth sores can be caused by oral cancer. If you have mouth sores, have your physician do a blood workup to identify any nutrient deficiencies. And let your dentist know so they can conduct an oral cancer exam.
Finally, when it comes to aging and teeth, it does come with an increased risk of tooth loss. The three biggest contributors are periodontal disease, genetics, and poor oral care. The best way for you to stay on top of your teeth and prevent tooth loss down the road is by taking care of your teeth every day with a good oral care routine. But if you do experience tooth loss and have missing teeth, options like dentures and dental implants may be able to help you regain your smile. And if you have experienced tooth decay, your dentist may be able to save your tooth before you experience tooth loss using a same day dental crown.
Request an appointment today at Tomasik Family Dental.
The best way to stay on top of aging and maintain healthy teeth is to practice good oral care at home and to visit your dentist regularly. If you are overdue for a dental cleaning and oral examination, now is the time to make that a priority. Request an appointment today at Tomasik Family Dental, your favorite dentist in Lakeway, Texas.