Tooth loss doesn’t have to occur as we age. When adults lose a tooth, it’s usually from knocking it out or having poor oral health. There are a variety of oral health conditions that can lead to tooth loss. Dental caries, or cavities, and gum disease are the most common. When we’re young, if we have a poor dental health routine, we’re going to carry those habits with us into adulthood. But, if we’re aware of the impact that our oral health (and tooth loss) can have on our lives, we can take proper care. When we practice good preventive dental care, the likelihood for caries and oral disease drop dramatically.
In the modern era of preventive care, dentists now choose more restorative methods over tooth extraction. This means that complete tooth loss and extraction are becoming less common. The American Dental Association found that in the past 50 years, complete tooth loss decreased by over 75 percent in adults 65-74! Learn how tooth loss occurs and what steps we can all take to preserve our teeth and oral health.
Preventive Dental Care and Natural Teeth in Old Age
The two factors that influence tooth loss the most are age group and household income. Half a century ago, total tooth loss was three times more common than it is today. Preventive dental care has made it possible for us to keep our natural teeth into old age. The current rate of tooth loss is the lowest it has ever been in the United States. But why?
Studies found that some of the most common oral health concerns facing older adults are:
- Dental Caries – caries, or cavities, are still a problem today for older adults.
- Periodontal Disease – This is more commonly known as gum disease. If left untreated, gum disease can take on a more serious form that causes infected pockets along the teeth.
What are the positive impacts of keeping our natural teeth in old age?
It’s been proven that individuals with their natural teeth have better quality of life. Dr. Bruce Dye, a researcher with the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research, wrote that “tooth loss can reduce quality of life and lessen the likelihood of eating a healthy and diverse diet.” When an individual has more teeth, they have “an increased need to protect [their] oral health,” which in turn improves their overall quality of life.
Research has proven that we progressively alter our food choices as the number of teeth we have decreases. Our ability to chew successfully breaks down our food and helps release flavor. This directly impacts our satisfaction when eating. Many of us with missing teeth report eating less of foods that are harder to chew. Unfortunately, we often give up fruits, veggies, and proteins. If foods like this are prepared for those of us without teeth by removing skin or mashing, they often lose much of the nutrients they supply. “Patients who are edentulous (or without teeth) tend to favor softer, more processed foods, which are typically higher in cholesterol and fat content.” Preserving our natural teeth into old age keeps our bodies healthy and positively impacts our self-confidence, too.
Take the time to discuss with your dentist how you can improve your smile health. Still looking for a dentist? Click here to find one in your area.