Edentulism: How Can You Avoid This Common Condition?

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Total adult tooth loss, also known as edentulism, is an oral health condition that affects approximately 9 million people in the United States. Twenty-five percent of seniors older than 60 are completely toothless, explains a study in the International Journal of Dentistry.

Once this condition presents itself, it is irreversible and can only be treated by the patient getting full dentures, dental implants or a combination of both treatment plans. What are the risk factors for total tooth loss, and how can you make sure that you retain your teeth as you age?

Endentulism Risk Factors

There are several factors associated with total tooth loss:

  • Age. According to the American Academy of Periodontology, over 70 percent of people older than 65 have some form of periodontal (gum) disease, which is the major reason that people lose their teeth. This means that there is a much greater chance of having edentulism if the patient is older than 65.
  • Smoking. There is plenty of evidence that along with systemic medical conditions, you have a much greater chance of losing your teeth and damaging your gums if you are a smoker or you were in the past.
  • Genetics. Your genetic background can also determine if you will lose teeth as you age, notes the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health. With good oral hygiene and routine preventive maintenance from your dentist and dental hygienist, you can help lower those risk factors. Think of these appointments just like you would a cardio exercise regimen that may help your heart health despite risk factors present in your family.
  • Other factors. Stress, medications you take for other medical conditions, and the types of food you eat can also influence the chance of developing edentulism. Stress can lead to excessive tooth grinding, causing teeth to break and crumble. It is important that you read the instructions for any medication you are taking that can point out side effects, such as dry mouth or a tendency to bleed more easily, both of which can deteriorate your gum health. Type 2 diabetes can also put a patient more at risk for developing gum disease, and ultimately tooth loss.

Can Patients Prevent Total Tooth Loss?

Routine exams from your dentist and dental hygienist can help detect potential edentulism and put you on a path to keeping your teeth for a lifetime. Floss daily and brush twice daily with a toothpaste like Colgate Total Advanced Deep Clean toothpaste, which helps prevent plaque, gingivitis, tartar build-up, cavities and bad breath.

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Common Conditions For ADULTS 55+

  • Gum disease
    This potentially serious condition occurs when the gum tissues surrounding teeth become infected because of a buildup of plaque on the teeth and gums. Gingivitis is the first stage of gum disease and is recognizable by swollen, red or bleeding gums. Gum disease is a concern for older adults for a number of reasons, including plaque building up on teeth and gums from not developing proper oral health care habits earlier in life.

  • Tooth or root decay
    Even at 55-plus years, adults can still develop tooth or root decay if gum recession has occurred. It is important for older adults to effectively clean the gums, the teeth and exposed root surfaces to remove dental plaque and food debris.

  • Sensitive teeth
    At some point, we've all tossed back a nice, cold glass of water only to grimace at that sharp, tingling sensation in our teeth. A number of factors cause tooth sensitivity, including brushing too aggressively with a hard-bristled toothbrush, worn tooth enamel, and a cracked or fractured tooth.