The Journal of the American Dental Association shared some exciting news at the beginning of this year: Americans are keeping their teeth longer than previous generations.
There has been a 75% decrease in instances of total tooth loss in Americans aged 65-74. Data was obtained from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys. Researchers studied this survey in two periods: 1999 to 2004 and 2009 to 2014. The data showed that fewer adults in that age range had lost all of their teeth. When comparing the data from those years to the previous five decades, researchers concluded that older Americans are keeping their natural teeth longer than previous generations had.
Tooth loss negatively impacts a person’s overall health, at any age. The loss of teeth can be attributed to injury, gum disease, decay, and certain cancers. People who have lost teeth may have poorer nutrition as they are no longer able to chew the foods they need to maintain good health. Decaying teeth can lead to bone loss. Poor dental health can result in poor overall health. The fact that our overall population is keeping their natural teeth to old age is an indicator of generally good health in our country. As we combat the core issues behind tooth loss, we are contributing to the longevity of our older population.
While this is certainly good news for our country as a whole, researchers noted a concern when describing their findings. Dental health has only improved for older Americans above the poverty level. That means that our poorest Americans are still suffering from tooth loss. This is most likely due to having less access to proper dental care.
While previous generations may have accepted tooth loss as a part of growing older, we now have a better understanding of how best to care for teeth. We also have more options available to help people retain their natural teeth. What this research really shows is how effective our dental practices are as we work toward building a healthier country. Keep up your dental hygiene routines. Visit your dentist regularly, and bring your family in as well. In short, continue investing in good oral health to gain a lifetime of smiles.