What Happens to Your Teeth in Your 40s? (And Other Aging Changes No One Talks About)

As individuals surpass age 40, the natural wear and tear on teeth become more evident, often leading to increased sensitivity and a higher risk of dental issues. Regular dental care is critical during this period to maintain oral health and address age-related changes such as enamel thinning and gum recession.

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What Happens to Your Teeth in Your 40s? (And Other Aging Changes No One Talks About)
5 Min Read August 25th, 2023 Updated:April 16th, 2024

Have you noticed your teeth turning yellow and dark, losing their luminosity? These are signs of aging in your teeth. Like other body parts, they change as you turn 40 and older. Learn how teeth and aging are related and some tips to keep them healthy. 

Enamel Wear and Tear

Tooth enamel — or the outer covering that protects teeth from damage — thins out and accumulates stains after decades of use. It's the hardest part of the human body and comprises 96% densely packed minerals. However, a lifetime of chewing, grinding, and biting can naturally wear it down.

The health of your teeth and aging contribute to enamel erosion. When it happens, teeth crack, chip, and become discolored and sensitive to temperature. You put your teeth at a higher risk of damage as you continue using them. As there's no natural way to restore tooth enamel, you can focus on better hygiene to preserve it and avoid further deterioration.

It doesn't mean you have poor dental hygiene, as teeth wear down on everyone. There are dental treatments like veneers and dental bonding to replace the enamel.

Tooth Loss

One misconception about teeth and aging is teeth falling out is a normal process. Losing them is normal for babies, not for adults. When you lose a tooth, it can be due to an oral problem. The average number of teeth for most people is 32. A survey found people 20 to 65 years old have 25.5 remaining teeth on average. The number further reduces for those over 65.

Keeping most of your teeth until old age is possible through good gum care. Your teeth have roots that connect to the gums for support. The gums hold and seal the teeth using soft tissues to maintain their immovable structure.

The most common cause of tooth loss is gum or periodontal disease. Bacteria and infection can soften the hold of the gums on the teeth, eventually leading to teeth loss.

Gum Problems

One of the risk factors for gum disease is the changes in female hormones that occur during pregnancy and menopause. As infections are more likely in older people, gum problems also have a higher chance of happening. Teeth and aging correlate in this regard.

The CDC reports that 46% of people aged 30 and older have some form of gum disease. When mild, symptoms can include having swollen and tender gums, bad breath, and sensitive teeth. Severe cases can lead to tooth loss or serious health complications.

Proper oral hygiene is essential to preventing gum disease. Quit smoking if you do, and see a dentist at least once a year to evaluate your risk for gum disease.

Lost Sensitivity

The nerves around the teeth also get smaller, decreasing your sensitivity to oral issues. You'll be less sensitive to pain associated with cavities or gum diseases. Almost 25% of adults have untreated cavities because the nerve endings in their teeth fail to detect pain or indications of damage.

Infection and tooth loss are likely to happen if problems are left untreated. Ensure you visit your dentist regularly to detect oral issues you're unable to due to lost sensitivity.

Loss of Taste

Another link between teeth and aging is declining taste buds. Getting older changes your experience with food as your palate sensations diminish. Properly seasoned foods will taste bland. You may add more sugar or salt to increase the flavor, which is harmful if you have diet restrictions. You could also want your foods to be hotter and colder, potentially hurting your gums and causing mouth sores.

There are several ways of dealing with losing taste. For one, make the meal a social family event. Conversations during meals might distract you from the taste of food. Another option is to use healthy spices and herbs to add flavor instead of salt and sugar.

Dry Mouth

Your salivary glands will produce less saliva and cause dry mouth, affecting one in every five older people. Several factors contribute to it, such as dehydration, medications, and specific health conditions.

Saliva lubricates the mouth, making it easy to digest food. It's also a natural mouth cleanser that helps wash away food particles, limit bacteria growth, and prevent bad breath and tooth decay. Decreased saliva elevates your risk for gum and teeth problems.

See your doctor to learn the underlying cause of your dry mouth. Preventing tooth decay is crucial at this stage, so brush and floss your teeth every day.

Tips to Keep Healthy Teeth Into Old Age

Your oral health helps determine the overall state of your well-being. Some conditions that tie teeth and aging can be precursors of serious health concerns. Follow these tips to maintain a healthy mouth:

  • Brush using fluoride toothpaste at least twice a day for two minutes.
  • Floss every day.
  • Visit your dentist for a regular oral checkup.
  • Use an antiseptic mouthwash as a rinse.
  • Avoid chewing ice or hard foods.
  • Stop drinking alcohol and carbonated drinks.

Prioritize Oral Health as You Age

The changes aging brings are natural occurrences that will inevitably happen as you hit one decade after another of your life. Remember to preserve your oral health by visiting your dentist regularly to get advice on the best ways to maintain the integrity and strength of your teeth.

As adults age and transition into care situations, whether at home or in a long-term care facility, maintaining oral health often becomes a secondary concern. However, good dental hygiene remains a critical aspect of overall health and well-being.

Poor oral care can lead to complications such as gum disease, infections, and even heart-related issues. Furthermore, discomfort or pain from untreated dental problems can exacerbate other health conditions and reduce an individual's quality of life.

In many long-term care facilities, the importance of regular dental check-ups and daily oral hygiene practices might be overlooked amidst the myriad of other health priorities. This oversight can be detrimental, as older adults are more susceptible to dry mouth from medications, which can lead to cavities and other dental issues.

Families and care providers must prioritize dental care, advocating for routine visits to a dental practice like BK Dental Clinic in Scarborough, ON, and ensuring daily brushing and flossing. Taking these steps not only preserves the health and comfort of the individual but also aligns with a holistic approach to their overall care.

Additionally, what someone eat plays a role in preserving your teeth and aging gracefully. Nourish them by eating foods high in calcium, protein, and essential nutrients. Smile through old age by practicing good oral hygiene.

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About the Author

Beth Rush writes about various health and wellness topics, helping readers learn how to make healthy lifestyle choices and better enjoy their lives.

LTC News Contributor Beth Rush

Beth Rush

Contributor since August 9th, 2023

Editor's Note

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