Stereotypes abound when it comes to aging. Advancing years bring imminent changes, but losing teeth doesn't need to be part of your story. While dentures provide a valuable service for those who need them, they aren't inevitable for most people. In fact, more patients than ever enjoy their own teeth throughout their lifetimes.
In 1960, about 49 percent of adults aged 65-74 had lost all of their teeth. In 2012, about 13 percent of this age bracket were in the same predicament. Research confirms that millions more people continue to enjoy the benefits of their natural teeth than just a few years ago.
Despite the tremendous progress in general dental health, many people still face challenges maintaining their teeth. The Center for Disease Control recently released a report, "Dental Caries and Tooth Loss in Adults in the United States, 2011-12," containing these key findings:
- Among adults aged 20-64, 91 percent had experienced tooth decay and 27 percent had untreated tooth decay.
- Adults aged 20-39 were twice as likely to have all their teeth (67 percent) compared with those aged 40-64 (34 percent).
- About one in five adults aged 65 and older had untreated tooth decay.
While these statistics have improved over previous decades, they also suggest that dental disease continues to flourish. In fact, tooth decay is the number one childhood disease in the U.S. Since dental caries is a bacterial infection, the destructive process easily moves into adult teeth. And the presence of disease at any age dramatically increases the risk of tooth loss over time. To top it off, gum disease is the number one cause of tooth loss in adults. And even one missing tooth can disrupt the intricate balance of chewing and stress the remaining teeth, leading to more missing teeth. Remember Dominoes?
Fighting The Good Fight
Numerous public health measures deserve credit for the improvement in general dental health. Water fluoridation, the practice of sealing grooves in susceptible molars, and educational programs have increased dental health in many populations. But the greatest benefits result when individuals place a high priority on their well-being. Establishing daily oral hygiene habits and maintaining a consistent routine with a dental team produce winning results that few other measures match.
We've partnered with many motivated patients who want to keep their teeth through every stage of life. Short and long-term care plans customized for individuals consider many critical factors, from saliva volume to systemic health influences. Often just one simple modification to your daily routine tips the balance for dental health. It might be the use of xylitol, chlorhexidine, or remineralizing products that make a dramatic difference. Or maybe the application of protective varnishes along with slightly altered recall schedules with your hygienist keep bacterial infections from wreaking havoc. In high-risk patients, an easy switch from regular toothpaste to a prescription version may stop destructive decay in its tracks.
At our practice, the most meaningful rewards come from helping patients maintain their teeth for a lifetime. Public health measures will always be essential in this effort. But individualized, focused efforts make all the difference. A personalized strategy for dental wellness can be created with ongoing monitoring and coaching by our team. We all experience challenges that come with aging. But teeth can be retained with the right strategy, supporting quality of life at every age!