• 04 SEP 18
    • 0

    Your Oral Health After Age 55

    Middle-aged couple smiling with great teeth.

    Your mouth ages as you do. After age 55 you’ll start to notice changes in your oral health. After a lifetime of wear and tear as well as exposure to foods and substances, your teeth might be weaker, thinner and may even change color. People over 55 have the highest risk for tooth decay and gum disease. However, with some simple tips and attention to your oral hygiene, you can keep your natural teeth healthy throughout life!


    Problems with Tooth Decay

    Children are among the highest population of people that get tooth decay. However, people over 55 are not much better off. Studies show that the youngest and oldest are the ones that are hit with tooth decay (cavities) the most. Up to 42% of children have tooth decay according to the National Institutes of Health. By age 65, at least 93% of people have had tooth decay at some point. At least 5% of seniors are without teeth, which comes from decay and problems with gum disease.


    Because of wear and tear on the teeth throughout the decades, they can become weak. The teeth become even weaker if you don’t brush, floss and follow other oral health guidelines. Many people drink soda and juices, which also contain acids that erode tooth enamel. All of these actions that weaken the teeth lead them open to decay. When that has happened throughout several decades, it’s no surprise that seniors have a higher likelihood of tooth decay.


    If you are over age 55, be meticulous with your oral hygiene. Instead of the recommended twice-a-day brushing, try brushing your teeth after every meal. Floss 1-2 times a day, use mouthwash to kill mouth bacteria and avoid acidic foods and drinks. Tooth decay is preventable no matter your age.


    Close-up view of a senior citizen man having a dental exam.

    Gum Disease

    Gum disease often goes hand-in-hand with tooth decay. This disease affects more than 64.7 million American adults, and the population hit the hardest are people over age 55. When you eat, sugars combine with mouth bacteria to create plaque—or the acidic substance that decays your teeth. That plaque sits along your gum line and irritates the gums. They eventually start to recede and can so much that your gums become mushy and the teeth begin to fall out. That is how people can get to the point where they have no teeth left in their senior years. However, this disease is 100% avoidable if you take extra measures with your oral health.


    Make sure you are seeing a dentist 2 or more times a year if you are over 55 so that we can spot signs of gum disease early. This can help prevent tooth loss, allowing you to keep your natural teeth throughout your entire life.


    Changes to Your Teeth?

    Many people over 55 will start to notice changes in the thickness and color of their teeth. That’s even if you are excellent with your oral health. This can be due to what you are eating and drinking if it happens long before your fifties. However, if you are only noticing changes around that age or after, it could be thinning teeth, which can naturally happen over time.


    There are various layers of your teeth, instead of them being one solid mass. You have your hard, outer enamel that is the hardest substance in the body because it is solid mineral content. Inside that layer is the dentin, which is also incredibly hard, but softer than tooth enamel. Your dentin has small tubules inside it which lead to the center of your tooth, which is the soft pulp that has nerves and blood vessels. That’s how surface decay can quickly get to the center of a tooth to cause infection—it goes through that softer dentin layer.


    As your teeth wear down from food, oral hygiene habits and time, the tooth enamel will grow thinner, and will start to show the inner dentin layer. This is how your teeth may seem a bit more transparent. Teeth whitening services can help brighter the tooth enamel. Thorough care with brushing and flossing can help as well. If you drink coffee, tea, soda, juices, and foods and drinks with dyes (blueberries, red berries, etc.), consider cutting back.


    Senior citizen couple that is brushing their teeth in a mirror together.

    Teeth Shifting

    More than 4 million Americans each year receive orthodontic care to straighten the teeth. That straightening can last a lifetime if patients continually wear their retainer devices. However, some people stop using these devices over the years, and can experience dental shifting. This can happen right after the teeth are straightened. However, your mouth starts to shift in size and shape naturally as you age. For some people, their mouths can become smaller, which crowds the teeth, causing them to become crooked. You can wear a retainer at night or have your teeth straightened through options such as Invisalign to stop this shifting.


    How Good Is Your Oral Health?

    You can take all sorts of measures to have a healthy body, but if you’re not taking care of your mouth, you can still end up having an unhealthy body. Poor oral hygiene habits can lead to early tooth loss, color changes in teeth, tooth erosion and decay, and even more complications with chronic health problems such as diabetes.


    To combat these risks, the American Dental Association recommends that every person brush their teeth at least twice a day for two minutes at a time. You should use ADA-approved toothpaste enhanced with decay-fighting fluoride, covering all tooth surfaces. Follow this oral health habit with proper flossing and even mouthwash use if you want to kill extra bacteria. One of the most important measures with your oral health (especially after age 55) is to visit the dentist. Go to your biannual dental cleanings and comprehensive exams to make sure you are avoiding oral health diseases all throughout life. If you haven’t had these services recently, call Evanson DDS today at (720) 409-0008!

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