Age and Your Smile: The Impact of Time on Dental Health

How does getting older affect your teeth? Aging leads to natural wear and tear, making your teeth more susceptible to decay and damage. Over time, gums may recede, and teeth can become more sensitive, necessitating increased dental care.

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Age and Your Smile: The Impact of Time on Dental Health
4 Min Read November 6th, 2023

Good oral hygiene is paramount for seniors and toddlers alike. At one age, dental health issues may surface, but regular visits to the dentist act as a protective measure against these challenges. 

And let's not forget it's essential to tackle the question: Do teeth wear down with age? Looking after your teeth as you get older is a big deal to prevent and deal with dental issues that can worsen over time.

Oral care for older people is critical, and regular check-ups help dentists find, treat, and even stop problems quickly. It's essential to appreciate the significance of this care.

What changes occur in your teeth as you age?

1. Cut Down Wear and Tear

Your teeth, while pretty strong, can still go through some wear and tear. Think of all that chewing, grinding, and biting you do daily. It gradually wears down the tough outer layer of your teeth, called enamel. As time passes, it can even make the parts of your teeth used for biting and chewing flat.

So, why do teeth break as you get older? Well, it's often due to this accumulation of wear and tear. You can't magically undo a lifetime of wear and tear, but here's the deal: you can prevent it from worsening. Avoid chewing on ice or crunching tough foods because that can mess with your enamel, and nobody wants a broken tooth.

Teeth can also be affected by an improper bite, and fixing this may involve orthodontic treatment. Additionally, grinding your teeth at night, known as bruxism, might require using a night guard. It's a good idea to discuss these issues with your dentist.

2. Keep Your Gums Healthy

Your teeth gather a bunch of tiny germs called plaque all the time, which are the most common reasons for gum line cavities. If you don't clean it off, your gums might get sore, swollen, and bleed. If you have a gum disease called periodontitis, your dentist can help. But if you ignore it, it can hurt your gums and bones. 

To keep your gums healthy, do these things:

  • Brush your teeth twice a day.
  • Floss every day.
  • See your dentist for check-ups and cleanings.
  • If you smoke, try to quit.

3. Don't Let Your Mouth Dry Out

Saliva is like a superhero for your teeth. It helps keep them clean and safe from damage. But you might produce less saliva as you get older, making your teeth more vulnerable to problems. Sometimes, the medicines you take can make your mouth dry. To fix this:

  • Start drinking more water.
  • Try holding it in your mouth for a few moments before swallowing. You can also suck on sugarless candy or chew sugarless gum.
  • If you think your meds are the cause, chat with your doctor about switching them up.

4. Denture Delicacy

Caring for dentures can be challenging for seniors. Daily cleaning with a denture cleaner or mild soap and water is essential for good oral health. Regular dental check-ups ensure proper denture fit and oral health. Well-maintained dentures offer comfort and convenience to seniors.

5. Kick Unhealthy Habits 

Smoking and drinking too much alcohol can hurt your teeth and mouth. Smoking makes getting gum disease, losing teeth, or having oral cancer easier. But if you cut back or quit these habits, it can be good for your whole body and mouth. Ask for help from doctors and people who can support you to make it easier to make this change.

6. Safeguard Your Smile: Mouthguards for Protection

Seniors active in sports or activities with a risk of dental injuries should consider using mouthguards. These protective devices can stop teeth from breaking or getting damaged if accidents or falls happen, keeping your smile safe and bright.

7. The Art of Restoration: Dental Implants

For seniors missing teeth, dental implants are a firm and natural-looking solution. They're not like regular dentures; they are firmly attached to your jawbone, just like natural teeth. Talk to a dental professional to determine if dental implants could be the right option, allowing you to enjoy a complete and confident smile.

Dental Care for Those Living in Long-Term Care Facilities

Dental health is a critical aspect of overall well-being for loved ones residing in assisted living, memory care, or nursing home facilities. Good oral hygiene is essential not only for maintaining the integrity and function of teeth and gums but also for ensuring that oral infections do not become gateways to systemic health issues. 

For those with memory impairments or physical limitations, regular dental care can prevent complications such as periodontal disease, which has been linked to heart disease, stroke, and worsening diabetes. Moreover, the ability to chew and digest food properly has a direct impact on nutritional intake and, consequently, on an individual's health and quality of life.

In such care settings, staff must be vigilant in assisting residents with daily oral hygiene and in recognizing the signs of dental distress that could indicate broader health concerns. Be sure your loved one is getting regular dental check-ups because they are vital, as they not only keep teeth and gums in good shape but also serve as preventive measures against more severe health problems. 

Since dental issues can significantly affect comfort, self-esteem, and the ability to socialize and communicate, ensuring proper dental care is a critical component of compassionate and comprehensive care for older adults.

To Sum Up

Getting older is a journey to celebrate, and the health of your aging teeth is a crucial part of that journey. Seniors can keep their smiles vibrant by attending regular check-ups, practicing good dental hygiene, and using modern dental technologies. As you navigate your senior years, your dentist is your ally in achieving and sustaining excellent oral health. So, while you appreciate the beauty of aging, remember to celebrate your timeless smile.

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About the Author

Dr. Anu Isaac, DMD, runs a successful dental clinic in Salem, MA. Dr. Isaac strives for quality on a daily basis and this commitment to quality is reflected in her constant pursuit of advanced training.

LTC News Contributor Anu Isaac, DMD

Anu Isaac, DMD

Contributor since November 6th, 2023

Editor's Note

As you navigate the path toward retirement, it's vital to look beyond the horizon of leisure and travel and consider the realities of aging and long-term care. Chronic illnesses, mobility issues, accidents, and conditions like dementia can shift the landscape of your golden years, making daily tasks and self-care challenging. The cost of long-term care can be staggering, quickly eroding savings and investments you've dedicated a lifetime to accumulate.

You should integrate long-term care into your retirement plan, acknowledging that the need for assistance or supervision with everyday activities is not just a possibility but a common aspect of aging. Medicare may cover only a fraction of these expenses and only under specific conditions, leaving a significant financial gap. Planning ahead with options like Long-Term Care Insurance will safeguard your nest egg and provide the necessary support without overburdening your family or compromising your quality of life.

Consider this: the need for long-term care is often not a brief period at life's end but can span years. This care can be provided at home, in an assisted living facility, or in a nursing home, each with varying costs and considerations. 

By addressing these needs in your retirement planning, you ensure that choices about your care remain in your hands, not dictated by circumstances. You have the power to access your choice of quality care in the setting you desire so you can shape your future comfort and dignity, but it requires action now—because when it comes to long-term care, hoping for the best without planning for it is a risky strategy.

Every insurance company has its specific underwriting standards that can vary widely - What Is Underwriting In Long-Term Care Insurance?

Your reasonably good health gives you the ability to plan effectively. Most people get coverage in their 40s or 50s, although if you have fairly good health, you can find options in your 60s and beyond. 

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Navigating the landscape of Long-Term Care Insurance can be daunting, with many options and complex underwriting processes. This is where the expertise of a qualified Long-Term Care Insurance specialist becomes invaluable. They bring a nuanced understanding of how different insurance companies evaluate risk and set premiums, allowing them to tailor coverage that aligns with your unique needs—taking into account your age, health, and financial objectives. 

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LTC NEWS offers help for you and your family in many ways. The LTC NEWS Caregiver Directory is an excellent resource where you can find the most comprehensive directory of all types of long-term care services no matter where your loved one lives - Long-Term Care Services Directory | Find Care Near You.

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