Looking after your teeth and gums is vital for a healthy mouth no matter what your age.
More people are keeping their teeth for longer mainly due to an improvement in the use of fluoride toothpaste and regular toothbrushing.
It is important to keep up a good oral hygiene regime. Brush your teeth twice a day with fluoride toothpaste, visit the dentist regularly and try not to consume too many sugary foods or drinks, especially between meals.
Teeth should last a lifetime if you look after them properly and visit the dentist regularly.
People over 50 generally need their mouths maintaining on a regular basis. Any fillings, crowns and bridges, or false teeth that have been provided in the past do still need checking from time to time. They might need repairing, or new ones made.
Problems with teeth and gums are usually easier to treat if caught early, and you are more likely to keep your teeth for longer. Healthy mouths are important for speaking as well as enjoying your food.
The crowns of teeth continue to decay if not looked after, so regular visits to the dentist are important at any age.
Also, receding gums gradually expose the roots of teeth, and these can decay too. Roots are softer than the crowns of teeth, and holes form quicker (dentists call this type of decay root caries). Holes in roots can be filled in the same way as holes in the crowns (or, the top parts) of teeth.
Gums (gum disease)
The effects of gum disease tend to get worse as people get older, so visits to the dentist to check gum health, and have your teeth cleaned professionally are important.
Older people tend to have more gum recession, which is what happens if you have gum disease over many years. This is why older people are sometimes called long in the tooth.
The lining of the mouth (soft tissues)
The skin inside the mouth, for example on the lips, insides of the cheeks, the palate (roof of the mouth), on the tongue and down the throat and needs checking from time to time to make sure it is healthy. Regular examinations can help dentists to spot problems early.
It has been found that mouth cancer is more common in people over 40 years, especially if they smoke, or if they drink excessively, but younger people can get it too. Did you know that around half of the 4,000 people diagnosed with mouth cancer every year in the UK die of it because it is discovered too late?
The effects of tooth loss
When teeth have been lost, they usually leave gaps in the mouth which can make eating difficult and affect your appearance. As more and more teeth are lost, eating and speaking becomes more difficult, and people sometimes experience discomfort around the jaw joints.
Dentures are false teeth which are fixed onto a plate and can be removed from the mouth for cleaning. You can have as many teeth as you like on a denture, ranging from one tooth to a full set. Dentures are often just made out of plastic, but some have metal parts that don't usually show, to make them stronger and less likely to move about.
Bridges are false teeth which are permanently fixed in the mouth. They are anchored in place by being attached to one or more natural teeth either side of the gap usually. Materials used to make bridges include metal and porcelain. Porcelain can be made to look like natural teeth, and colours added when it is fired so that it matches your own tooth colour. Not all gaps are suitable for bridges, as it often depends on how healthy the remaining natural teeth are, and how many there are left.
Implants are another way of replacing missing teeth. It involves surgery to place a type of screw in the jaw, and then a crown is attached on top which is the part you can see. Implants are fixed in place permanently, and must be kept clean in the same way as natural teeth. Sometimes, removable dentures (or false teeth) are made to fit over implants, so that the dentures are removed for cleaning, but the implants stay in the mouth.