Children lose teeth so they can be replaced by adult teeth as a natural part of growth. But what causes tooth loss among adults? Improper cleaning and care leading to gum disease are the most common reasons people lose their teeth. Failure to care for them leaves our teeth and gums vulnerable to bacteria that cause cavities and gum disease.
Gum disease is the primary reason for tooth loss after age 35. Inflammation of the gums, called gingivitis, is caused by bacteria that grow in tooth plaque. Inflammation is irritation, swelling, and redness caused by the body’s natural reaction to a foreign substance. Plaque begins as a soft matter that grows on the teeth and hardens into tartar. Plaque consists of residual particles of food and drink, mucous, and bacteria.
Gingivitis often leads to the more serious condition called periodontal disease, which causes gums to recede and teeth to loosen. Other illnesses contribute to gum disease, including diabetes, cancer, and HIV. Smoking, medications, and poor nutrition are factors. Periodontal disease bacteria can also be transmitted by kissing or sharing eating utensils. Saliva carries bacteria. Caring for your teeth may save family members from tooth loss. Our defenses against tooth loss and periodontal disease are oral cleanliness and proper dental care.
Cleaning the teeth includes thorough and frequent brushing, flossing, and rinsing with an antibacterial mouthwash. Brushing removes plaque and helps prevent gum loss. Flossing removes plaque and bits of food that lodge in the teeth and encourage the growth of bacteria. Mouthwash kills harmful bacteria. Washing the hands frequently and particularly before eating helps prevent the growth of bacteria in the mouth. Pay special attention to washing hands and brushing teeth before and after eating finger foods in public places such as theaters.
Proper dental care is a necessary adjunct to good personal health habits. A regular dental examination can spot problems before they become serious, allowing preventive measures. Regular cleaning by a licensed hygienist will include removing tartar, polishing surfaces to reduce the ability of plaque to form, and cleaning under bridges and in hard-to-reach areas.
Gum disease is responsible for the majority of adult tooth loss. Lifelong care of the teeth and mouth can make it possible to keep our natural teeth throughout life. Your dentist should be teaching you how to develop good habits as well as curing problems after they arise.