As we age, so do our mouths. Even if you take excellent care of them, your teeth, gums and jawbone will change as you get older. Also, as you get older, you are more likely to take medicines or have a disease that can affect your oral health. Here are some of the changes you might notice as you age.
You may notice that your teeth look darker as you age. That's because aging dentin (the tooth's middle layer) gets thicker and darker. At the same time, tooth enamel thins, allowing more of the darker dentin color to show through. Staining from foods, wine, coffee, tea and tobacco also discolor teeth.
Many older people have more plaque buildup on their teeth. This may not be because of their age. It can be related to physical changes that can make it more difficult to brush and floss every day. For example, people may not be able to clean their teeth as well with arthritis or after a stroke. Or they may forget to do it.
Dry mouth is very common in older people. It is usually a side effect of medicine. Hundreds of medicines can cause dry mouth.
Saliva normally washes away bits of food and bacteria and helps keep your mouth clean. If you have dry mouth, the bacteria and food will stay around longer. This means they are more likely to cause decay.
Over-the-counter fluoride rinses can help protect your teeth from decay. You can moisten your mouth using artificial saliva. Other options are to drink water or suck on sugarless lemon drops.