Risk Factors for Tooth Loss

Losing your teeth does not necessarily have to be in your future, according to a recent WebMD news article. The Journal of Periodontology listed nine risk factors that can have a significant impact on whether you keep your natural teeth later in life, including:

  • Being older than 35
  • Being male
  • Not receiving professional dental care
  • Not practicing regular dental hygiene, including using a toothbrush
  • Smoking (current or past)
  • Having diabetes
  • Having high blood pressure
  • Having rheumatoid arthritis
  • Front teeth are more likely to be lost to periodontal disease than back teeth.

While some of these factors, like age and gender, are out of your control, others, like dental care and lifestyle choices, are left up to you.

The risk factor list was created by Khalaf Al-Shammari, DDS, MS, and his colleagues at Kuwait’s Ministry of Health, and was developed after analyzing data from adult patients who had experienced tooth loss. In all, 1,775 patients were included in the study, with a total of 3,694 missing teeth. This includes 14 patients who required removal of all of their natural teeth.

Periodontal (gum) disease was the leading cause of tooth loss, and men were found to be more likely than women to have a tooth removed. Tooth loss was also more common among patients who were 35 years old and older. 40% of the study subjects reported that they had never had professional dental maintenance, with only 13% claiming to have visited the dentist in the last six months. Additionally, a majority (60%) of subjects said they only brush their teeth on occasion, with just 16% reporting they brush the recommended twice daily.

In addition to tooth loss, many of the patients were also experiencing othe rhealth problems. Approximately 20% had type 2 diabetes, further supporting the well established connection between gum disease and diabetes. More than 10% of the patients also had high blood pressure. Al-Shammari’s study also showed a strong link between tooth loss due to gum disease and rheumatoid arthritis, however the researchers acknowledged that more research is necessary to establish a clear connection.

The scope of the study is obviously limited to the area surrounding Kuwait, yet Al-Shammari and colleagues claim that cases of toothloss from gum disease are “remarkably similar to most studies performed around the world.”

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