Two main reasons contribute to missing teeth in adulthood. The most common, periodontitis (advanced periodontal disease), occurs when too much plaque builds around the gum line and in between teeth, and marks the number one reason senior adults experience tooth loss.
Some people with teeth missing probably underwent a tooth extraction at the dentist's office (likely due to periodontitis) or experienced a traumatic event that knocked out a tooth or several teeth. Luckily, you can avoid the leading cause of missing teeth through proper oral hygiene and the rest you may leave to personal choices and fate.
To skirt edentulism (the complete loss of permanent teeth), see the A - Z guide below for a list of things requiring attention:
Avulsed Teeth - This covers everything from dental extractions to falling off your skateboard. A missing tooth in this scenario results from purposeful removal or accidental loss.
Bone Loss - Due to cavities left untreated, bone loss decays the foundation where your teeth anchor. Periodontitis plays a key role in the decay and bone loss that results in missing adult teeth.
Cavities & Caries - Dental caries, most commonly known as a cavity, stems from periodontitis. Brush your teeth and floss daily and keep your mouth clean between meals to avoid missing teeth in your adulthood.
Diabetes - The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) cites a possible correlation between diabetes and tooth loss. The CDC remains unable to pinpoint the exact causes of missing teeth in this group, but results suggest diabetics are 1.46 times more likely than non-diabetics to undergo dental extractions.
Economics - Poor nutrition and fluoride deficiency lead to a weakened dental structure, which leads to periodontitis, which leads to cavities and, finally, a missing tooth or two.
Fudging the Flossing - Brushing, chewing gum and rinsing work wonders, but to really stop periodontitis and prevent missing teeth, you should floss daily.
Gingivitis - Gingivitis is the precursor to periodontitis. Need we say more?
Halitosis - One of the symptoms of periodontitis. A number of teeth missing AND halitosis really cramps a lifestyle. Keep both at bay with good oral hygiene.
Intestinal Issues - Eating disorders or gastrointestinal problems like acid reflux disease deliver acid to your mouth, which nurtures cavities.
Jaw Jarring - General trauma to the jaw or mouth. This one falls under the avulsion category of missing teeth.
Kick Ups and Rumbles - Again, another missing tooth cause attributed to avulsion. But keep out of these to improve overall health, not just to prevent tooth loss. Also, stop referring to every physical confrontation as a kick up or a rumble, as these outdated terms just might cause some bruiser to expedite an otherwise more natural schedule for replacing missing teeth.
Longevity - Let's face it, the longer you live, the more likely you are to have missing adult teeth.
Methamphetamine & Medications - Methamphetamines are not only addictive and dangerous, but they also make mucky mouths. Some medications including prescription drugs, alcohol and tobacco promote dry mouth, decreasing saliva production. Saliva carries natural teeth cleaning agents and a clean mouth prevents missing adult teeth.
Nutrition - Carbohydrates promote plaque acid buildup and tooth decay. Teeth missing from too much plaque and not enough cleanup cause dental disasters.
Oral Piercings - Who knew? Replacing missing teeth because your last stud, hoop or other adornment caused a cracked tooth or gum infection really sucks.
Pregnancy - Good nutrition prevents bone loss; frequent snacking and elevated hormone levels may cause gingivitis, according the American Dental Association (ADA). Most women manage to pull through without any teeth missing at the end of the process.
Quandaries, Queasiness & Quibbles - All right, it might seem like we're really reaching here. (Bet you can't wait for X, Y and Z!) But stress and nervous issues lead to bruxism, which eventually wears down dental structure. File these under missing teeth due to avulsion should cavities require extraction.
Root Canal Gone Awry - The Cleveland Clinic cites a 95 percent success rate on the root canal procedure. Sometimes though, the sealing matter breaks down over time or undetected cracks allow re-infection, resulting in missing teeth later.
Sports & Soda - If actively participating in sports, prevent tooth loss with the right safety gear. If spectating (not a real word, we looked), clean your mouth after consuming carbohydrate-loaded beverages so you won't mirror your favorite hockey player's gaping grin.
Tobacco - Smoking five to 14 cigarettes per day doubles the chances of tooth loss according to a study (which only enlisted males in the health profession) by the National Institute of Health. Missing teeth caused by pipe and cigar smoking increased tooth loss rates by 20 percent. Findings for smokeless tobacco and missing teeth remain elusive.
Ulcers - Teeth missing due to mouth ulcers rarely occurs, however, the ulcer may indicate gingivostomatitis - a viral infection of the mouth - or numerous other diseases. Persistent, recurring or very large canker sores need professional attention.
Vegetarianism and Vomit - Please refer to "Intestinal Issues" above, and Nutrition Information to see how these apply to your missing tooth or teeth.
Water Bottles - Most American communities fluoridate the water supply, but bottled water usually carries less minerals. Teeth tend to soften without fluoride, leading to decay and potential for missing teeth.
Xerostomia - The technical term for persistent dry mouth or an inability to produce enough saliva. Xerostomia encourages cavity formation, leading to missing teeth via periodontitis and/or extraction.
Youth - Teeth missing in a child's smile are a natural part of growing ... unless the child loses teeth because of decay. In that case the child needs better cleaning habits for the permanent teeth coming in.
ZZZ - Have you fallen asleep yet? If not, watch out for zoo outbreaks in which stampeding ungulates (there, we got to use that word even though ulcers had more dental relevance!) may jump on an opportunity to kick you in the teeth, causing avulsion! Which brings us full circle on the missing tooth topic.
If you worry about any of the above items and how they may cause or affect missing teeth, or need information on replacing missing teeth, please consult your dentist.
To find a dentist for help with your missing teeth, call 1-866-970-0441 24 hours a day!