Skip to main content

What to expect as your mouth ages

Posted on June 6, 2024 in Healthy You

older man looking at dental x-rays with dentist and hygienist

Our smiles are a window to our health, and that’s true throughout our lives. But as we age, our bodies — including our mouths — change. Fortunately, with a little extra care and understanding, you can keep your smile healthy for years to come.

Oral health changes that come with age

Because older adults tend to take more medications and live with chronic conditions, they are more likely to face certain oral health complications, including:

  • Dry mouth: Many seniors experience a decrease in saliva production, leading to dry mouth. Not only can dry mouth make speaking and swallowing difficult, but it also increases your risk of cavities.
  • Sensitive gums: As you get older, you may notice that brushing and flossing can become more uncomfortable due to gum sensitivity. This may be a sign of gum disease. Proper oral hygiene is important to prevent gum disease, which can lead to tooth loss when it progresses to the severe stage.
  • Tooth wear and tear: Years of chewing and grinding can wear down tooth enamel (the outer layer of your tooth), making teeth more likely to chip and develop sensitivity.
  • Medication side effects: Some medications have side effects that impact oral health, such as dry mouth or thrush (a fungal infection). Always tell your dentist about the medications you are taking, and talk to your doctor if you develop bothersome oral health side effects to your medications. Do not stop taking medications because of these side effects before speaking with your doctor first.

Staying healthy in the face of change: Tips to protect your healthy smile

It can be upsetting when you develop certain changes in your teeth, mouth and gums, but the simple strategies and lifestyle habits below can support your oral health well into your later years.

  • Regular dental visits: Schedule your preventive dental visits twice a year to monitor your oral health and address any concerns early on, when they’re easier and less costly to treat. Also, don't ignore any persistent mouth pain or discomfort between your appointments. Call your dentist to get it checked out, as it could be a sign of a dental problem requiring treatment.

Need help finding a dentist near you? Delta Dental’s online Find a Provider tool can share a list of nearby in-network dentists. You can also call our Customer Service team via the number on the back of your Delta Dental ID card, and we can help find you a dentist.

  • Good at-home oral hygiene: Use a soft-bristled toothbrush and gently brush to avoid irritating your gums. Flossing daily is important to remove plaque and bacteria between teeth. Consider using a water flosser if traditional flossing is difficult. And don’t forget your tongue: Brushing your tongue gently helps remove bacteria and freshen breath.
  • Stay hydrated: Drinking plenty of water helps combat dry mouth and keeps your mouth healthy. Sugar-free gum or lozenges also help boost saliva production.
  • Eat well: Limiting sugary foods and drinks helps prevent cavities. Focus on a balanced diet rich in fruits, vegetables and calcium to support strong teeth and bones.
  • Denture care: Properly cleaning and caring for your dentures are essential to preventing gum irritation and maintaining a good fit. Schedule regular checkups with your dentist to ensure a good, comfortable fit.

Good oral health supports your good overall health

Taking care of your oral health goes beyond just a healthy smile. Several studies have shown a link between poor oral health and other health problems, such as heart disease, diabetes and Alzheimer's disease.1 When you take care of your oral health, you’re also taking care of your overall health.

You can keep a healthy, beautiful smile through your golden years. By understanding the changes that come with age, adopting a consistent dental care routine and seeing your dentist twice a year, you can keep a vibrant smile for life.


National Library of Medicine

American Dental Association


1. American Dental Association