For seniors, the recurrent nightmare of losing teeth is not just a dream – it’s an unfortunate reality. While tooth loss in seniors has decreased since the 1970s, nearly 28 percent of all seniors over 65-years-old have no remaining teeth, according to the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research.¹ The frequency of tooth loss in seniors is higher among minorities, women, lower income earners and smokers. On average, adults over the age of 65 have 18.9 remaining teeth. In comparison, a normal adult mouth has 32 teeth – 28 of which erupt by age 13.
Losing teeth at an older age is normal due to natural wear and tear. Over time, chewing and biting weakens the hard enamel intended to keep natural teeth intact. But, bacteria and plaque that leads to sore and swollen gums can trigger gum infection and periodontitis. When left untreated, gum disease damages the underlying bone and tissue that supports teeth. This causes teeth to loosen, fall out or require professional removal prematurely. Other risk factors for tooth loss include cavities, ongoing dehydration, substance abuse, tobacco use, poor nutrition and physical trauma.
Does Losing Teeth Suggest Inferior Health?
In a study conducted by the University College London, individuals over the age of 60 with teeth performed walking and memory tests 10 percent better than those without any remaining teeth. The researchers concluded that the subjects without teeth likely engaged in other negative behaviors that impacted their results, including smoking and drinking, which aggravated tooth loss. The subjects who still had teeth were healthier in general. Thus, tooth loss can be a strong indication of mental and physical decline in adults between 60- and 74-years-old.²
Another study from Harvard Dental School revealed that people with tooth loss have an increased risk of stroke, supporting previous reports that gum disease (and subsequent tooth loss) increases the risk of heart disease and diabetes.³
The Impact of Tooth Loss
Many seniors opt for dentures after losing teeth to continue a normal lifestyle. While dentures allow seniors to chew easier and smile without fear, they aren’t flawless. Conversing with dentures is difficult since false teeth tend to move while talking or eating. Dining out can lead to embarrassment and conflict, particularly when seniors are limited to eating soft foods that won’t dislodge dentures in public. Overall, dentures provide less than 20 percent of chewing power compared to natural teeth.
Preventing Lost Teeth
As a holistic dentistry, Assure A Smile is committed to teaching patients that strong overall health contributes to healthy teeth and gums for the long-term. And because alcohol and smoking are risk factors for premature tooth loss, we recommend patients – young and old – eliminate negative habits from their life to maintain natural teeth for as long as possible. Not only is smoking and drinking in excess bad for your oral health, these habits contribute to lung cancer and liver disease, among other ailments.
Consider these additional tips to help keep natural teeth intact past the age of 60:
- Eat a balanced diet
- Treat dental problems promptly
- Have teeth and gums checked/cleaned twice annually
- Drink at least 64-oz of water per day to neutralize acids
- Undergo gum disease treatment if recommended
- Limit sugar intake to prevent cavities
- Maintain a regular brushing and flossing routine, twice daily
If you are losing teeth earlier than expected, contact Assure A Smile and schedule a consultation today. Tooth loss at a young age indicates more serious underlying issues, and if not treated, could lead to additional damage, health complications and a diminished quality of life. Assure A Smile offers a range of services for patients with lost teeth, including Miami reconstructive dentistry.