Tooth Loss

Wrinkles Are Inevitable, Tooth Loss Is Not

Chicago - Not so long ago, it was rare for an older person to go to bed without taking out his or her teeth. However, edentulism (toothlessness) has been declining in this country since the 1950s. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, not quite 25 percent of the current population over age 65 is toothless.

Periodontal disease and tooth decay are the leading causes of tooth loss in older adults. "However, people should realize that while their likelihood of developing periodontal disease does increase with age, research suggests that these higher rates may be related to risk factors other than age," said Dr Litvin, DDS a local periodontist and member of the American Academy of Periodontology. "No one can avoid some aspects of aging, such as wrinkles and the need for bifocals, but periodontal disease can often be prevented."

Risk factors that can make older people especially susceptible to periodontal disease include general health status, diminished immune status, medications, depression, worsening memory, diminished salivary flow and functional impairments.
"To help prevent periodontal diseases and maintain a nice smile, people need to take note of the changes taking place in their mouths as they age and discuss these changes with their dental professionals," said Dr Litvin "The goal is to make adjustments in oral care before these changes result in full-blown problems in the mouth."

Even for those who've so far managed to avoid periodontal disease, it is necessary to practice a meticulous oral care routine. Receding gum tissue affects a large percentage of older people. This condition exposes the roots of teeth and leaves them more vulnerable to decay and periodontal infection, making it crucial to carefully remove the plaque from the teeth and gums every day with proper brushing and flossing. While daily cleaning will help keep calculus formation to a minimum, it won't completely prevent it. A professional cleaning at least twice a year is necessary to remove calculus from places a toothbrush and floss may have missed.

When visiting a dentist or periodontist, discuss any medications (including over-the-counter and herbal remedies) you are taking. Many commonly used medications cause oral side effects, such as dry mouth or enlarged gum tissue, which can result in bacteria living underneath the gum line. Also be aware that smoking greatly increases your risk for periodontal disease.

People with dexterity problems or a physical disability may find it difficult to use a toothbrush or dental floss. Your dentist or periodontist can suggest options such as an electric toothbrush, floss holder or a toothbrush with a larger handle. Recent research has advanced the idea that periodontal disease is linked to a number of major health concerns, such as heart disease, stroke, respiratory disease, osteoporosis and diabetes. For example, research has shown that people with periodontal disease have nearly twice the risk of having a fatal health attack as those without periodontal disease. So good oral health may in turn promote good overall health.