T ooth care can be more challenging with age. Certain dental problems ­can increase, and Medicare and most supplementary plans offer paltry dental coverage, if any. A recent University of Michigan National Poll on Healthy Aging found that 40 percent of people 50 to 64 don’t get regular dental care, and the figures are similar for those older than 65.

“Dental care is a health issue, a function issue, and a quality-of-life issue,” says Judith Jones, D.D.S., American Dental Association spokeswoman on elder-care dentistry. “And you wouldn’t want the appearance of your teeth or pain to keep you from eating a healthy diet or going out and socializing with family and friends.”

Here are strategies to ease six common dental concerns of aging.

Plaque Buildup
You might have a harder time removing plaque as you get older. “As bone recedes, the space ­between teeth may change, increasing the tendency to collect food between teeth,” says Jay W. Friedman, D.D.S., M.P.H., a dental consultant and consumer healthcare advocate in Los Angeles.

Finger arthritis can make it tough to floss away these bits, but devices such as interdental brushes, floss picks, and water flossers can help with tooth care.

Gum Disease
“As gums recede with age, more of your teeth’s root surfaces are exposed,” says James Bader, D.D.S., M.P.H., professor emeritus at the University of North Carolina School of Dentistry.

Because root surfaces are less decay-resistant than tooth enamel, you could see more cavities emerge, he notes.

In addition to daily brushing and flossing, experts recommend rinsing with a fluoride mouthwash for good tooth care. If gums continue receding, you may need more frequent dental appointments for root planing and scaling, Bader says.

Tooth Sensitivity
Experiencing a sharp pain when a hot or cold liquid touches a tooth is often an early sign of a cavity, so have your dentist check.

If it’s not cavity-related—tooth sensitivity can also occur when root surfaces are exposed—consider using a toothpaste or rinse formulated to ­reduce sensitivity. If one product is ­ineffective, try another one.

Brittle Teeth
Wear and tear can make teeth more fracture-prone, especially if they have fillings.

For good tooth care, be careful with hard-to-chew foods such as crusty bread. If you suspect a fracture and are in pain, see the dentist.

“Definitely have it checked within a couple of weeks to a month,” Jones says. “If you wait too long, there is a possibility it will be irreparable and need to be removed.”

Dry Mouth
Saliva not only keeps your mouth comfortably moist but also bathes teeth—which helps prevent bacteria buildup.

Age alone won’t necessarily make your mouth drier, but many medications can.

Sipping water frequently, chewing sugar-free gum, and avoiding mouthwashes that contain alcohol (which is drying) can help.

Bridge and Implant Problems
Fixed bridges and dentures may trap food and bacteria, leading to decay. Drugstore products called floss threaders let you floss under a bridge. Water flossers also let you clean these hard-to-reach spaces.

And for overall good tooth care, be sure to see your dentist for exams—depending on your oral health, you might need to do this only every year or two.

In addition, don’t delay on dental problems that cause pain or concern. “Things deteriorate more quickly at 70 than they do at 20,” Bader says.

Editor's Note: This article also appeared in the January 2018 issue of Consumer Reports on Health.