How Your Teeth and Gums Change as You Get Older – and What to Do About It
We would all love to maintain the perfect smiles we had when we were younger. However, as time goes on, it is not uncommon for our teeth and gums to undergo change.
These changes may sometimes be unimportant, but often they are visual or functional changes that we may not welcome.
Fortunately, if we are proactive, we can ensure that our teeth and gums stay ‘youthful’ for longer and that we are able to keep our natural teeth in place for longer.
In this article, your Indooroopilly dentist River City Dental will be exploring a few of the threats posed to our oral health as we age, how we can prevent them, and what we can do about any damage or change that does occur.
Why do teeth change as we age?
Just like anything, teeth are exposed to wear and tear as we age. The longer something exists, the more it will be damaged.
It is a bit like an item of furniture. Let’s use a couch as an example. As you use your couch, it will start to show wear where you’re sitting. There might be stains from when you accidentally spilled a drink, or damage from when the dog chewed it.
If we’ve protected our couch, for example, by being careful when we’re sitting on it or cleaning it regularly, it will maintain its appearance for longer, and it will also work like a couch should for longer – without wobbling or threatening to break.
It is just like our teeth. As we bite, chew, and eat food, our teeth are worn down. They are also exposed to bacteria and plaque over a longer period of time. The biting edges of the teeth gradually wear down and the protective enamel can erode or stain.
This can make the teeth weaker, making them more vulnerable to chipping and cracking due to stresses that may not have affected them before. When a crack develops it may actually be less painful than when you’re young – which can be a problem, because pain is our body’s alarm system telling us something is wrong.
If we don’t notice pain soon enough, an infection is more likely to develop. It quickly becomes apparent how interconnected all of these issues are.
The impact on oral health is further exacerbated because our bodies become less capable of bouncing back. Our bodies do not produce cells at the same rate they once did. Bones weaken, tissues become less flexible, and the immune system may lose some of its efficacy.
What oral problems commonly affect older adults?
Everyone is different, but at our Chelmer dentist, Taringa dentist, Pullenvale dentist, Fig Tree Pocket dentist, and Indooroopilly dentist, we do see common issues emerging in older adults. You may wish to watch out for:
- Dry mouth. This issue can occur naturally as we age, and it can also be associated with medications (such as blood pressure medications) that may become necessary to take as we age, for issues that are not associated with the teeth. This can be an issue because saliva plays a crucial role in fighting the build-up of plaque and bacteria on the teeth, and therefore it helps to prevent tooth decay. Without this natural fighting force, we are more vulnerable to tooth decay. Drier mouths also make us more vulnerable to thrush or yeast infection, gum disease, ulcers or sores, and difficulty eating.
- Gum issues. Many people find that their gums recede as they age. This can lead to additional issues, as new areas of the tooth are exposed, creating a pocket for the build-up of decay. It can be associated with brushing too hard along the gum line, or continual build-up of plaque and inflammation. It can be made worse by other conditions such as diabetes, or bad habits such as regular smoking over a long period.
- Tooth loss. This is most commonly associated with advanced stage gum disease, which is known as periodontitis. Technically speaking, this is an inflammation of the periodontium, the structures that support the teeth and help them to stay in position. This inflammation can break the seal between tooth and gum, loosening the tooth. This creates pockets for bacteria and the issue gradually becomes worse, in a destructive cycle. This issue is commonly association with bleeding and swollen gums, pain when biting, and finally lost teeth.
- Advanced tooth decay. If not dealt with early, areas of tooth decay can progress leading to advanced tooth decay which may result in the tooth needing to be extracted or a root canal being performed. The longer an area of decay is left untreated, the more chance that the decay will lead to more serious issues.
- Discolouration of the teeth. The older we get, the longer teeth are exposed to foods and drinks that can stain the teeth.. There is also some natural change that occurs to the colour of dentine ( a layer of material that lies immediately underneath the enamel of the tooth)as we age. It tends to become less white and more yellow, or even grey.
- Oral cancer. As we age, we become more vulnerable to oral or mouth cancer. Your Indooroopilly dentist can screen for oral cancer, and therefore regularly visiting the dentist near me can mean that oral cancer is likely to be picked up in a timely manner.
How can I keep my teeth healthier for longer?
There is no substitute for good oral hygiene. It is also true that it is never too late to adopt good oral hygiene practices, because whenever you start, you can slow the acceleration of oral health issues. Of course, the sooner the better!
Most of us know how a good oral hygiene routine looks. We should brush our teeth twice a day, making sure to brush all teeth with the appropriate amount of pressure. We should use a soft toothbrush with a dentist approved toothpaste. We should floss between our teeth to prevent the development of decay. If we play sports, we should wear a mouthguard and if we grind at night, we should wear a nightguard prepared by our Indooroopilly dentist or Brisbane dental clinic.
Teeth relates to our diet which supports our oral health routine
We should limit our sugar intake and pay special attention to nutritional information so that we don’t get a nasty surprise when we find out that we have consumed something that has a higher sugar level than suspected.
We must consider limiting our snacking throughout the day, and try to have a glass of water after we have meals and acidic foods/drinks. We should also reconsider some of our ingrained bad habits, such as excessive coffee consumption, or red wine consumption. These beverages can stain the teeth, which can add to the overall sense of declining oral and impact our self-esteem we age.
However, habits are only part of the equation. Sometimes, the damage is already done, and good habits cannot reverse it. Other times, the tools we have at home just aren’t sufficient to remedy an issue or prevent it from developing. This is where the support of your dentist Chelmer, dentist Taringa or dentist Fig Tree Pocket dentist can come in especially helpful.
How can my Indooroopilly dentist help to keep my teeth healthy as I age?
As they say, prevention is better than cure. By regularly attending your Indooroopilly dentist for a six-monthly dental check-up and clean, you can stay on top of any issues with your teeth, identify emerging issues, follow the best possible dental practices at home, and receive timely treatment that keeps your teeth healthier for longer.
Some preventative dentistry options offered by your Chelmer dentist or dentist Pullenvale may include but not be limited to:
- EMS teeth cleaning. Biofilm therapy is a new way to keep your teeth clean, that is efficient and effective. The process is as follows. Your Indooroopilly dentist will first apply a coloured solution to your teeth that will expose the locations of plaque. The dentist then uses a high-pressure, air-driven mixtur of powder to remove the plaque. The discolosing substance can also highlights problems with your brushing habits and allows you to go home with an action plan about areas you should target.
- Oral health screening. If you regularly attend your dentist Indooroopilly, they will be able to check for common oral health issues as you go. This can include tooth decay, gum disease, thrush, and even oral cancerX-rays and 3D imaging may be undertaken for further investigation if deemed necessary by your Chelmer dentist.
- Fissure sealants. Many people have deep fissures/crevices in their molar teeth. This is an area that can be prone to decay when food sits in the fissures and isn’t cleaned properly. To help prevent tooth decay, sealants are used to fill the fissures so there is less chance of food and bacteria accumulating.
What if I don’t like the appearance of my teeth as I age?
There are a number of cosmetic dentistry procedures that can keep your teeth looking how you want them to look. A visit to your Taringa dentist will help you to assess and understand the available options to support you to achieve and maintain your desired dental appearance and dental function.
Here are just a few dental treatment options that may be available at your local Brisbane dentist:
- Same day dental crowns. When teeth are chipped, damaged, decayed, or misshapen, a dental crown may be a suitable option to restore the tooth to its desired appearance and purpose. A dental crown is a cap that is placed onto a modified existing natural tooth. It both protects the tooth to which it is affixed and restores the appearance of the tooth too, because it is lifelike in appearance and matches the colour of your other teeth. At many dental clinics, you may have to wait for an impression to be sent to an external laboratory, but at your leading Indooroopilly dentist River City Dental, you can have same day crowns prepared and fitted in the same appointment, preventing you from needing to make a return visit, freeing up your calendar, and delivering tangible results sooner.
- Dental veneers and teeth whitening. If your teeth still function the way they should, but it’s their appearance you are unhappy with, then the issue may be able to be remedied by your dentist near me in Indooroopilly using dental veneers or teeth whitening. Teeth whitening can make your teeth noticeably whiter and is a great option if you are happy with the shape of your teeth. If you would like to change their shape/appearance and colour, then dental veneers may be more suitable. These are a layer applied to the external-facing side of the tooth
- Dental implants. If have lost teeth, dental implants may or may not be an appropriate solution. The dental implants are a titanium screw-like structure that is implanted into thejaw bone. Above the gum line, it has an attachment onto which a dental crown will be fitted. This procedure not only restores the equivalent of a tooth, but it also prevents bone loss that can be caused if a tooth is allowed to stay ‘missing’ for a long period of time. Your suitability for this type of tooth replacement will need to be assessed by your Chelmer dentist or Brisbane dentist. Do not fear though, because if you are not a suitable candidate for dental implants, you may also be able to have your teeth replaced by dental bridges or dentures at your local Pullenvale dentist.
A quality Indooroopilly dentist can help your teeth to age well. They can also help you to reverse the cosmetic impact of ageing teeth and to restore functionality to your mouth.
If you would like your teeth to continue to function well and look as you would like them to as you age, contact your dentist near me River City Dental on firstname.lastname@example.org or (07) 3667 9595 to book an appointment.
You may also wish to hear top 5 brushing teeth mistakes