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No one wants to lose their teeth as they age. It makes it inconvenient to chew, harder to talk and disrupts an otherwise nice smile.


The risk of tooth loss goes up with age — according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 13% of Americans between 65 and 74 are toothless. The percentage is even higher after the age of 74. Why is this?

The most common reason people lose their teeth is periodontitis — inflammation of the bones that support the teeth and hold them in place. Once periodontitis weakens the bones that give teeth support, teeth may loosen and fall out, or need to be extracted. As we age, the chances of this happening are increased.

What Causes Periodontitis?


If periodontitis leads to tooth loss, it’s something you want to avoid. You might wonder what causes it and what you can do to avoid it.

Periodontitis starts with the build-up of plaque. Plaque is a sticky substance that contains bacteria. It forms when you don’t thoroughly brush and floss your teeth. Plaque can build up and form a harder substance called tartar that’s difficult to remove through brushing and flossing.

Tartar irritates the gum line and causes inflammation and the entry of bacteria into the gums. The reason people get a professional cleaning is to remove tartar to hamper this process.

Over time, plaque and tartar can inflame gum tissue, to the point where pockets of bacteria and inflammation form. If these pockets that contain bacteria continue to expand, they can affect the ligaments and bones that support your teeth and hold them in place, causing them to weaken.

Once the infection and inflammation reach the bone, it’s called periodontitis. The early stages where only the gums are involved are called gingivitis. Periodontitis comes from untreated gingivitis or gum disease.

Preventing Periodontitis

Lowering your risk of periodontitis, so you can keep your teeth for a lifetime, starts with taking care of your teeth and gums, preferably from an early age. Dentists recommend brushing and flossing twice per day to remove plaque and prevent the build-up along the gum line.We also recommend a professional cleaning every 6 months to remove tartar build-up.

Some people are at a higher risk of developing periodontitis based on genetics. If you have a family history of gum disease or tooth loss, even more of a reason to take it seriously and get regular dental exams, and be diligent about brushing and flossing. Learn the proper techniques of doing so. If you’re brushing properly, it should take around two minutes to cover all the teeth in your mouth.

Other risk factors for periodontitis and tooth loss include:

  • Smoking
  • Taking medications that dry out your mouth
  • Autoimmune conditions that cause a dry mouth
  • Recreational drug use
  • Obesity
  • Diabetes mellitus
  • Being deficient in Vitamin C

Periodontitis May Cause Other Health Problems

Even if you don’t mind losing your teeth, periodontitis may be harmful to your health as a whole. Studies link periodontal disease to a higher risk of stroke, heart disease, and peripheral vascular disease.

Why would there be a link between periodontitis and health? The missing link may be inflammation. Periodontal disease creates inflammation and increases the amount of inflammation your body has to deal with. Whole body inflammation causes inflammation of blood vessels, which contributes to stroke, peripheral vascular disease, and heart disease. Anything that causes uncontrolled inflammation is harmful to your health.

The Bottom Line

Now you know why tooth loss becomes more common with age. The risk of periodontitis rises as the decades pass, mainly due to poor dental hygiene and untreated gum disease that spreads to the bone. You have a chance to prevent the same fate for your own teeth — take care of them!

To properly screen for periodontal disease, be sure to make sure you visit our office regularly so we can detect any periodontal issues early!

Other References:

Jacobi N, Walther C, Borof K, Heydecke G, Seedorf U, Lamprecht R, Beikler T, Debus SE, Waldeyer C, Blankenberg S, Schnabel RB, Aarabi G, Behrendt CA. The Association of Periodontitis and Peripheral Arterial Occlusive Disease in a Prospective Population-Based Cross-Sectional Cohort Study. J Clin Med. 2021 May 11;10(10):2048. doi: 10.3390/jcm10102048. PMID: 34064657; PMCID: PMC8152001.
“Gum disease and heart disease: The common … – Harvard Health.” 15 Feb. 2021, .health.harvard.edu/heart-health/gum-disease-and-heart-disease-the-common-thread.
Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2021, 18(12), 6430; https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph18126430.

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