Did you know that almost 19% of people over the age of 65 no longer have any natural teeth? Moreover, 26% of adults over the age of 75 are more likely to be without their natural teeth. Many people think that tooth loss is a natural byproduct of aging. That isn’t the case at all, you can keep your teeth well into your golden years.
Why people lose their teeth
As you age, your teeth become more prone to cavities around the gum line. This is because the gums naturally recede with age, so the soft root tissue is exposed. Decay around the edges of fillings is also a concern. If cavities are not treated, they eventually destroy the pulp in the center of the tooth resulting in a root canal or removal of the tooth.
Through the years, your teeth are exposed to the illnesses you experience, the medications you take and your habits like smoking and drinking soda. Even everyday normal chewing wears down the surface of your teeth. All of these can cause or contribute to the loss of teeth.
The number one reason people lose their teeth is periodontal disease (gum disease). Over 70% of lost teeth can be attributed to this problem. Beginning with bacteria and inflammation of the gums, this disease progresses by destroying gum tissue and, if left untreated, destroying the jawbone supporting teeth. Teeth become weak without the support of the underlying bone structure, so they become loose and eventually come out.
An extension of healthcare
The state of your oral health offers clues to your overall health. People who have diabetes and AIDS, for example, may first become aware of the problem through their dental health. Some dental problems are a result of these medical conditions because they lower their body’s response to bacteria, increasing the likelihood of gum disease.
Cardiovascular diseases, stroke, and bacterial pneumonia can be caused by poor oral health. It may seem hard to believe, but the bacteria from your mouth can easily be transferred to your lungs, causing respiratory illness. Some studies show that diabetics with periodontal disease have a hard time controlling their blood sugar.
Since dental issues start quietly and progress without regular dental check-ups, they are an essential part of your overall health in addition to daily brushing and flossing. The dental hygienist can remove tartar at the gum line, which is where plaque bacteria is often trapped. You can also ward off gum disease by eating a balanced diet and limiting snacks that are known to increase the risk of tooth decay.
If you notice any of the following, schedule a dental exam:
- Gums that bleed during brushing or flossing
- Gums that are red, swollen, or tender
- Gums that have pulled away from your teeth
- Persistent bad breath
- Pus between your teeth and gums
- Loose adult teeth
- A change in the way your teeth fit together
- A change in the fit of any partial dentures
At your biannual dental exam, your hygienist will check for all of those warning signs. But sometimes adult dental exams get put off due to time constraints or lack of insurance. If you’ve put off seeing the dentist and you’re concerned about the condition of your teeth and gums, it’s never too late to get back on track for good dental health. Although your everyday dental habits are the best way to make sure to keep smiling, a dental regime that includes daily care and routine exams will help you keep your natural teeth for many years to come.