The good news is that most of us in the US keep most of our teeth for most of our lifetime. We start with 32 teeth (though many of us really start with 28, since it’s pretty common to have our 4 wisdom teeth removed), and the average number of teeth among 25 to 64-year-olds is 24.98. That’s a pretty good figure, but it shows us that many people lose multiple teeth during these ages. Are you among the groups most likely to lose your teeth?
Education and Income
Increased risk of tooth loss, is associated with lower income and lower education. Although some people believe that unequal access to dental care is the primary factor in tooth loss, lower education has a stronger association with tooth loss than income, which might mean that oral hygiene is the primary factor in tooth loss.
Another factor that increases your risk of tooth loss is smoking. Smoking adversely affects blood supply to your gums and suppresses your immune system, which leads to increased risk of gum disease.
Smokers have a lower average number of teeth, only 23.47 permanent teeth, compared to the 25.67 average number of permanent teeth among never-smokers. It isn’t just a few teeth that are at risk–smoking puts all your teeth at risk. Current smokers are five times more likely to have lost all their teeth than never-smokers (7.79% of current smokers have no teeth, compared to 1.55% of never smokers).
No Physical Activity
Tooth loss risk also increases if you lead an inactive lifestyle. Being inactive increases your risk of type 2 diabetes, which significantly increases your risk of gum disease and tooth loss.
You may also be at increased risk of tooth loss if you have physical or mental disabilities that make it hard for you to maintain proper oral hygiene.
No Dental Visits
And, not to put too fine a point on it, visiting your dentist for checkups and cleanings helps preserve your teeth. Even when controlled for other factors, such as education and income, visiting your dentist is an independent predictor of tooth loss.
Preserving Your Teeth
If you want to keep your teeth (and keep them healthy) for a lifetime, follow these basic recommendations:
- Get a good education, at least about oral hygiene
- Never start smoking–if you do smoke, quit
- Get active
- Visit the dentist
And the good news is that, if you have lost one or more teeth, there are replacement options, including dental implants and dental bridges.