If you are over 50, you can get cavities on surfaces of teeth that did not have them before, around old fillings, or at the roots of teeth. The roots become softer and more exposed as you age. You can reduce your risk of developing cavities by drinking fluorinated water or using a toothpaste and mouth rinse that contain fluoride.
Saliva protects the teeth from decay, but many older adults develop dry mouth. This is often a side effect of medications, which many older adults take. Dry mouth can cause a sticky feeling in your mouth; trouble swallowing; dryness in your throat; dry, cracked lips; a metallic taste in your mouth; persistent bad breath; or increased thirst. If you have dry mouth, you can stimulate saliva production by drinking more water or chewing sugar-free candy or gum. Your dentist may also prescribe a saliva substitute or recommend an over-the-counter product.
Gingivitis is an early form of gum disease that can cause the gums to become swollen or red or to bleed easily. If left untreated, gingivitis can lead to periodontitis, which can cause the gums to pull away from the teeth and form pockets that can become infected. Periodontitis can eventually lead to loss of bone and teeth. Visit your dentist regularly for checkups and cleanings.
The risk of developing oral cancer increases as people age. It is often caused by heavy smoking and alcohol use. The Human Papilloma Virus can also cause oral cancer. The best way to survive oral cancer is to get screened by your dentist and catch it early.
Teeth can become crowded in people over 50, which can cause food to get stuck and lead to decay. Misaligned teeth can also lead to erosion of teeth and damage to supporting tissue and bone. Crowding and periodontal disease can lead to tooth loss. If you believe your teeth have shifted, see an orthodontist. You may need a retainer, spacer, or braces, or you may simply need to get your teeth cleaned more often.