This article is a part of our Q&A series in which we give detailed answers to our readers' questions. Have a question? Don't hesitate and send it to us to get a detailed answer!
The answer to this question is mixed. Human teeth are generally designed to last a lifetime but since our lifespans increased dramatically and often our habits changed for worse it became a lot more challenging. In some cases teeth can get brittle with age, but that is not always the case.
The aging process impacts every part of the body, including the teeth and mouth. As time goes on, the teeth are exposed to years of wear, tear, and exposure to substances like acid and sugar that can weaken them. Brittle teeth are not a certainty but are more likely to occur as individuals age if proper care is not taken.
Dentin – inner part of teeth
When trying to answer this question it’s important two consider two external layers of teeth separately – the first one, called dentin is the living part inside each tooth and research shows that it actually grows weaker with age in some people. This layer is similar to your bones – you can keep it in good shape by a proper diet that includes calcium, and vitamins like D, K2, C, and E. Please note that hormonal changes related to menopause or pregnancy may worsen the situation. Weaker dentin may also cause your fillings to fall out as they age, but don’t worry – they can be easily replaced with a new ones!
Enamel – outer part of teeth
The outer part of your teeth – enamel is not affected by your diet and overall health and it should not get brittle as you age. However it may get brittle regardless of your age if you do not care for your mouth properly. This includes: having too low pH levels in your mouth (causing dental erosion – enamel thinning), grinding your teeth, having tooth decay or gum disease, and not using fluoride or hydroxyapatite products in your oral care regime. The worst case scenario is having multiple problems at once – please note that if your enamel is weakened also dental procedures like scaling (dental cleaning) may further damage your teeth causing hairline cracks called craze lines. When enamel becomes thinner it is less able to protect the inner layers of the tooth. As a result, this can make our teeth more vulnerable to tooth decay and other types of damage. Additionally, gums can recede with age, exposing more of the tooth root and making the teeth more sensitive. This also poses more risk of tooth decay, erosion, bone loss and even losing a tooth.
Changes in Teeth Structure with Age
As teeth age, certain structural changes may contribute to them becoming more brittle:
- Enamel Wear: The enamel is the hard outer layer of the tooth. With time, this enamel can wear down, making the teeth more susceptible to cavities and decay.
- Dentin Changes: Dentin is the layer beneath the enamel. As you age, the tubules within the dentin can narrow, reducing the tooth’s flexibility and making it more brittle.
- Decreased Saliva Production: With age, there may be a reduction in saliva production. Since saliva plays a crucial role in remineralizing the teeth and protecting them from decay, reduced saliva can contribute to the teeth becoming more brittle.
- Gum Recession: Age is also associated with gum recession, which can expose the roots of the teeth. This makes them more vulnerable to decay and contributes to brittleness.
Contributing Factors to Brittle Teeth
Several factors, aside from age, can contribute to the brittleness of teeth:
- Diet: Consuming foods and drinks high in sugar and acids can accelerate enamel wear.
- Bruxism: Grinding or clenching the teeth, known as bruxism, can wear down enamel.
- Medications: Certain medications, especially those that cause dry mouth, can contribute to oral health issues.
- Oral Hygiene: Poor oral hygiene can lead to the buildup of plaque and tartar, which can contribute to decay.
Measures to Maintain Strong Teeth
There are several measures individuals can take to maintain the strength of their teeth as they age:
- Regular Dental Checkups: Regular visits to the dentist can help in identifying issues early.
- Proper Oral Hygiene: Brushing and flossing daily is essential in maintaining the health of teeth.
- Healthy Diet: Eating a balanced diet with limited sugary and acidic foods can protect teeth. Have a good healthy diet that includes calcium and vitamins D, K2, E and C – you can read more on this topic in other articles on our site
- Fluoride Treatment: Using toothpaste with fluoride or getting professional fluoride treatments can strengthen enamel.
- Managing Dry Mouth: If you have dry mouth due to medications, talk to your doctor about possible solutions.
- Night guards for protection: If you are grinding your teeth consider using a mouth guard during nighttime, and try to avoid this habit during daytime
- Not abusing your teeth: Do not use your teeth as a tool they are meant for chewing food, not for opening packages, bottles, or chewing hard objects
- Protect teeth from acid exposure: Limit acidic beverages, and if you have acid reflux consider elevating head side of your bed by at least 6 inches
- Proper breathing: If you’re a mouth breather consider taping your mouth for the night so that your teeth will be constantly bathed in saliva
While aging can bring about changes in the teeth that make them more susceptible to becoming brittle, it doesn’t have to be an inevitable part of the aging process. Through vigilant oral hygiene, regular dental visits, and lifestyle adjustments, individuals can maintain strong, healthy teeth well into their golden years. The key is proactive care and a commitment to prioritizing oral health as an integral component of overall well-being.
This Q&A series article is complete and was published on October 25, 2018, and last updated on July 27, 2023.