A healthy adult mouth has 32 permanent teeth. In the United States, adults between the ages of 20 and 64 have an average of 25.5 natural remaining teeth; adults 65 and older have an average of 20.7 remaining teeth. About 1 in 6 seniors has lost all of their teeth.
Given that missing teeth are so common, it’s worth asking why. After all, understanding the most frequent underlying causes of adult tooth loss is the first step in knowing how to prevent the problem for yourself.
Do you already have a gap or two in your smile? It’s important to find the tooth replacement option that best matches your needs.
As experienced oral health experts who specialize in preventive and restorative dentistry, our skilled team at Smiles in Springfield are passionate about helping patients of all ages maintain a healthy smile for life.
Here, Dr. Quang Tran and Dr. Truc Duong consider the main causes of adult tooth loss, explain the steps you can take to avoid it, and discuss why it’s important to fill any gaps you may already have in your smile ASAP.
Why do so many adults lose teeth?
Although physical injuries and oral trauma can (and do) certainly result in lost teeth, dental emergencies aren’t the main cause of adult tooth loss. Most permanent teeth are lost to:
Untreated tooth decay
A small spot of tooth decay is easy to resolve — we simply remove the decay and apply a dental filling to the resulting cavity to restore your tooth.
Deeper decay can often be treated with a tooth-saving root canal, but an extraction is the only way to resolve advanced decay that has damaged a tooth beyond repair. A heavily decayed tooth may also fall out on its own.
Advanced gum disease
Gum (periodontal) disease — or the infection and inflammation of gum and bone tissues that surround and support your teeth — affects nearly half of adults aged 30 and older, and over two-thirds of adults 65 and older.
Early gum disease (gingivitis) can be reversed with proper care, but advanced, untreated gum disease is a leading cause of tooth loss.
Key contributing factors
Poor oral hygiene habits and a sugar-rich diet are key factors that increase your risk of dental decay as well as gum disease. Other factors that can undermine your oral health and promote the faster advancement of gum disease include:
- Smoking (tobacco use)
- Uncontrolled diabetes
- Poorly managed stress
- High estrogen levels (i.e., pregnancy)
- Medications that cause dry mouth
- A dental bridge that no longer fits
Without a doubt, tooth loss is a problem that gets worse with age: The older you are, the more likely you are to have multiple gaps in your smile.
Reduce your risk of adult tooth loss
Adult tooth loss may be exceptionally common, but it doesn’t have to be. Just as we know its primary causes, we also know how to prevent it. To substantially reduce your risk of losing your permanent teeth, you should:
Practice good oral hygiene habits
Brush your teeth thoroughly with a soft-bristled brush and non-abrasive, fluoride-containing toothpaste at least twice a day: once in the morning, and once again in the evening before you go to bed. Floss at least once a day to remove food particles between your teeth.
See your dentist twice a year
Twice-yearly dental exams and professional cleanings along with regular digital X-rays help you stay on top of your oral health.
A dentist can spot and address decay in its early, most treatable stage, clear away tartar buildup so it won’t solidify into calcified plaque, and clear away the plaque along your gumline that can readily lead to tooth decay and gum disease. In fact, a professional dental cleaning is the only way to clear away disease-promoting plaque.
From gum-saving periodontal therapy to enamel-protecting fluoride treatments and dental sealants, our team knows exactly what you need — and when — to keep your mouth as healthy as possible.
Change unhealthy lifestyle habits
Limiting your intake of sugary foods and quitting smoking are top lifestyle changes that can go a long way toward protecting and preserving your oral health.
Manage chronic health conditions
Keeping chronic diseases under control — especially diabetes — helps protect your oral health, too. It’s also important to schedule regular dental checkups during pregnancy, when hormonal changes can give rise to gingivitis or exacerbate existing gum disease.
Know your tooth replacement options
If you do lose a tooth, replacing it with the right dental restoration is the best way to maintain bite function, prevent further tooth loss, and protect your long-term oral health.
The tooth replacement solution that’s best for you depends on your gum and jawbone health and the number of teeth you’re missing, among other factors. The following solutions can be customized in a variety of ways to meet various restorative needs:
Are you ready to reduce your risk of adult tooth loss? We can help. Call 703-595-2403 or send our team a message here on the website to schedule your next dental exam and cleaning at Smiles in Springfield in Springfield, Virginia, today.