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Why Is Tooth Loss More Common as We Age?

By Bruce Wilderman on May 14, 2016

Two older women with healthy looking smiles Just like the rest of the body, the teeth change as we age. Years of use, or neglect, can take its toll on our teeth and oral health, making tooth loss an issue for many aging adults. Fortunately, Dr. Bruce Wilderman specializes in a variety of restorative dentistry treatments to replace missing teeth, restore oral health, and give patients back their smiles. To find out which treatments are right for you, or for more information about tooth loss and aging, schedule a consultation at Dr. Wilderman's Philadelphia, PA practice.

What Contributes to Tooth Loss as We Age?

Unfortunately, tooth loss becomes more common as we age. Tooth loss can occur for many reasons, some of which include:

  • General wear: Years of biting, chewing, clenching, or grinding the teeth can wear the protective outer layer of the teeth, the enamel. As the enamel wears away, the inner structures of the teeth are left exposed to bacteria and acid, increasing the risk of decay and tooth loss.
  • Tooth decay: Tooth decay and dental cavities, especially when left untreated, can result in tooth loss or extraction. 
  • Teeth weakened by old fillings: Teeth weakened by large metal fillings become more vulnerable to fractures over time. Additionally, silver amalgam fillings expand and contract with temperature fluctuations, leading to cracks and fractures. In some cases, fractures may be too severe to save the tooth, resulting in its extraction.
  • Periodontal disease: Periodontal disease, or gum disease, can have devastating effects on oral health. In fact, it is one of the leading causes of tooth loss as we age. Periodontal disease can cause the gums to recede, allowing plaque and bacteria to reach the structures below the gum line, including the tooth roots. This can cause the teeth to loosen, or become severely damaged, resulting in tooth loss.
  • Poor oral hygiene: Years of poor oral hygiene, including not brushing and flossing, can lead to gum disease, tooth decay, and eventually, tooth loss.
  • Dry mouth: Dry mouth, also known as xerostomia, is a common side effect of many medications. Saliva helps keep the teeth healthy by washing away food and acids. When the glands produce insufficient saliva, as with dry mouth, the risk of tooth decay and gum disease increases.
  • Acidic, sugary foods and drinks: Acidic, sugary foods increase the risk of enamel erosion and tooth decay, which can lead to tooth loss.

What Can You Do to Keep Your Smile Healthy?

You can help prevent tooth loss and keep your smile at it's best by following these tips.

  • Brush and floss regularly: Brushing at least twice a day and flossing at least once a day can help prevent tooth decay and gum disease, protecting your smile from tooth loss.
  • See your dentist for regular checkups: Seeing your dentist every six months for a regular checkup and cleaning is a great way to catch signs of dental damage early and keep the teeth strong and healthy.
  • Limit acidic, sugary foods and drinks: Limit sugary and acidic foods and drinks, like red wine and coffee, to protect your pearly whites from erosion.
  • Rinse the mouth with water: Rinsing the mouth with water after eating is beneficial, especially those who suffer from dry mouth. Water can help remove acids and food particles from the teeth in between brushings.

Discover Your Treatment Options

For more information about tooth loss and aging, or to discuss your treatment options, we invite you to schedule a consultation with Dr. Wilderman.

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