What Is the Most Common Cause of Tooth Loss in Adults?

Reviewed on 9/8/2021

The most common cause of tooth loss in adults is periodontal disease (gum disease). This can happen when infection and inflammation progress (periodontitis), causing the gums to pull away from the tooth and bone loss, and the teeth can loosen or fall out.
The most common cause of tooth loss in adults is periodontal disease (gum disease). This can happen when infection and inflammation progress (periodontitis), causing the gums to pull away from the tooth and bone loss, and the teeth can loosen or fall out.

Periodontal disease (gum disease) is the most common cause of tooth loss among adults.

The early stage of periodontal disease is called gingivitis, in which gums become swollen and red. Once the infection and inflammation progress, it is called periodontitis, when the gums may pull away from the tooth, bone may be lost, and the teeth can loosen or fall out.

What Are Symptoms of Periodontal Disease?

Signs and symptoms of periodontal (gum) disease include:

  • Bad breath (halitosis)
  • Bad taste in the mouth that doesn’t go away
  • Red or swollen gums
  • Tender or bleeding gums
  • Gum recession
  • Sensitive teeth
  • Pain when chewing
  • Loose teeth
  • Gums that pull away from the teeth
  • Changes in the way the teeth fit together when you bite
  • Changes in the fit of partial dentures
  • Tooth loss (severe cases)

What Causes Periodontal Disease?

Periodontal (gum) disease is caused by a buildup of plaque on the teeth. Bacteria in the mouth that stays on the teeth can build up and form a film (plaque). Plaque eventually hardens to tartar (calculus) which can accumulate and spread below the gum line.

Risk factors for developing periodontal disease include: 

  • Smoking (biggest risk factor)
  • Poor oral hygiene
  • Heredity
  • Diabetes
  • Stress
  • Crooked teeth
  • Immunodeficiencies such as AIDS
  • Defective fillings 
  • Use of medications that cause dry mouth
  • Bridges that no longer fit properly
  • Hormonal changes in females, such pregnancy, menopause, or the use of oral contraceptives

How Is Periodontal Disease Diagnosed?

  • Periodontal (gum) disease is diagnosed with a patient history and examination of the mouth by a dentist or dental hygienist. 
  • X-rays may be taken to determine the extent of the gum disease and if there is any bone loss
  • If the gum disease is advanced, patients may be referred to a periodontist (a dental professional who specializes in the diagnosis and treatment of gum disease) who may have additional treatment options. 

What Is the Treatment for Periodontal Disease?

Treatment for gingivitis and periodontal disease includes: 

  • Deep cleaning of the root surfaces below the gums
  • Medications prescribed to take by mouth or placed directly under the gums
  • Corrective surgery

How Do You Prevent Periodontal Disease?

Keep teeth and gums healthy and help prevent or control periodontal disease: 

  • Brush teeth twice daily using a fluoride toothpaste
  • Floss teeth daily to help remove bacteria between teeth that cause gum disease
    • Or use a special brush, wooden or plastic pick, or a “water flosser” as recommended by a dental professional
  • See a dentist at least once a year for checkups, or more frequently if you have any of the warning signs or risk factors for gum disease
  • Don’t smoke


 

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Reviewed on 9/8/2021
References
https://www.nidcr.nih.gov/research/data-statistics/periodontal-disease

https://www.cdc.gov/oralhealth/conditions/periodontal-disease.html

https://www.nidcr.nih.gov/health-info/gum-disease/more-info