In childhood, tooth loss is an anticipated event. It is a celebrated sign of growing up. In adulthood, tooth loss comes with a different set of feelings. Losing one or more teeth as an adult can significantly impact the way you look and affect what you can eat. What leads to tooth loss in adults? The three main culprits are decay, gum disease, and injury.
Tooth decay can lead to tooth loss in adulthood. Severe tooth decay, if left untreated, can eventually lead to the disintegration of your teeth. This type of situation occurs over years and years of neglected oral hygiene and missed dental appointments. But, decay can lead to tooth loss in other situations as well. An untreated cavity can lead to an infection in the pulp of your tooth which is inside the root. As the infection worsens an abscess can develop below or around the root of your tooth. At this point major intervention-such as a root canal-is necessary to deal with the infection and attempt to save the tooth. In some situations, the tooth cannot be saved even when a root canal is performed. The key to preventing tooth loss caused by decay is seeing your dentist as soon as you notice a problem.
Gum disease (periodontitis) is a major cause for tooth loss in adults. Mild gum disease (gingivitis) will make them red, inflamed, and potentially painful. Advanced periodontitis will cause your gums to start separating from your teeth and weaken the bone structure in your mouth. If the disease continues to progress your teeth will eventually become loose and fall out. When caught early, gum disease can be reversed with a few lifestyle changes. Even if your gum disease is advanced, there are treatment options available. If you have pain in your gums, excessive bleeding, swelling, or loose teeth set up an appointment with your dentist right away.
Injury is another potential cause for tooth loss in adulthood. It can occur suddenly if you get struck in the face or have some type of accident. Injury can also happen over time in a response to small, continual trauma such as grinding teeth at night. If you have a tooth knocked out because of trauma call your dentist for an emergency appointment. The quicker you can have the tooth repaired the more likely the repair will work. If you get struck in the mouth but do not immediately lose a tooth it is still a good idea to visit the dentist. Sometimes unseen damage is done to the root and can result in tooth death over time. Grinding your teeth can result in trauma to the surface of your teeth and the root. If you grind your teeth at night you need to get help addressing the issue. Your dentist can recommend treatment options that will protect your teeth and jaw from further damage.
The most important factor for protecting your teeth from permanent loss is to have a dentist that you see regularly. Normal visits to the dentist will help you stay aware of potential problems with decay or gum disease. In addition, if you are an established patient you have access to emergency care from your dentist should a problem ever arise.