As you age, your smile changes, but with the right care, you can keep your smile healthy and beautiful for a lifetime. Some risks become more prevalent with older teeth, so here are some specific issues you can look out for and things to consider as you continue to keep your mouth strong and healthy.
Check for Cavities. The main cause of cavities is plaque on the surface of your teeth, which eats away at your enamel, causing a hole. Cavities are usually associated with your adolescent years, but in your mature, adult years, your risk of cavities increases again due to the wearing away of tooth enamel. Since your enamel might already be compromised, cavities can develop more quickly and easily.
Once a cavity appears, it should be filled immediately. Even if your cavity is so small that it doesn’t seem like a major issue, left untreated, it can get bigger and can eventually cause an infection in the root of the tooth. The good news is that problems like these can be mostly avoided through preventative methods, like your regular dental check-ups and a consistent at-home dental health regimen.
Check on Dental Restorations. It’s a common misunderstanding that, once you restore a tooth with either a filling or a crown, it’s fixed for good. That’s not necessarily the case. Fillings can wear, break, and deteriorate, and teeth can decay around fillings. The junction between a filling or crown and your tooth is as small as possible, but bacteria can still get stuck there and another cavity can start to form.
Your dentist will check your restorations at each dental visit to make sure everything is in good working order. You might consider talking to them about replacing metal fillings with tooth-colored fillings or crowns. They are durable, natural-looking options that can help your mouth stay healthy and make you look younger.
Brighten Your Smile. Dull or yellowing teeth may make you appear older than you actually are, so you may want to consider whitening your teeth. Teeth become discolored for many reasons, like stains from coffee or tobacco use. Talk to your dentist about options for brightening your smile. It’s best to get your teeth whitened by a professional because drugstore whitening systems can cause tooth sensitivity and might not be as effective for a mature mouth.
Stay Hydrated. Your mouth naturally starts to get drier with age, and dry mouth is listed as a side effect of many medications on the market today. Saliva helps your mouth clean and protect itself, rinsing debris from teeth and protecting enamel. When saliva production decreases, your risk of tooth decay increases tremendously.
You can fight the effects of dry mouth by staying hydrated throughout the day or asking your dentist about oral moisturizers or saliva substitutes. Raw fruits and veggies that require a lot of chewing also help to naturally stimulate saliva production.
Beware of Bruxism. Bruxism is the clenching and grinding of teeth, and often occurs involuntarily while you are sleeping. Prolonged clenching and grinding can have a negative effect on teeth. Grinding your teeth together wears down the enamel over time, exposing the pulp of teeth and making you more prone to sensitivity and infection. Clenching your teeth together gradually breaks down the supporting bone around the teeth, leading to gum recession, bone loss, and eventually tooth loss. Clenching and grinding can also cause your teeth to crack and break.
Wear a mouthguard, also known as a nightguard, to protect teeth from the effects of nighttime bruxism. It’s also advised to reduce the overall stress levels in your life, but that’s a little easier said than done.