First, the good news: rates of tooth loss (both partial and full) have dropped considerably since the 1970s, according to the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research (NIDCR). Now, the not-so-good news: tooth loss is still a fact of life for many people. According to the NIDCR’s statistics, the average adult has around 25 teeth in their mouth. To put that in perspective, adults should have 32 teeth if wisdom teeth are included.
Although tooth loss might seem like something you can’t avoid and is often assumed to be a natural part of getting older, there are steps you can take to help you keep your teeth throughout your life.
1. Practice Good Oral Care
One of the most effective ways to keep your teeth is to take excellent care of them throughout your life. You can do that by brushing them at least twice a day, using a fluoride toothpaste and by flossing daily.
Brushing your teeth with a fluoride toothpaste does more than remove food bits, bacteria, and plaque from the surface of the teeth and gums. The fluoride in the toothpaste can also help to remineralize your teeth’s enamel, helping to reduce the risk of cavities.
Flossing daily removes particles of food and plaque that can get trapped between the teeth, where your toothbrush can’t reach.
2. See Your Dentist Regularly
Along with taking care of your teeth at home, seeing your dentist for regular checkups is also an essential part of preventing tooth loss. Your dentist can give you tips and pointers on the best ways to care for your teeth. A dental professional can also detect and treat any cavities before they have a chance to cause a significant amount of decay and damage to a tooth.
Your dentist can detect gum disease in the earliest stages, when it is still reversible and can provide treatments for more advanced cases of gum disease. Left untreated (or undetected), gum disease can lead to tooth loss. The sooner you treat it, the most likely it is that you’ll be able to keep your teeth.
3. Eat a Healthy Diet
Your diet affects the health of your teeth in a few ways. First, certain foods can increase your risk of cavities. Foods that are high in sugar, such as candies, jellies, and sodas, put your teeth at increased risk for decay. The bacteria that live in your mouth love to feast on sugar and will produce acids that wear away the tooth enamel. Limiting sugary foods, or avoiding them, if possible, will help you keep your teeth throughout your life.
Some foods are better for the health of your teeth than others. For example, foods that are high in calcium, such as cheese and other dairy products, can help to strengthen your enamel, adding another layer of protection against decay and tooth loss.
4. Protect Your Teeth
Although not one of the more common reasons for tooth loss, trauma or injury to the teeth can cause you to lose a tooth. A fall, a car accident or a sports injury can all significantly damage the teeth.
When possible, taking steps to protect your teeth can help you avoid injury and potential loss. If you play any contact sports, wearing a mouth guard can reduce the risk of injury. When you’re in a car or other moving vehicle, wearing a seatbelt might also help to lower your risk of injury to the teeth.
5. Skip Smoking
Smoking cigarettes and using other forms of tobacco can spell trouble for your teeth. Tobacco products can increase your risk of tooth loss in a few ways. For one thing, smoking increases the risk of gum disease, which is one of the leading causes of tooth loss. It can also interfere with your gums’ ability to heal, which can further increase your risk of tooth loss.
If you currently smoke or use tobacco products and want to quit, your dentist can help by directing you to resources for quitting smoking.
Dr. John Paul Gallardo is a periodontal specialist in the Miami area who also provides dental cleanings and exams. To learn more about his practice in Miami, FL, call 305-547-8687 to schedule a consultation today.