Age and Oral Health

Dental Hygiene and Aging

Oral Changes with Age

Is tooth loss inevitable in your later years? How much should adults be concerned about cavities? Here you’ll find helpful answers to some frequently asked questions about oral health questions you may have as you get older.

Is tooth loss inevitable as we age?

No. With new technological advancements and preventative measures, older adults have a good chance of retaining their natural teeth. According to a survey conducted by the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research, the rate of toothlessness among individuals ages 55 through 64 dropped 60% since 1960.

Should older adults bother with brushing and flossing?

Yes. Daily tooth care becomes particularly important as we age. Plaque, which can lead to gum disease, can build up quickly on the teeth of older adults, especially when they fail to brush and floss regularly.

Periodontal disease is a leading cause of tooth loss in older adults. Can anything be done to prevent this form of gum disease?

Periodontal disease typically progresses slowly, which is why it is often found in older adults. The longer the disease goes undetected and untreated, the more damage it will cause to the gums. Although gum disease is mostly caused by plaque, other factors can contribute to the severity of the condition. Smoking, chewing tobacco, ill-fitting bridges, poor diets and anemia can increase an individual’s risk of developing periodontal disease.

Do I still have to visit the dentist if I wear dentures?

Yes. You should still visit your dentist on a regular basis. If you no longer have natural teeth, the dentist will check for problems with the gum ridges, jaw and tongue. The dentist will also check for oral cancer, as 95% of all cancers are found in those over the age of 40.

Do older adults need to eat the same amount or variety of food as they did when they were younger?

Proper nutrition is important for people of all ages. However, many adults will avoid certain foods, such as meats and raw vegetables because they have difficulty chewing or swallowing. These problems are often caused by poorly fitting dentures, painful teeth or dry mouth. Certain medications can also alter an individual’s sense of taste. By avoiding certain foods, older adults will lack the proper nutrients necessary to maintain a healthy diet. Older adults should strive to eat a balanced diet based on the five food groups. If you are having trouble eating certain foods, ask your doctor if a multi-vitamin or mineral supplement should be taken.

What causes older adults to experience oral health problems such as teeth darkening, dry mouth and loss of taste?

As we age, plaque builds up more quickly on our teeth. This can give the appearance of darker teeth. Changes in dentin, which is the bone-like tissue underneath the enamel, can also make the teeth appear darker.

Dry mouth in older individuals is often caused by certain medical conditions and medicines, such as pain killers, antihistamines, diuretics and decongestants. If dry mouth goes untreated, it can result in extensive cavities.

Older adults may experience a change in taste. Certain diseases, medications and dentures can lead to a loss of taste.