Did you know that 178 million Americans are missing at least one tooth? Missing teeth are a common problem, especially for people aged 65 and older. But many of the problems that can lead to missing teeth don’t happen overnight. No matter how old you are, there are steps you can take today to avoid the most common causes of tooth loss.
Gum Health and Missing Teeth
The leading cause of tooth loss is gum disease, also known as periodontitis. It all starts with plaque, a sticky film filled with bacteria that can build up on your teeth. If plaque is not removed through regular brushing and flossing, it can lead to gingivitis (inflammation of the gums) and then periodontitis.
When periodontitis isn’t treated, it can cause gaps to develop between your gums and your teeth. Over time, bacteria will build up in these gaps, causing infections that damage the tissue and bones of your gums and teeth. This damage weakens the area and can eventually lead to missing teeth.
Periodontitis can happen to anyone, but some people are at a higher risk. Let your dentist know if you:
- Take medications that cause dry mouth
- Are a current or former smoker or chewing tobacco user
- Have a condition that affects your immune system
- Have diabetes
Your dentist can provide you with information about preventing gum disease and protecting your teeth.
The Dangers of Tooth Decay
Tooth decay is another leading cause of missing teeth. When plaque builds up on your teeth, it begins to eat away at their outer layer of enamel. This leads to small holes in the enamel called cavities or dental caries. When they’re left untreated, cavities can continue building deeper into your tooth, damaging the soft tissues inside. Teeth with severe cavities sometimes need to be removed to relieve the pain this damage can cause.
The Importance of Oral Hygiene
Keeping your teeth clean and healthy is the most important thing you can do to prevent gum disease and tooth decay. In fact, poor oral hygiene is the leading cause of these issues. To keep your gums and teeth strong, be sure to:
- Brush your teeth twice a day
- Floss at least once a day
- See your dentist at least twice a year for cleanings and checkups
A diet that’s high in sugar is another risk factor for missing teeth. The bacteria that cause plaque feed on sugar, so it’s important to brush your teeth or rinse your mouth out with water when you’ve been enjoying sugary foods. If you currently drink a lot of soda or other sugary drinks, you may want to consider switching to water.
Missing teeth can affect your ability to chew and speak, and may affect your self confidence. While there are several solutions available today, from dentures to dental implants, the best approach is to prevent the problem if you can. Taking good care of your smile will help it last a long time.
Missing Teeth Solutions
At LifeSmiles by Randy Mitchmore, DDS, we offer state-of-the-art solutions for missing teeth. Our dental implants are made with Zirconia, the strongest ceramic material available. Contact us to learn more.