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What causes teeth to fall out in otherwise healthy adults? Tooth loss can occur for many reasons, from lifestyle choices to genetics, but the problem can often be prevented with proper oral care and diet. The first step to preventing tooth loss is understanding how it can happen in the first place. Four risk factors are especially prevalent.

1. Avoiding the Dentist

The #1 cause of premature tooth removal is lack of professional dental care. You should see a dentist at least twice a year: once for a checkup, and once for a professional cleaning. Your dentist can spot potential problems early on and address them before they progress to the point of tooth loss. For instance, a cavity might not seem like a big deal. But if it’s ignored, it can penetrate deeper layers of the tooth until ultimately the root is compromised and the tooth can no longer be saved. 

But a lot of people simply don’t go in for those biannual appointments. More than 60% of American adults are afraid of the dentist, and this often leads to dental care avoidance. But this hesitation can cause greater stress down the line as neglect leads to preventable tooth loss. So see your dentist regularly to maintain optimal oral health. 

2. Teeth Grinding

Grinding your teeth wears them down over time. If you ever wake up in the morning with a sore jaw, that’s a sure sign of teeth grinding. Unfortunately, many people don’t even know they do it until it’s too late. Teeth grinding can be triggered by a general fixation, anxiety, stress, sleep apnea, or crooked teeth. One of the most common causes, though, is a misaligned bite.

Grinding can wear down the teeth over time, damaging not only the enamel but also the gums. Over time, the problem can progress to gum disease and ultimately tooth loss. So if you notice any signs of tooth misalignment or teeth grinding, it’s important to visit a dentist right away.

3. Gum Diseases

The most common form of gum disease to cause tooth loss is periodontitis (periodontal disease). This bacterial disease can eat straight through your gums, weakening the jaw bone that holds teeth in place.

There are hundreds of types of bacteria in the mouth, most of which are “good bacteria” that work together to promote optimal oral health. However, those bacteria can combine with starch and sugar from the foods you eat, ultimately causing plaque to form. Plaque can harden into tartar, a bacteria-filled deposit that contributes to tooth decay.

Gum disease is usually mild at first, appearing in the form of gingivitis. If left untreated, gingivitis can advance to periodontitis (severe gum disease). While you can sometimes reverse periodontitis at home, most cases will require treatment from a skilled dentist. If the disease has reached an advanced stage, tooth loss may become inevitable.

The best way to fight gum disease is to prevent it from occurring in the first place. Brush at least twice a day, use an antiseptic mouthwash at least once a day, and floss at least once a day. Maintain a healthy diet, and keep an eye out for any warning signs of gum disease, including visible plaque, swollen gums, a tender gum line, gums that bleed easily, or pain when chewing. In the early stages of gum disease, there may be no apparent warning signs at all, which is yet another reason why it’s so important to see your dentist twice a year.

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4. Diet

You probably know that sugary snacks are bad for your tooth enamel, but highly acidic foods can also be a problem—especially when they’re combined with poor oral hygiene. 

The wear and tear of acid and sugars can slowly degrade your teeth and gums, breaking down the enamel and even reaching the dentin (the interior part of the tooth beneath the enamel and cementum). This gradual deterioration, known as tooth erosion, can ultimately lead to tooth decay and eventually tooth loss. 

You can still enjoy healthy acidic foods like tomatoes, but it’s best to combine them into meals rather than eating them by themselves. Then, wait an hour and brush your teeth. This will give your saliva a chance to wash away some of the acid and re-harden the enamel before you brush. 

When it comes to preventing tooth erosion, the best thing you can avoid (or at least keep to a minimum) is soda. Even sugar-free sodas are highly acidic and heavily carbonated, which can lead to erosion. 

Options Are Available for Missing Teeth 

There are numerous causes of tooth loss, but it doesn’t have to be the end of the story. If losing teeth is a concern, there are ways to replace your missing teeth and preserve your remaining teeth. Dental implants are more natural-looking and accessible than ever, and they can last a lifetime with proper care. Porcelain crowns and bridges may also be an option for patients who have damaged teeth or need to fill gaps.

A qualified dental professional can examine your teeth and discuss your options with you. The most important thing is that you don’t ignore the issue. It’s not only a matter of aesthetics. Decaying or missing teeth can have serious health implications. So take control of your oral health, for both your smile and your long-term health.

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