Let's kick off this discussion about tooth loss in adults with some eye-opening statistics — 178 million people in the United States are missing at least one tooth, and 40 million are missing all of their teeth. While tooth loss can happen at any age, the problem tends to increase as we get older — more than one-quarter of Americans aged 65 and older have 8 or fewer teeth.
As you can see, adult tooth loss is surprisingly common, but certainly not inevitable.
Here at Hillsdale Dental Care, Dr. Magdalena Azzarelli and Dr. Roge Jacob believe that prevention is paramount when it comes to adult tooth loss, which means understanding what drives the issue.
The big two — tooth decay and gum disease
While there are many ways in which people of all ages can lose teeth, adult tooth loss is largely attributable to one of two issues:
1. Tooth decay
About 90% of adults between the ages of 20 and 64 have some degree of tooth decay. In many cases, dentists have addressed this decay through fillings, but 1 in 4 adults in this age group have untreated decay.
Treating decay when it first develops is extremely important in the effort to preserve teeth, which is why we take X-rays and thoroughly examine your teeth during each of your dental exams with us. If we spot decay, we can quickly clear away the bacteria, address the damage with a filling, and stop the decay in its tracks.
2. Gum disease
The second culprit behind most adult tooth loss is gum disease, which affects 46% of adults aged 30 and older. Also called periodontitis, gum disease is progressive — bacteria get under your gums and eat away at the soft and hard tissues that hold your teeth in place.
Like tooth decay, early detection and intervention through periodontal treatments are key in addressing gum disease, which is why you should never miss your dental visits with us.
Factors that put you at greater risk for adult tooth loss
We’ve established that tooth decay and gum disease are primary drivers of adult tooth loss (trauma is a distant third), and now we want to review some conditions that make you more susceptible to these drivers.
For example, severe tooth loss is 50% higher in people with these health problems:
- Heart disease
- Liver disease
- Rheumatoid arthritis
Not to mention, tobacco use also places you at far greater risk for developing cavities and gum disease.
Whether you’re at greater risk for adult tooth loss or not, it’s always a good idea to see us regularly so we can help you stay one step ahead of tooth decay and gum disease. Both problems are highly treatable and reversible, but we need to act quickly. And the rewards of early intervention are well worth it as you smile in adulthood with your teeth intact.
If you have more questions about adult tooth loss or you’d like to get started on great preventive practices, please contact our office in San Jose, California, to set up an appointment.