Common Causes of Tooth Loss
Simply put, tooth decay and gum disease are the two most common causes of tooth loss. Both of these issues are directly related to plaque, the sticky biofilm that constantly forms on and around our teeth. Plaque contains harmful bacteria that feed off the sugars, starches, and other simple carbohydrates we consume.
As these bacteria feed, they produce acids that attack the enamel, the hard outer layer of our teeth. This process, which is known as demineralization, can cause significant damage that ultimately threatens the life of a tooth.
When plaque is allowed to build up, it calcifies into tartar, which is much more difficult to remove. In response to plaque and tartar buildup, our immune system produces toxins that unfortunately attack healthy tissues as well, resulting in the infection we refer to as gum disease. Without treatment, gum disease can spread to the gum tissues, connective ligaments, and even the underlying bone. The deterioration of these supportive tissues causes teeth to become loose and eventually fall out. Gum disease is the leading cause of tooth loss in the U.S.
Risk Factors for Tooth Loss
Because tooth loss is often the result of untreated gum disease, it shares the same risk factors. These risk factors include:
- Poor oral hygiene
- Lack of professional dental care
- Systemic illnesses like diabetes, heart disease, and pulmonary disease
- Smoking or tobacco use
- Being over the age of 35
- Being male
- Hormonal changes during puberty or pregnancy
There are certain physical activities that may also put you at a greater risk for tooth loss without the proper precautions. Sports like football, basketball, baseball, and soccer can result in facial injury or trauma. Failing to wear a mouth guard during these activities increases your risk of knocking out one or more teeth.
If you do experience a knocked-out tooth, be sure to schedule an appointment as soon as possible. 30 minutes could make the difference between saving and losing a tooth. Of course, preventing an injury with a mouth guard is always ideal.
Preventing tooth decay, gum disease, and dental trauma is our top priority. If you have any of the risk factors listed above, be sure to pay special attention to your teeth and gums. Always be on the lookout for potential symptoms of tooth decay and gum disease, so Dr. Dose can catch the problem before it causes major complications. Some of these symptoms include:
- Red, tender, or swollen gums
- Gums that tend to bleed easily
- Loose teeth
- Sensitive teeth
- Gum recession
- Problems speaking or chewing food
- Persistent bad breath
Bad breath is a common symptom of gum disease that many people ignore. As gum disease worsens, so will your breath. If you have persistent bad breath, be sure to schedule an appointment as soon as possible. Regular brushing and flossing, along with routine visits are the best things you can do to avoid these issues.