A quarter of adults ages 65 and up have eight or fewer teeth. 17% of all adults in that age range have lost all of their teeth, according to the Centers for Disease Control.
The good news is that total tooth loss has been decreasing. In 1999-2004, 27% of all adults had total tooth loss. In 2011-2016, only 17% had total tooth loss.
So how can you make sure you keep as many of your natural teeth as possible? Here are three things you can do.
- See your dentist regularly. Checkups can help your dentist find tooth decay and gum disease before they get worse, and prevent tooth loss. Preventative visits can save you pain down the line and money. Every tooth you keep healthy is one you don’t have to replace with a bridge or implant or try to save with a root canal.
- Get X-rays every two to three years. While you don’t need to get them every year, X-rays can help your dentist spot problems that would otherwise be hard to detect.
- Maintain good oral hygiene. Make sure that in between checkups, you brush twice a day and floss daily to prevent tooth decay.
- Limit sugary foods and drinks. Healthy eating habits pay off with healthier teeth and gums. It’s okay to have a slice of birthday cake at a party, but on a daily basis, the more you turn to healthy alternatives, the better your oral health is likely to be.
- Keep your blood sugar levels healthy. If you have diabetes, make sure you monitor your A1C levels. High blood sugar levels are linked to a higher risk of gum disease, the CDC says.
- Don’t smoke tobacco—or commit to quitting if you do smoke. Smoking doubles your risk of gum disease, the CDC reports.
- Ask if you need a mouth guard. Night-time tooth grinding can damage your teeth and lead to tooth loss.
The good news is that most of these steps are simple and straightforward, and they can bring wonderful rewards, like a brighter, healthier smile and better systemic health. If you find you’re skipping steps like flossing, try starting your bedtime routine five minutes earlier, so you’re not too tired to take care of your teeth—and, if you have children, make sure they do the same. It’s amazing what a five-minute investment of time can do to keep your mouth healthy.