Skip to Content

Do teeth get weaker with age?

Teeth certainly do get weaker as people age. This is due to a variety of factors that cause our teeth to deteriorate over time. Some of the key reasons why teeth get weaker with age include:

  • Enamel wears down – The outer layer of the tooth (enamel) wears down from use over time. This protective layer gets thinner, making teeth more vulnerable to damage.
  • Gums recede – Gums can recede with age, exposing more of the tooth surface and roots. This leads to increased sensitivity and opportunities for decay.
  • Less saliva – Reduced saliva production in older adults means less natural washing of the teeth, allowing more bacteria buildup.
  • Root structure changes – The roots can become more brittle and prone to fracturing.
  • Previous dental work – Older fillings and dental work can deteriorate, develop cracks, or come loose.

The combination of these natural aging processes makes teeth more susceptible to issues like cavities, fractures, and loss of tooth structure. Maintaining excellent oral hygiene and receiving regular dental care can help reduce the impacts of weakened teeth over time. But some degree of age-related decline is inevitable.

Changes in tooth structure

Teeth consist of multiple layers working together to make them strong, durable for chewing, and protected. Here is an overview of the tooth structure and how it changes with age:


Enamel is the outermost layer of the tooth. It is the hardest substance in the human body. It helps protect the sensitive dentin underneath.

– Enamel wears down over decades of use from chewing and teeth grinding. This protective covering thins, exposing more underlying dentin.

– Enamel also undergoes mineralization changes over time, reducing hardness. The enamel loses its elasticity and becomes more brittle.

– With less enamel, teeth become less white and more yellow as the dentin color shows through. Teeth appear darker and get stains more easily.


Dentin makes up the bulk of the tooth below the enamel and above the inner pulp. It has microscopic tubules that allow sensations like pressure and temperature.

– As the enamel layer wears down, more dentin is exposed. Dentin is softer than enamel, so teeth are more vulnerable to damage and decay.

– Dentin tends to get darker with age, causing teeth to appear more yellow or brown.

– The fluid in the dentin tubules can shrink, making teeth less flexible and more brittle.


The pulp contains nerves, blood vessels, and connective tissue. It nourishes the tooth and anchors teeth in the jaw.

– The pulp chamber and canals tend to become narrower over time.

– Calcification reduces the blood supply to the pulp, so it is less sensitive and able to heal from injury.

– A brittle, narrowed pulp is more vulnerable to fracture.


Cementum covers the tooth root and anchors teeth to the bone. It continues forming over life.

– More cementum makes teeth longer and more protruded with age. But the cementum is softer than enamel.

– Cementum doesn’t repair well after injury, leading to issues like root fractures.

Gums and bone

The gums and jawbone anchor teeth in place and protect tooth roots.

– Gums tend to recede with age, exposing vulnerable root surfaces.

– Bone density and volume decrease over time. Reduced bone support leads to loose teeth.

– Thinner gums and weaker bone increase the chances of tooth loss.

Key reasons teeth get weaker

Here are some of the major factors that contribute to age-related weakening of teeth:

Enamel wear

The enamel protects teeth from damage and decay. But enamel wear is unavoidable as we use our teeth over decades. Teeth grinding from stress also accelerates enamel thinning. With less of this outer armor, teeth become weaker.

Gum recession

Gums can recede with age due to thin vulnerable gum tissue. Certain medications and health issues also cause gum recession. Receding gums expose more sensitive root surfaces. Without gum protection, teeth are more prone to decay and fracture.

Reduced saliva

Saliva helps buffer acids, wash away food debris, and contain calcium and phosphate to strengthen enamel. As saliva production decreases with age, teeth are more vulnerable to bacteria, acids, and plaque buildup. Dry mouth promotes cavities and other problems.

Root exposure

Tooth roots are normally protected by enamel, cementum, and the gums. But with receding gums, the softer cementum and dentin of the roots get exposed. Unprotected roots are more sensitive and prone to decay and erosion.

Aging dental work

Older dental fillings and crowns can become defective over decades of use. Cracks allow bacteria and fluids to seep in and cause decay. This deteriorating dental work accelerates age-related weakening.

Brittle roots

The cementum covering roots tends to get thicker but more brittle with age. Pressure from chewing and clenched jaw muscles can cause fragile cementum to crack. Exposed root surfaces don’t heal well.

Mineralization changes

Enamel and dentin mineral content changes over decades. The materials become less hard but more brittle. This reduced structural integrity makes teeth more fracture-prone.

Less flexible pulp

The pulp shrinks in size and fluid with age. A stiff, narrow pulp chamber is weaker and gets damaged more easily, increasing the risk of tooth fractures.

Poor restorations

Old silver amalgam fillings expand over time, causing fractures in surrounding tooth structure. Poor quality restorations done decades ago can accelerate aging tooth issues.

Grinding and clenched jaw

Teeth grinding from stress and clenching puts excessive forces on teeth that can chip enamel or crack the underlying roots. This is exacerbated by thin enamel.

Bone loss

Diminished bone volume and density from osteoporosis can lead to loose teeth that shift or wiggle. Reduced bone support allows teeth movement that strains the ligaments.

Effects of weakened teeth

Here are some of the common effects that can occur as teeth grow weaker with age:

– Increased cavities – With less protective enamel and reduced saliva flow, teeth get more cavities.

– Greater staining – Thinner enamel allows more dentin to show through, causing yellowish teeth that stain more easily.

– Chipped teeth – Brittle enamel chips more readily from everyday biting forces.

– Temperature sensitivity – Dentin exposure from worn enamel leads to increased sensitivity to hot and cold.

– Tooth fractures – Cracked cusps and broken teeth occur more often due to weakened tooth structure.

– Loose teeth – Reduced bone support plus receding gums allow teeth to loosen or drift.

– Tooth loss – Severely compromised tooth structure may require extraction if repair is not possible.

– Chewing difficulty – Worn, fractured, or loose teeth make chewing less efficient, reducing nutrition.

– TMJ/jaw pain – Worn, loose teeth can lead to bite changes, imbalanced forces, and pain.

– Embarrassment – Discolored, chipped, or missing teeth can cause social embarrassment.

– Infection risk – Decayreaching the pulp can more readily cause dangerous infections.

Prevention and treatment

While some tooth weakening is inevitable with age, many proactive steps can slow the process and reduce the impacts.

Preventive care

– Brush and floss thoroughly twice a day to minimize plaque buildup.

– Use fluoridated toothpaste to strengthen enamel.

– Get regular dental cleanings and exams to catch problems early.

– Wear a nightguard if you grind your teeth.

– Drink water and chew sugarless gum to combat dry mouth.

Restorative treatments

– Fillings repair cavities preventing further decay.

– Crowns strengthen compromised teeth.

– Dental implants replace missing teeth to avoid bone loss.

– Root canals save deeply decayed teeth.

– Gum grafts and bone grafts protect roots and support teeth.

– Dentures and bridges replace lost teeth and your smile.

Watch for red flags

See your dentist promptly if you notice any of the following:

– Tooth pain or sensitivity

– Chipped, cracked or fractured teeth

– Worn enamel or exposed roots

– Loose teeth, changes in bite

– Red, swollen, or bleeding gums

– White spots indicating decay

– Bad breath or taste that won’t go away

Effects by age

Here is a summary of how teeth tend to weaken during each decade of life:

Age 20s to 40s

– Early enamel wear from chewing patterns

– Some gingival recession appears

– First signs of chipping at biting edges

– Small restorations like fillings may need replacement

Age 50s

– Noticeably thinner enamel

– More dentin visible through enamel

– Mild gum recession around 2+ teeth

– Higher staining and yellowing

– More frequent chipping and fractures

Age 60s

– Widespread areas of enamel loss

– Increasing temperature sensitivity

– Gums receding on multiple teeth

– More exposed darker root surfaces

– Higher rate of decay and tooth fractures

– Older dental work needs replacement

Age 70s

– Thin translucent enamel

– Roots exposed due to receding gums

– Reduced bone density; teeth loosen

– Brittle roots prone to fracturing

– Pulp chambers become smaller

– Loss of multiple teeth common

Impact on dental treatments

Age-related tooth weakening also influences the type and success of various dental treatments:


– Weak understructure requires more extensive fillings to restore strength.

– Bonds between materials and weakened enamel may fail sooner.

– More fractures around large old fillings due to reduced tooth structure.


– Softer bone causes reduced implant stability and integration.

– Structural issues like enamel loss require larger implants.

– Higher implant failure rates compared to young patients.


– Compromised underlying teeth mandate fuller crown coverage.

– Weak remaining tooth structure demands crown protection.

– Fractured teeth need crowns to hold the pieces together.


– Abutment teeth must be strong enough to anchor the bridge.

– Increased risk of decay around abutments with gingival recession.

– May need crowns on abutments to strengthen them.


– Resorbed ridges require relining or remaking ill-fitting dentures more often.

– Thin fragile ridges prone to tissue damage from dentures.

– Loose teeth and bone loss reduce denture stability.

Age-related risks

Here are some specific concerns related to dental health as you age:


– Accelerated dental decay
– Loose teeth requiring splinting
– Increased tooth fractures and breakage
– Age-darkened teeth need aesthetic treatment


– Risk of aspiration during dental procedures
– Difficulty chewing due to extensive tooth loss
– Brittle teeth and roots prone to cracking
– Higher prevalence of root and coronal decay


– Greatly slowed wound healing after extractions
– Severely resorbed ridges worsen denture fit
– Increased likelihood of xerostomia
– Behavior management challenges


– Functional and social issues from tooth loss
– Difficulty cleaning own teeth due to dexterity loss
– High decay risk with poor home care
– Frail patients intolerant of long appointments


Aging takes a significant toll on tooth structure and health in multiple ways. But proactive care from an early age can help to minimize tooth weakening over time. Receiving regular dental cleanings, promptly treating any problems, and practicing excellent daily oral hygiene makes a big difference. Using protective appliances and avoiding destructive habits also helps maintain tooth strength as you get older. With proper care, teeth that function well and look great into old age are certainly achievable.