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Why Do Teeth Lose Their Whiteness As We Age?

Aging is a long, drawn-out process that comes with changes throughout the body, including the mouth. While some people retain a large part of their teeth’s youthful white color and strength, most others deal with the inevitable wear and tear over time, including the loss of whiteness.

At Hometown Family Dental Centers, with locations in Fayetteville, Vass, and Raeford, North Carolina, our expert dental professionals want you to understand the “why” behind your teeth changing, including their color. That way, you’ll know which dental restoration options will be best for you.

Age affects oral health

None of the age-related changes you see happen overnight. They all creep along bit by bit until you suddenly realize there’s been a change. At a bodily level:

All these changes affect soft tissue and bone in the mouth, increasing the risk for oral health problems.

Common oral health problems in older adults

Several oral health problems worsen in older adults.

Dry mouth

Older adults are more prone to dry mouth because of age, medication use, or underlying health conditions.

Saliva is the unsung hero for its role in maintaining oral health. Saliva washes away food debris and bacteria from your teeth and gums, eliminating plaque before it builds up.  When the salivary glands don't produce enough saliva, it increases the risk of:

Your mouth produces a little less saliva as you age, but underlying medical problems in this population are the more common causes of dry mouth.

Many medications, including some used to treat high blood pressure, high cholesterol, pain, and depression, come with side effects that include reducing the amount of saliva you produce. It may be hard to counter, as the elderly are more likely to have multiple chronic conditions requiring medication, and side effects pile up.

Health conditions such as diabetes, stroke, and Sjögren syndrome can affect your ability to produce saliva. Artificial saliva (e.g., Biotene®) may be one solution.

Gum disease

Receding gums, where the gum tissue pulls away from the tooth roots, exposing them, are common in older adults. Exposed roots make it easy for bacteria to build up and cause inflammation and decay.

While years of brushing too hard may lead to receding gums, periodontal disease is the most common cause of this condition.

Certain conditions common in older adults put them at risk for periodontal disease:

It’s important for individuals and their caregivers to ensure they maintain good oral hygiene habits to prevent periodontal disease.

Dental caries

When harmful bacteria in the mouth feast on sugars and starches from food debris, they convert them to acid, which etches away at the protective enamel covering and leads to cavities.

Cavities are common in older adults for two reasons: More adults keep their teeth for their lifetime,  and older adults often have receding gums, so cavities develop more often at the tooth root.

The lack of enough saliva also allows bacteria to build up in the mouth more quickly, leading to decay.

Teeth losing their whiteness

Over time, the hard protective enamel that covers your teeth thins, so the natural yellowish-brown color of the dentin layer beneath it shows through. At the same time, the dentin layer expands, giving your tooth color a double hit. No amount of brushing or flossing removes the color because it’s inside the tooth.

Some teeth whitening processes penetrate the dentin, while others only remove the stains that form on the outer tooth layer. Talk to one of our dentists about which product or procedure is best for you.

To get started, contact Hometown Family Dental Centers by phone or on the website.

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