A lot of us have heard that once you’re past your teens, you don’t have to worry about tooth decay. Your teeth have matured and the enamel is hard and sturdy, so your days of cavities are over, right? Actually, they’re not!
Unfortunately, this just isn’t true. Adults can get cavities, too. In fact, most people over the age of 50 have some form of tooth decay.
And once you’re an adult, you should worry more about cavities. For grownups, decay can have greater, more serious consequences.
The problem for adults is that cavities can occur along the gum line, as gums recede from age. Cavities are caused when the sticky film of bacteria, plaque that coats our teeth is fed by sugars and starches in the food we eat. The bacteria generate acids that break down tooth enamel, causing decay.
When gums recede, tooth roots can become exposed. These roots are covered with cementum, a softer tissue than enamel, and therefore more susceptible to decay. Adults can also find that they have problems with cavities around the edges of fillings, where crevasses can form and trap plaque. Wear and tear on teeth as you age also can create crack or damaged areas on the surfaces of your teeth that can weaken and ultimately be susceptible to cavities.
So as you get older, it’s just as important–if not more so–to brush properly, floss, and have regular cleanings and checkups. Also, it’s important to be aware of changes in your mouth, and to address them promptly so problems don’t get worse. If you notice any sensitivity in your teeth, it’s a good idea to have a dentist check it—even minor discomfort can signal that there’s a problem that should be addressed.
If you chip a tooth, it may not seem too serious, but the broken area may indicate a tooth that’s structurally weak and could become more damaged. Or the broken surface may begin to decay.
The best defense against cavities as an adult? Simple: regular checkups with your dentist, who can spot problems before they become serious, and proper oral hygiene, including brushing and flossing, to prevent plaque from occurring at the gum line and causing gums to recede.
Eating right is also important of course, and being aware of other medical conditions that might affect your teeth. These can include diabetes, cardiovascular disease, cancer, and HIV. Medications may also affect your dental health; ask your doctor or dentist if you think a medication may be having an impact.
With proper care, your teeth should last your lifetime. Charlotte Dentistry® carefully tailors its care to patients of all ages, and we can help you–and everyone in your family–have the proper, ongoing care necessary. If you have questions, don’t hesitate to call us, or use the “Ask the Expert” feature on our website to get answers or schedule your next cleaning.