Have you ever thought about how your smile might look different as you get older? Even if you maintain perfect dental hygiene and avoid bad habits like smoking, natural shifts and gradual changes can make a youthful smile appear vastly different as age sets in.
Loss of bone density over time, repeated pressure placed on certain areas of the mouth, teeth grinding, missing or loose teeth, and other issues can lead to a significantly different look than your once-brilliant smile had. Today’s post will explore the factors involved with an aging smile and find out what can be done to repair or enhance it once it’s started changing.
One of the first noticeable areas of a changing smile is a receding set of gums. As we age, gums tend to recede, and this often exposes the soft root surface of the teeth. In this condition, the area becomes not only less attractive but is also no longer protected. This frequently makes them more sensitive to food and beverage temperature, as well as placing them at a greater risk of decay.
Wear and tear
Tooth surfaces wear away from our daily biting, chewing, grinding, misaligned teeth, and other typical wear and tear. When combined with long-term exposure to acidic foods over the years, we can end up with damaged enamel. Wear and tear like this can also lead to flat areas where we bite into and chew our food. If worn down enough, this makes us more susceptible to cavities and more likely to endure sensitive teeth.
Malocclusion, or misalignment, occurs when the upper and lower jaws and teeth are not in proper alignment. The size of the jaw, impacted teeth, and lost teeth can contribute to malocclusions. Heredity can lead to malocclusion, as can thumb-sucking and prolonged pacifier use in childhood. Left untreated, misaligned teeth and jaws can lead to pain, damaged tooth enamel, clicking of the jaw joints, and other problems.
Examples of malocclusions include the overbite, which occurs when the upper jaw is set ahead of the lower jaw, and the underbite, where the opposite is true. Other types of malocclusions are the crossbite, or crossed teeth, crowded teeth, and the open bite, in which the teeth on top and bottom both appear to open outward or slant forward slightly.
Teeth crowding can occur for several reasons, primarily due to the loss of jaw bone density. This loss leads to shrinkage in the bottom jaw area and the squeezing together of the lower teeth. Abnormal swallowing patterns such as tongue thrusting and reverse swallowing, and having endured facial trauma, or chronic mouth breathing may also contribute to teeth crowding.
Post-orthodontic dental shifting
Post-orthodontic teeth shifting can occur after someone has had orthodontic treatment and was prescribed a retainer to hold the teeth in their corrected position. As the mouth ages, corrected teeth can shift gradually out of position if the retainer is not worn as directed or is lost or damaged. A new retainer or orthodontic treatment may be necessary if this occurs.
Gap between teeth
This occurs when the space between the top front teeth widens enough to form a gap, also called a diastema. Unevenly proportioned teeth or jaws may lead to tooth gap, as can repeated tongue pressure when swallowing, teeth crowding, and gum disease.
Ways to keep your smile brighter
While there’s little chance of restoring a shifting smile without the assistance of an orthodontist, there are a few things you can do to keep it in good condition as you age.
Some of these include:
Avoid chewing ice and other hard foods like candies. It can damage your enamel.
If you grind your teeth, see a dentist about getting a bite guard. It can help reduce damage and pain.
Be sure to visit your dentist and/or orthodontist regularly in order to catch any problems early. Getting regular cleanings keeps your teeth spic and span and ensures your gums are healthy, too.
Regular dental care, including brushing with fluoride toothpaste and flossing at least twice per day, in addition to avoiding sugary/starchy foods and acidic beverages as much as possible, are key to keeping your teeth in good condition and limiting wear and tear on them.
Quit smoking if you smoke. Smoking makes you more susceptible to gum disease and plays a considerable role in the development of oral cancer, not to mention staining your teeth and making your breath chronically unpleasant.
If you can’t brush your teeth after eating or drinking acidic things, grab a glass of water and rinse your mouth out.
Reach for fermented foods to encourage the optimal balance of bacteria in your mouth. These foods include not only certain cheeses but also kefir, yogurt, kombucha, sauerkraut, tempeh, kimchi, natto, miso, and more. Find what tastes good to you and eat a little every day.
Choose healthy foods that increase the efficiency of your immune system, as this can also improve your oral health. Grab some dark leafy greens at dinnertime, crush some fresh garlic over your salads and pasta, and work a little sunshine into your life every day for some Vitamin D3 (3, 4, 5).
Adult orthodontic services
Here at Jungle Roots, we offer a range of adult orthodontic services to assess and treat the mature mouth. We find that, based on many of the above-named reasons, much of adult orthodontic work ends up having both cosmetic and medical purposes. We’ve noticed that adult orthodontics has grown to be even more essential now that we are living considerably longer than in the past.
If you’re hesitant to ask about adult orthodontic work because you think adults are past the acceptable age of braces or other such treatments, think again! The truth is, adult braces have increased remarkably over recent years and have now become much more common among those in their 50’s, 60’s, and 70’s as a way to enhance both dental and overall health. Whether you’ve just noticed a slight shift, experienced some type of facial trauma, or simply stopped wearing your retainer too soon after having teenage braces, adult braces can restore a healthy and correct bite as well as enhance your beautiful smile.
The best news? Although adult bones are known to be less malleable than younger patients’ bones, adults are also normally more consistent with their treatment, impeccable about keeping appointments, and fastidious in their dental hygiene routine. This generally means that the time needed to complete adult treatment doesn’t vary that much from a teenage patient’s because adults are more diligent in the care of their braces and teeth. Some of our services include:
Comprehensive assessment and treatment of the alignment, function, and other details of the entire dentition.
Surgery conducted with a maxillofacial surgeon to correct irregularities and other problems such as malocclusions.
The ‘retreatment and relapse’ of orthodontics, which centers around braces that were once successfully worn, but now teeth have headed back to their original position.
Future retainers and supervision are also included in your treatment package here at Jungle Roots, regardless of age!
Book a complimentary consultation today
We invite you to contact us for an appointment if you’re contemplating the idea of adult braces or something similar to brighten up your smile. We’ll be able to examine your teeth and mouth thoroughly and assess your condition, then discuss our findings and options with you. If you aren’t sure about affordability, you will also be able to speak with someone in Insurance and Financial Planning to get an idea of the costs over the course of treatment.
Getting an evaluation and any necessary treatments completed now can assure you of health, both dental and overall, lasting much longer. We’d love to talk with you about your needs and how we can help. We hope to see you soon!
At Jungle Roots Children’s Dentistry & Orthodontics, we strive to provide the highest comprehensive pediatric and orthodontic dental care in a unique, fun-filled environment staffed by a team of caring, energetic professionals. We believe the establishment of a “dental home” at an early age is the key to a lifetime of positive visits to the dentist.
Call Us - (480) 759-1119
Burke, Darla. “Malocclusion of the Teeth: Causes, Symptoms & Diagnosis.” Healthline, Healthline Media, 19 Dec. 2016, www.healthline.com/health/malocclusion-of-teeth.
“4 Ways Your Smile Changes as You Age.” American Association of Orthodontists, 13 Jan. 2020, www.aaoinfo.org/blog/4-ways-your-smile-changes-as-you-age/.
Publishing, Harvard Health. “The Aging Mouth - and How to Keep It Younger.” Harvard Health, www.health.harvard.edu/diseases-and-conditions/the-aging-mouth-and-how-to-keep-it-younger.
Steven Lin, DDS. “Prevent Dental Problems and Keep Smiling When You Get Older.” Verywell Health, 24 Jan. 2020, www.verywellhealth.com/dental-health-in-older-age-4068557.
“Teeth and Aging: How Your Mouth Changes As You Get Older.” WebMD, WebMD, 24 Jan. 2020, www.webmd.com/oral-health/teeth-gums-age#1.