In Your 50s & Beyond
The State of Your Smile
The good news is that your teeth should be less sensitive now, since over time the nerves shrink slightly, says Layliev. The not-so-good news: You might be prone to more plaque buildup than in your earlier years.
Keep an Eye On
A dry mouth: Hundreds of medicines, from antihistamines to antidepressants, can cause a dry mouth. Because saliva flushes away decay-causing bacteria, it’s important to keep your mouth moist by drinking lots of water, chewing sugarless gum, and sucking on sugarless candies.
Your bones: Your jaw, which holds your teeth in place, is obviously a bone. And as you age, your risk of osteoporosis, or weakening of the bones, increases significantly. According to the National Institutes of Health, older women with osteoporosis may be more likely to lose teeth. A dental X-ray can help identify osteoporosis, as can symptoms such as loose teeth. To keep bones strong, the National Institute of Medicine recommends that women over the age of 50 get 1,200 milligrams of calcium and at least 600 international units (IU) of vitamin D daily.
Suspicious sores: A sore that doesn’t go away in two weeks could be a sign of oral-cavity cancer. More than 30,000 Americans are diagnosed annually with the disease. Most of those diagnosed are smokers, but one in four is a nonsmoker.
Burning sensations: When you hit menopause, your mouth can get as hot as your flashes. Called burning-mouth syndrome, this condition can be caused by a drop in estrogen. Your lips, palate, gums, and tongue feel as if you’ve burned them on hot coffee—except the sensation doesn’t subside. “Hormone therapy may help,” says Pamela McClain, a periodontist in Aurora, Colorado. See your dentist to discuss your options.