Despite the fact that nearly 30% of American seniors are missing all of their teeth and another almost 180 million are missing at least one tooth, losing teeth as you age is not natural! Your teeth are firmly rooted in your jaw and meant to provide you with a lifetime of use. While there are several culprits behind missing teeth as we get older, age simply isn’t a factor. So what are the reasons that we lose our teeth as we age?
As we age, we’re more at risk to develop gum disease, or periodontal disease. The elderly population has the highest rates of gum disease, and this could be so for many reasons. One of the reasons is that gum disease is often not noticeable until it’s too late to reverse—this is especially true if you smoke, which can constrict blood vessels in the mouth and inhibit the signs and symptoms of gum disease from appearing.
These symptoms include red and swollen gums, bleeding while brushing, and tooth sensitivity. Gum disease will eventually begin to affect your tooth’s roots. Our teeth need firm, healthy gums to support them. When your gums and the connective tissues that support your teeth are compromised, teeth can become loose and fall out.
Poor Oral Hygiene Habits
Taking the best care of our teeth starts early in life and continues throughout our lives. While occasionally skipping nightly brushing likely won’t have a huge impact on your smile, years of doing this can cause bacteria to accumulate at an accelerated pace. These bad bacteria in your mouth can lead to enamel erosion, cavities, tooth decay, and gum disease.
As we age, we’re more prone to lose teeth if we’ve been neglecting brushing or flossing on a regular basis. Dental checkups are a big part of this picture—your dentist can spot areas you’re regularly missing and remove built-up plaque during your visit. When we neglect our dental health, we’re setting ourselves up for tooth loss later in life!
Trauma or Disease
Another big reason that so many adults are missing teeth is due to trauma. These types of trauma generally come in the form of accidents—a car accident, a contact sport foul play, an injury. Although accidents can be unavoidable, it’s essential to visit your dentist after the trauma to ensure your teeth are healthy and to repair any broken or chipped teeth or to replace missing ones.
Illness can also lead to tooth loss. Chronic disease requires that many patients be on medication, and many medications can lead to dry mouth. When your mouth produces less saliva, your teeth are not as well protected. This generally leads to overgrowth of bad bacteria and enamel erosion that can lead to tooth decay. Talk with your dentist about how your medication may be affecting your smile!
It’s important to remember that your teeth are part of your mouth for life, so taking care of them is crucial to retain them! Without the proper care, tooth decay and gum disease make tooth loss a very real possibility. Visit your dentist to ensure your teeth are healthy, and always visit your dentist after any trauma to your mouth. You can protect your teeth for life and prevent tooth loss by doing so!
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