5 Ways Your Smile Changes As You Age
As you get older, your body ages and that includes your smile. Aging is not always pretty, and your mouth is no exception. According to Harvard Health, approximately 3/4ths of people over 65 have at least some of their natural teeth, but they have much higher rates of gum disease, dental decay, mouth infections, and tooth loss. Some of the issues can be chalked up to wear and tear on the teeth over the years and some are due to deficiencies brought on by old age.
We here at Orthodontics Limited understand that the smile is one of a person’s most important features; one they would hate to see decay with age. In that vein, here are 5 major ways your smile changes as you age, and what you can do to combat them to keep your smile looking young.
5. Wear and Tear
Teeth are impressively strong. The average molar can press down with an astounding 200 pounds of force per square inch, approximately 40 times more force than our nearest primate relatives. However, teeth are not indestructible. 60+ years of chewing, gnashing, and shredding can wear down the protecting enamel coating on your teeth, making them more susceptible to cracking and breaking. Nerves in the teeth lose sensitivity as you age too, so you may not notice any pain until it gets serious. In fact, the odds of requiring a root canal due to tooth damage nearly triples once you are over 65.
While you cannot really do much to stop the natural wearing of the teeth from chewing, you can greatly prevent other related problems with a regular routine of brushing, flossing, and mouthwash, the same as at any age. Older people who have problem manually brushing due to arthritis or similar issues should get an electric toothbrush. Fluoride helps teeth rebuild the tiny enamel crystals and keeps bacteria from taking root on the teeth or gums. Dentists also offer teeth varnishes to stop the onset of tooth decay in older patients.
4. Shifting Teeth
As you get older, you may find that your teeth gradually begin to shift place. This is because the bones of the upper and lower jaw weaken with age. As the bones get weaker, teeth gradually begin to shift inwards and can turn. Orthodontic care devices, such as braces or Invisalign, are ways to fix up your teeth as they shift from age. Generally, these changes due to aging are not very drastic and occur slowly, so they can be corrected without invasive procedures or treatments.
Shifting teeth can also be due to periodontal disease which causes receding gums, wobbly teeth, and jawbone deterioration. Periodontal disease is caused by plaque that builds up in the space between the teeth and gums. Periodontal disease is not unique to older people, but it gets more severe the longer it goes undetected, so older people are more likely to experience more effects. Periodontal disease can be treated by antibiotics, scraping to remove hardened plaque, and—in extreme cases—surgery.
3. Dry Mouth
As you get older, the glands in your mouth produce saliva less efficiently. Many older people also take multiple medications, of which dry mouth is a common side effect. Lack of saliva impedes chewing and swallowing, causes bad breath, and increases the risk of bacterial growth, tooth decay, and cavity formation. Dry mouth can also make your teeth wear and lose shape easier.
Regularly drinking water is an effective way to keep your mouth moist as is chewing on sugarless gum to stimulate saliva production. Caffeine and alcohol slow salival production so imbibe those in moderation. Tobacco is a common cause of dry mouth, which is just another reason to avoid it. In serious cases, there are OTC salivas you can buy that are made that are explicitly designed to combat the dry mouth from taking certain medications.
2. Yellow Teeth
Yellowing teeth is another common change brought about by old age. Yellowing teeth are caused, in part, by the yellowing of the dentin inside the tooth that can show through as enamel wears down. Yellowing teeth can also be caused by staining due to acids found in coffee, wine, tea, and tobacco.
There are several teeth whitening options out there. Whitening toothpastes, dental bleaches, and whitening strips are all available OTC, though they may be less effective in older teeth than in younger teeth. These kinds of whitening agents are best suited for mild staining. Before choosing a bleaching agent, make sure to talk to your orthodontist. Some ingredients in these agents such as peroxide can make teeth sensitive. The effectiveness of a specific whitening agent also depends on the cause of the discoloration. Some stains may be more difficult to remove than others.
1. Oral Cancers
Older people are at a much greater risk of developing cancers of the mouth, jaw, tongue, and throat. The average age of the majority of people diagnosed with these kinds of conditions is 62. aS you get older, make sure you schedule regular dental screenings. The earlier you catch such conditions, the easier they are to treat. Regular visits are important because the cancer is normally not painful during the initial stages when it is best to catch it.
Some common signs include open sores, white or reddish patches, and changes in the color, sensitivity, and size of the lips, gums, tongue, and lining of the mouth. If you notice any of these symptoms, consult your orthodontist ASAP.
Your smile will inevitably change with age, but there are many things you can do to minimize the changes and keep your smile looking young. Some smile changes, such as changes to facial structure, cannot be avoided but many, such as tooth decay and yellowing can be prevented. With a proper regimen of brushing, flossing, and mouthwash and regular dental checkups, you can keep your smile looking young. The best solution for a condition is to never have that condition, so preventative care is key.