You’re a kid, and for the first time in your life, you realize that teeth can exist without a mouth. There they sit, staring at you from the counter of your bathroom, suspended in a clear liquid in exactly the way teeth don’t. You are face-to-face with grandma’s dentures – she left her case at home, so she had to make do for her sleepover. You scurry along to your mother to share your discovery, but she laughs gently before reminding you to always brush your teeth.
Who Is at Risk for Tooth Loss?
While dentures are generally foreign to children, they are a reality for many older people, and the number of people wearing them is growing. The rate of denture use is increasing rapidly, with an estimated 37.5 million people in 2020, compared to only 33.6 million in the 1990s wearing dentures.
Older patients generally find it more difficult to prevent tooth loss. Oftentimes as you age, the nerves in your teeth don’t work as well, so it can be harder to recognize symptoms of tooth decay and gum disease before they get too extreme.
It can also be more difficult to maintain proper oral hygiene for some older adults, thus raising their risk of gum disease, tooth decay, and ultimately, tooth loss. Due to this increased risk, senior patients should visit the dentist at least twice a year to catch gum disease or tooth decay before it causes too many issues.
What Causes Tooth Loss?
Tooth decay, and subsequently tooth loss, is usually caused by gingivitis and periodontal disease, infections that affect the gums and are caused by poor oral hygiene. Having a gum infection will eventually loosen the tissue supporting your tooth, causing the root of your tooth to loosen from the jaw and eventually fall out.
Why Tooth Loss Matters
In addition to losing your teeth, there are other consequences of tooth loss. While replacing teeth with dentures or crowns, most people with tooth loss also experience bone loss in the jaw. This is caused by the loss of the tooth root. Without the root, the jaw bone is no longer stimulated and slowly starts to deteriorate.
Bone loss from one tooth exposes the surrounding teeth, raising the risk of developing more tooth decay and gum disease in neighboring teeth and can eventually cause bone loss of the whole jaw if not treated properly. And unfortunately, even if you wear dentures, you can still expect to experience some bone loss. This is caused by the pressure on the gums that results from constantly wearing your dentures.
The effect of tooth loss is often prominently visible in those who experience it. With the deterioration of your jaw bone, your lower can jaw sag and this is often viewed as a frown. If you don’t have dentures to replace lost teeth, you can also experience shame, feel self-conscious at social events that involve food and eating, or avoid social outings altogether.
Tooth Loss Prevention
At Virtudent, we believe in the power of preventative care, and the best way to prevent tooth loss is by preventing gum disease and tooth decay from happening in the first place. So it’s extra important to maintain healthy oral hygiene habits, including consistently brushing and flossing your teeth as well as visiting with your dentist at least twice a year and consistently brushing and flossing. If you keep up a good oral hygiene routine, you can preserve your healthy smile for years to come!