9 of the most common causes of tooth loss
Did you know that more than 70% of UK adults have had a tooth extracted¹? That adds up to roughly 110 million missing teeth across the country² - but how do we avoid adding to this number?
Aside from the typical culprit of not visiting your dentist regularly enough, there are a few surprising factors that can affect the lifespan of your smile:
If you’re feeling stressed or anxious, tooth grinding can be a common symptom – it can even happen whilst you’re asleep, without you realising.
While occasional grinding isn’t generally harmful, if you’re regularly tensing your jaw it can put strain on the surrounding area, leading to cracked or fractured teeth. Over time your teeth could become loose, and are at risk of falling out.
Although grinding is often caused by tension, it can also be a result of an abnormal bite or misaligned teeth. If you’re noticing symptoms such as jaw pain, headaches or stiffness when you chew, you may be subconsciously grinding your teeth. It’s always best to book an appointment with your dentist, who will be able to advise on preventative methods and relief from any aches or pains.
Whilst keeping fit and active is great for your body, unfortunately sports can also lead to missing teeth; whether it’s a rogue cricket ball or a collision on the rugby pitch, knocking out a tooth can easily happen without the necessary precautions. Take a lead from professional athletes, and always wear a mouth guard to protect your teeth during any high-impact activities; Bupa Dental Care can fit you with a custom-made gum shield, moulded to your teeth to provide a superior level of dental protection. Find your nearest practice to discuss this option today.
If you are unlucky enough to have a tooth knocked out, make sure to keep hold of it, store it in saliva or milk and head straight to your nearest emergency dentist, as you may be able to have the tooth put back in place.
As well as creating unusual food cravings, in some cases fluctuating hormones during pregnancy can make you more susceptible to gum disease, and can make the periodontal disease progress faster.
Some women may notice that their gums are inflamed, irritated, red or bleed a little when brushing or flossing. These symptoms typically disappear after pregnancy, and whilst expecting a baby does not guarantee you’ll develop issues with your teeth or gums, it’s always important to take extra care of your smile during pregnancy, to ensure that no unwanted problems develop.
Pregnant women are entitled to free dental care under the NHS – find out if your nearest Bupa Dental Care practice is accepting NHS dental patients here.
An Unbalanced Diet
To keep your teeth strong and healthy, calcium is key - but many people are inadvertently lacking this essential mineral in their diet. Our bodies contain around 1kg of calcium, and with 99% of this making up our bones and teeth, we need to keep it topped up. Great sources of calcium include dairy products, nuts, and green leafy vegetables such as broccoli and kale. As well as keeping your teeth happy, calcium has the added benefit of transmitting nerve messages, strengthening bones, and even regulating your heartbeat!
It’s also important to get enough vitamin D, which helps your body to absorb calcium efficiently – this can be found in foods like eggs, fish and milk.
It’s always best to help prevent issues arising by caring for your teeth as much as possible, after a tooth has been lost, certain tough or chewy foods such as meat, crunchy vegetables, or crusty bread may become harder to enjoy.
Demographics and genetics
According to research³, your age and gender can actually impact the likelihood of tooth loss, with males over the age of 35 being at highest risk of developing a gap. You may also be more likely to lose a tooth if you have a history of heavy drinking or smoking.
Some people may experience missing teeth because the teeth never developed in the first place -this is known as hypodontia, and usually runs in families.
While you can’t control your gender or your age, avoiding harmful habits and making sure to keep on top of your day-to-day dental hygiene is always possible. Try to use an electric toothbrush, a good fluoride toothpaste and remember to floss before brushing. It’s also important to attend your regular dental check-ups, so that your dentist can keep an eye out for any problems before they develop.
Fear of the dentist
Having a serious phobia of the dentist can mean that you never make it into the dental chair for regular check-ups. Ignoring issues with your teeth can lead to conditions worsening over time, and potential tooth loss – a routine check-up and clean can help to keep gum disease at bay, and allows us to spot any potential problems before they develop.
If you’ve been putting off a visit for a while, talk to your nearest Bupa Dental Care team to find out about our options for nervous patients – our friendly experts can talk you through the ways in which we can make your trip calm, comfortable and worry-free, to put you back in control of your dental health.
Misuse of teeth
It’s not only impact sports that can unexpectedly dislodge a tooth – using your teeth as tools can also put your smile at serious risk of developing a gap! Using your teeth for things like removing lids, cutting off labels, cracking nuts, crunching ice, chewing pens and loosening knots are common reasons cited for pulling out a tooth – in these situations, it’s always best to look for a more suitable tool, to avoid an unwanted trip to the emergency dentist.
Some long-term health conditions can put you at increased risk of tooth loss, which makes good dental care all the more important.
Diabetes can slow the body’s ability to heal, which, combined with bacteria and plaque growing in the mouth more quickly (due to high glucose levels in your saliva) is a recipe for gum disease. Research has linked rheumatoid arthritis with an increased likelihood of gum disease and tooth loss – inflammation as a result of arthritis can affect salivary glands and ligaments of the gum. Studies have also shown that tooth loss is more common in people with high blood pressure and heart disease, though the exact link is yet to be fully understood.
Certain medications, such as steroids, cancer therapy drugs, anti-epilepsy drugs, oral contraceptives and blood pressure medications can have an effect on your mouth – side-effects such as reduced saliva or a weakened immune system put your teeth as more risk of gum disease, which can lead to tooth loss.
If you’re living with any of the above conditions, or regularly take a medication which can affect your oral health, make sure to book regular check-ups so that your dentist can make sure your teeth stay as strong and healthy as possible.
Many people have a few crooked teeth that they’d like to straighten out for cosmetic reasons, but did you know that a misaligned smile could actually increase your risk of tooth loss? Overlapping or rotated teeth can leave small gaps which are harder for you to brush – the perfect place for plaque to build up!
These teeth will need extra care with stringent brushing and flossing; if you’d love a straighter smile, your dentist will be able to advise if your teeth could benefit from one of our many modern straightening treatments.
Solutions to tooth loss
Thankfully, in this day and age, a missing tooth needn’t be a lifelong problem. There are many modern solutions available, including dental implants, which provide a long-term, safe, and natural-looking replacement for missing or damaged teeth.
The best thing to do if you have a missing or damaged tooth is visit your dentist to talk through the options available to you. Book in for a consultation at your nearest Bupa Dental Care practice to see how dental implants can help to change your life – and have you back enjoying your favourite foods in no time.