Aging process affects health of teeth, gums

We all notice the effects of aging – wrinkles, graying hair, a variety of aches and pains. You mouth is also affected by the aging process. Understanding – and talking with your dentist about – these changes is important to maintaining good oral health.

Dry Mouth:

Older adults often have a dry mouth that results from reduced saliva flow. The decrease in saliva flow is caused by certain medical disorders and is often a side effect of medications such as antihistamines, decongestants, painkillers and diuretics. Left untreated, dry mouth can damage your teeth and lead to cavities.

Sense of taste:

Certain diseases, medications and dentures can contribute to a decrease in your sense of taste.


Recession of the gums away from the teeth combined with increased incidence of gum disease can expose tooth roots to plaque. Tooth roots are susceptible to decay. The majority of people over 50 have tooth root decay. Decay around the edges of fillings is common.

Gum disease:

The majority of adults have some form of periodontal (gum) disease, which is a major cause of tooth loss among adults. The bacteria, which thrive on the sugars and starches in foods you eat, create toxins that irritate the gums. Slowly, and often without pain, the gums detach from the teeth. If not treated, the supporting bone may dissolve, causing the teeth to become loose. Signs to look for include gums that are red, swollen, tender, bleed easily, or have pus between the gums and teeth.

Timothy S. Rose is president of the American Dental Association, based in Chicago, representing 143,000 member dentists.