Risk Factors for Tooth Loss

Tooth loss is also called edentulism. Although, the term is often reserved for the loss of all teeth. Losing even one permanent tooth can be traumatic for you.

Having a missing tooth can cause you to stop smiling and lose self-esteem. There are also physical drawbacks to permanent tooth loss. Losing any permanent teeth makes it more difficult for you to chew food. Additionally, losing a tooth can impact the stability of the teeth around the gap. When you have a missing tooth, you are more likely to experience bone erosion in your jaw. Therefore, the surrounding teeth are not anchored as well as when all your teeth are present.

There are a lot of potential causes of lost teeth. Some, such as facial trauma, are not always avoidable. However, many are preventable or can at least be delayed. Recognizing situations where you are more likely to lose a tooth can help you to avoid those situations or change your oral care routine to minimize risks. Below are some common risk factors for tooth loss.

Poor Oral Care and Tooth Loss

Poor oral care is one of the biggest risk factors for tooth loss. If you are not brushing your teeth properly and seeing a dentist regularly, then you are at higher risk for cavities. Cavities are also called dental caries. Such tooth decay causes holes to develop in your teeth. Cavities can be painful, especially when you chew. Some cavities can be filled by a dentist, but if they become large enough, you may lose your teeth.

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Another factor to consider with poor oral health is the cost of dental care. You do not want to rely on a dentist to improve your oral health because not all insurance plans cover dental care. Oral hygiene is expensive, especially if you need treatment to keep your teeth from falling out.

Another problem you are more likely to develop when you are not caring for your teeth properly is periodontal disease, or periodontitis. It is also called gum disease. Gum disease causes damage to the soft gum tissue surrounding your teeth. If you have a bad enough case, then it can also cause bone loss. When this happens, your teeth lose their supporting structures and tooth loss can occur. Symptoms of periodontitis include:

  • Purple or red gums.
  • Swollen
  • Tenderness or bleeding.
  • Changes in your bite pattern or spacing between your teeth.
  • Pain or discomfort, especially when chewing.
  • Receding gum line causing more of each tooth to be exposed than is normal.

Tooth Loss Due to Aging

Aging is a risk factor for tooth loss you cannot avoid. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), over 27 percent of U.S. adults have tooth decay left untreated. One reason is lack of access to affordable dental care. Many dental insurance plans are limited in the amount of coverage they provide. As you age, you may need an increasing number of procedures not covered by your insurance. Lack of money as you age can contribute to tooth loss.

Your mouth structure also changes with age. As this happens your gums may recede. Years of use can also wear down your teeth. As you get older, you may develop more general health problems. Medications you take to treat those health problems can cause dry mouth and other symptoms leading to tooth loss.

When you get older, you may begin to lose physical mobility. Brushing your teeth is harder when you have difficulty moving your arms or hands. Therefore, age-related conditions like arthritis are risk factors for tooth loss. Your risk for vision loss also increases with age. When you can’t see, you may have difficulty brushing your teeth properly. Additionally, neurological diseases like Parkinson’s Disease or Alzheimer’s Disease may make remembering to brush your teeth or being physically able to do so without help impossible.

Smoking and Tooth Loss

If you are a smoker, then you are at greater risk for tooth loss for several reasons. One issue is smoking increases your chances of developing oral cancer. Oral cancer often affects the lip or tongue. However, when it progresses, it can impact the structure and stability of your teeth as well.

Smoking also decreases the ability of your body to heal itself. If you develop conditions affecting your tooth stability, then they may worsen or be difficult to treat when you smoke. As you age, you are also at higher risk for developing yeast infections and other conditions impacting your oral health. While typically benign and easy to treat, those conditions can be exacerbated by smoking and lead to loose teeth or other oral hygiene problems.

According to the CDC, you are twice as likely to develop gum disease if you smoke. Your risk for gum disease also increases the longer you smoke. Gum disease treatment is also less effective for you if you smoke. This is because gum disease is an infection. Smoking lowers your immune system, making the infection harder to cure.

Tooth Loss and Chronic Diseases

Diabetes is known for its potential to cause loose teeth. When you have diabetes, your blood sugar levels may often be high. Your saliva is a means of transport for glucose, or sugar, in your body. Blood sugar delivered by your saliva provides ideal circumstances in which oral bacteria can flourish. Increased bacteria in your mouth creates excess plaque and may lead to other oral complications, such as tooth loss.

If you are diabetic, then you must check your mouth for symptoms of blood sugar-related problems frequently. For example, if your gums bleed easily, then you may have gum disease. However, symptoms may not be obvious until the problem is severe. See your dentist regularly to catch diabetes-related dental ailments early before they cause tooth loss.

According to the CDC, evidence suggests many other chronic illnesses can cause tooth loss. For example, if you are obese, then you are at higher risk of losing teeth. Talk to your doctor to develop a weight loss plan if you want to reduce your risk. Other chronic diseases linked to tooth loss include the following:

  • Osteoporosis
  • Emphysema
  • Arthritis
  • Liver ailments, including hepatitis C
  • Strokes
  • Heart disease

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