Using the right toothbrush and getting regular dental checkups can go a long way toward preserving your pearly whites.
Back in the day, losing your teeth was an unfortunate part of aging for most people, and it started early. Even George Washington began losing teeth in his 20s and wore dentures made of ivory and metal (ouch) when he was president.
Luckily, times have changed. With advances in dental technology, education and public health, people can now live out their lives with a full set of natural teeth.
Still, aging can be tough on teeth and gums, as it’s linked to an increased risk of certain oral conditions. But there’s a lot you can do to prevent that.
Here, we spoke to Leena Palomo, DDS, MSD, professor and chair of the Ashman Department of Periodontology and Implant Dentistry at New York University, to better understand what happens to your mouth as you get older and how to combat the effects of aging on your teeth and gums.
Dental Conditions That Become More Common With Age
Older adults are vulnerable to certain oral health issues. Here are a few problems that become more prevalent with age:
1. Darkening Tooth Enamel
Pearly whites looking a little less bright? Unfortunately, tooth discoloration tends to occur with age. Here’s why: Over time, the enamel’s outer layer wears down, uncovering the dentin (the hard yellow tissue beneath the enamel), according to the Cleveland Clinic. What’s more, your dentin also grows as you age, giving your teeth a darker appearance.
Other factors, including eating foods that stain your teeth, tobacco use, trauma to your teeth, poor dental hygiene and certain diseases and medications can also contribute to darkened enamel, per the Cleveland Clinic.
“A lot of these things are additive in nature, so as time goes on, they tend to have a cumulative effect,” Dr. Palomo says.
Almost one-third of adults older than 65 deal with dry mouth (also known as xerostomia), a condition that occurs when you don’t produce enough saliva, according to the American Dental Association (ADA). And the number rises to 40 percent of people in their 80s.
Dry mouth increases with age for several reasons, Dr. Palomo says. The most common culprit is medication. As we get older, we’re more likely to be taking a medicine to treat a chronic health issue, and certain medications — including antidepressants, heart drugs and decongestants — can worsen dry mouth, she says.
And the more meds in your pillbox, the greater the problem. “Several medications together have a huge synergistic effect on dry mouth,” Dr. Palomo says. Indeed, older adults who take four or more daily prescription medications are more likely …….