It’s a curious fact of life that the older we get, the more we become like babies. Indeed, many of us can look forward to a future in diapers without any hair or teeth.
Being toothless, known more formally as “complete edentulism,” is a lot more common than you may think. Dentures and permanent false teeth cover up the fact that many people are walking around with phony chompers. Just how many?
Recently, the CDC released data from a survey conducted from 2011-2014. They examined people aged 65 and over, and they categorized the data by age and race.
The survey showed that nearly 15% of Americans aged 65-74 had lost all their natural teeth, while nearly 1 in 4 people aged 75 and older were toothless. (According to the NIH, more than 10% of Americans aged 50 to 64 are toothless.)
When examined by race, 27% of black Americans aged 65+ had lost their teeth, which was substantially higher than the prevalence of tooth loss among whites, Asians, and Hispanics. This is in line with other data that shows, overall, older black Americans are in poorer health than most other ethnic groups.
What causes tooth loss? There are several risk factors over which we have some measure of control, such as poor dental hygiene, smoking, and not visiting the dentist. Other risk factors, like being diabetic or having high blood pressure, might have a genetic component.
So do what you can do: Put out the cigarette, brush your teeth, and make a dental appointment!
Source: “QuickStats: Prevalence of Edentualism in Adults Aged ≥65 Years, by Age Group and Race/Hispanic Origin — National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, 2011–2014.” MMWR 66 (3): 94. Published: 27-Jan-2017. DOI: 10.15585/mmwr.mm6603a12.