Aging and Dental Care
By Mina Levi, DDS, 08/21/2015
As we age, our dental and oral anatomy changes. The dentin (bone-like tissue under the tooth enamel) changes to a darker, yellower color and the enamel becomes thinner. Because of these changes in the mouth, we need to make changes to the way we care for our teeth. In this week’s article, San Francisco dentist Mina Levi, DDS discusses aging teeth and what we need to do to best take care of our teeth.
Changes in the mouth:
1. Teeth will be darker. Teeth darken because the dentin darkens and the enamel covering our teeth thins out, showing more of the darker dentin. Teeth can also darken due to a lifetime of consuming staining food and drink, especially if the teeth are not cleaned professionally on a regular basis. Since the enamel thins as we age, the teeth are less sensitive to the signs and symptoms of teeth decay and so the decay can progress faster without the person knowing it.
2. Drier mouth. As we age, our salivary glands do not produce as much saliva naturally, which causes the dry mouth. Also, we tend to take more medications as we get older, which can also contribute to dry mouth.
3. Gum disease. Gum disease is often a problem for older adults and is the leading cause of tooth loss in adults in the US. Gum disease is caused by plaque and bacteria buildup in between the gums and teeth, use of tobacco, and certain diseases like anemia and diabetes.
4. Root decay. Over time, especially without proper care, the gums can recede away from the teeth, exposing the dentin to acids in the mouth. These areas are extra vulnerable to bacteria and acids because they are not covered by enamel, so when the tooth begins to have a cavity, the decay can eat straight through to the root of the tooth causing infection or causing the root to die. This can lead to needing a root canal or needing the tooth to be extracted.
What do we need to do?
In order to make sure we keep up with the changes in our mouth as we age, it is important to see the dentist regularly at least, if not more often, twice per year for check ups and cleanings. This makes it possible for the dentist to detect any beginnings of decay before it causes a lot of damage and the hygienist can keep bacteria from building up and prevent gum disease. If the gums start to recede from the teeth, the dentist will be able to treat it so that the tooth underneath is protected from decay and sensitivity.
If you have any questions or concerns about the changes in the mouth that occur as we age, visit Dentist San Francisco Mina Levi, DDS on the web at www.minalevidds.com or give us a call at (415) 513-5066.