Tooth loss doesn’t have to occur as we age. When adults lose a tooth, there’s a good chance it’s because of poor oral health. There are a variety of oral health conditions that can lead to tooth loss. Cavities and periodontal disease are the most common. If we have a poor dental health routine when we’re young, 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 properly care for our teeth. When we practice good preventive dental care, the likelihood of developing caries and oral diseases drops dramatically.
Now, in the modern era of preventive care, dentists 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 years of age! Learn how tooth loss occurs and what steps you can take to preserve your teeth and dental 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. The introduction of 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?
Technological advancements have allowed us to see the positive impact that dental care and a proper diet have on our dental health. Studies have proven that:
- frequency of tooth brushing,
- regular dental check-ups,
- and following the proper daily care routine
showed statistically significant associations with the level of plaque each individual has. When we don’t properly care for our teeth, we set ourselves up for a lifetime of dental health struggles.
Studies found that some of the most common oral health concerns facing seniors are periodontal disease and dental caries.
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. Avoid gingivitis by:
- maintaining a healthy diet,
- practicing a good daily dental health care routine,
- quit smoking
- see your dentist regularly.
Dental Caries – caries, or cavities, are still a problem today for seniors for the following reasons:
- Trouble retaining their natural teeth longer, resulting in tooth loss
- Age-related changes in the mouth such as a decrease in salivation
- Poor diet
- Prescribed medication causing dry mouth.
Many individuals experience a combination of these factors.
Seniors will often neglect their dental health because they place more importance on other health issues. As a result, many of them have a negative attitude toward their dental health and the neglect continues. Therefore, preventive dental care becomes more important for seniors because factors introduced later in life have a great impact on oral health. Make a dentist appointment today to keep any looming dental problems at bay. This will increase both smile health and the individual’s confidence in their smile.
What are the positive impacts of keeping our natural teeth in old age?
It has been proven that individuals with their natural teeth have a better quality of life. Dr. Bruce Dye is a researcher with the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research. He recently 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. Individuals with missing teeth report eating less foods that are harder to chew, including fruits, veggies, and proteins. If foods like this are prepared for someone without teeth by removing skin or mashing, they often lose much of the nutrients they would supply otherwise. “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 boosts our self-confidence.
Take the time to discuss improving your oral health with your dentist. Still looking for a dentist? Click here to find one in your area.