This month we’re taking a look at how ageing affects women’s dental health and what you can do to keep your teeth strong and healthy.
How does ageing affect women’s dental health?
As adults get older, some dental problems become more commonplace. However, the hormonal fluctuations that accompany the menopause can also mean women in their 60s and older are at a greater risk of certain conditions. Older women should look out for:
- Receding gums – Your gums shrink, as you age. This can expose the dentin which has channels that connect to the nerve. Therefore, you might experience tooth weakening as well as more sensitivity. On the other hand, our teeth lay more dentin as we age, which can block sensitivity. This sounds useful but it has a sinister side. If you develop tooth decay, it could take you longer to realise if your pain is numbed.
- Gum disease – We’ve already seen how women are at a greater risk of gum disease (or gingivitis), but it’s also high amongst older people too. Advanced gum disease, also known as periodontal disease, can cause bone loss, a potentially bigger problem in women who already suffer from osteoporosis, so it’s important to keep on top of. If you notice bleeding, receding gums and loose teeth, as well as bad breath, speak to your dentist.
- Tooth decay & tooth loss – There are some things that don’t get any easier with age, and tooth decay is one. Those aged 60 and over are twice as likely as 30-year-olds to develop cavities, with the area around the ‘neck’ or sides of the tooth (where it meets the gum line) most at risk. This is because receding gums can make parts of your tooth which aren’t coated in protective enamel more exposed to plaque.
- Yellowing teeth – The dentin inside your tooth, which is a yellow colour, can start to show through as your tooth enamel starts to thin with age.
- Dry mouth – Declining levels of oestrogen as well as any medications you’re taking for medical conditions could be giving you a dry mouth. This can cause bad breath and be a trigger for bacteria to spread, leading to tooth decay. Some women also report a ‘burning mouth’ sensation which can affect the tongue, lips, roof of the mouth and gums.
- Mouth cancer – Unfortunately, our chance of developing a disease grows as we age and mortality rates become higher. Nearly half of deaths from oral cancer between 2012 and 2014 were in those aged over 70, while risk increases drastically from around the age of 65-69 in women. Oral cancer is characterised by sores in your mouth that don’t heal or which recur, as well as red or white patches and growths on the lower lip. Smoking, drinking alcohol, poor diet and using tobacco are major causes.
How your teeth affect your overall health
It might surprise you to know that your mouth is the gateway to your body. Several studies have been done which have linked an increased risk of heart disease and stroke back to dental problems.
There are also studies into how hormone replacement therapy (HRT) could improve bone mass, having a positive impact on periodontal disease in older women.
How to look after dental health into old age
- Drink plenty of water throughout the day and suck sugar-free boiled sweets to boost saliva production and prevent mouth dryness.
- Clean your teeth and/or dentures thoroughly and regularly. This means removing the plaque from them before you go to bed and at least one other time in the day.
- Use interdental brushes every day to remove plaque trapped on exposed areas of your teeth where the gum has receded.
- Ask your hygienist about teeth whitening treatments. While they won’t do much about dentin showing through, they will be able to remove stains from tea, coffee, wine and tobacco which may have built up to help restore some whiteness to your smile.
- Regularly check your mouth for signs of oral cancer, such as sores which don’t heal and speak to your doctor and dentist as soon as possible if you notice anything wrong.
- Cut your risk of mouth cancer by stopping smoking, drinking less alcohol and eating healthily (more info here).
- If you experience tooth loss or breakages, discuss dentures or dental implants with our dental team who will be able to advise on the best solution for your needs.
If you’d like to discuss how ageing affects your dental health, speak to us at Number 18 Dental today. Our friendly, boutique dental practice in Notting Hill offers everything from advice and emergency appointments to cosmetic treatments.
Or why not read last month’s post on how pregnancy affects women’s dental health?