The Oral Health & Aging

Your body changes as you grow and age, and your mouth is no exception. Understanding how your mouth changes with age will help ensure you do what is required to stay healthy.

Tooth Anatomy

Your teeth have several parts. The outermost layer is the enamel. This is the part of the tooth you are accustomed to seeing, and is the strongest tissue in the body. It is hard, shiny, and white, and covers the chewing surface or crown of the tooth. Dentin is a porous layer below the enamel, and makes up most of the tooth. Though porous, dentin is hard and solid, and brown in color. Below the dentin is the pulp of the tooth. This soft tissue houses blood vessels, nerves and other connective tissue, nourishing teeth as they grow. Once teeth are mature, the pulp provides sensory input from the tooth to the body. Each tooth in your mouth has roots which are anchored in bone, and is surrounded by soft pink tissue called gums.

Your Aging Mouth: Enamel and Dentin

When one of your teeth matures, it has all the enamel it will ever have. The dentin layer, however, is constantly growing thicker. Though your teeth start out completely covered in white enamel, over time the enamel wears away. At the same time, the brown dentin layer continues to thicken. The result is a darkening or discoloration of the teeth with age as the dentin layer becomes visible below the enamel. Even good oral hygiene cannot stop these changes from occurring. If you’ve noticed your teeth darkening with age, bleaching or veneers can help whiten the teeth for improved appearance.

Your Aging Mouth: Pulp, Bones and Gums

As the dentin in your teeth thickens, the pulp chamber within shrinks. This leads to less sensitive teeth, which can be a problem because cavities may go undetected in older people with decreased tooth sensitivity. The bones of your jaw and mouth may also begin to deteriorate if you have gum disease, and bacteria and plaque on the teeth cause pockets to form between your teeth and gums, leading to infection. If left untreated, this infection can deteriorate your bones, causing teeth to loosen or fall out. Warning signs of gum diseases include bleeding gums or teeth that appear longer than they once did. This can be an indication that your gums are pulling away from your teeth. If you think you may have gum disease, regardless of your age, see a dentist at once.

As you age, your body matures and changes, being aware of these changes can help you make informed decisions about your health.