30 January 2017

Tooth loss can be used as a major predictor to somebody's life expectancy, according to new research. 

The research, published in the Periodontology 20001, found that the number of teeth we lose can be a key indicator to our quality of life and that those who have a full set of teeth when they are 74 are significantly more likely to reach 100 years old2

The study shows that there was a clear evidence that tooth loss is closely related to ‘stress' during a person's lifetime. This includes a person's specific social, emotional, economic and educational experiences as well as health issues such as chronic disease, genetic conditions, nutritional intake and lifestyle choices. 

Evidence showed that people who had lost five or more teeth by the age of 65 were also more likely to suffer from other serious health issues such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes and osteoporosis which could severely limit a person's life expectancy. Many of these illnesses have been previously linked to as person's quality of life and their socio-economic status.

With such a close relationship between our oral health and quality of life, leading health charity, the Oral Health Foundation, is encouraging people to ensure they pay close attention to the health of their mouth and visit their dental team regularly to check for any signs of disease which could lead to tooth loss.

Speaking on the issue Dr Nigel Carter OBE, CEO of the Oral Health Foundation, said: "There are many reasons why somebody can lose their teeth, it could be down to trauma, smoking or just a continued poor oral health routine, it can also be related to gum disease which is closely linked to health conditions such as heart disease and diabetes. 

"What this piece of research suggests is that tooth loss can often be a signifier of a poor quality of other areas of a person's lifestyle and therefore a higher likelihood of someone having health issues because of this.

"Importantly it also shows that diseases associated with tooth loss, such as gum disease, can also contribute to an increased risk of life limiting diseases.

"It is very evident that what is going on in our mouths can really be a useful window to our overall health. It is therefore vital that we take proper care of our mouth and pay close attention to what is happening as it could be a sign of something more serious."

The charity is urging people to abide by three simple rules for looking after their oral health; brush your teeth last thing at night and at least one other time during the day with a fluoride toothpaste; cut down on the amount of sugary foods and drinks and how often you have them and visiting your dentist regularly, as often as they recommend, by doing so it is possible to help prevent disease, not only in the mouth but the whole body too.

Dr Carter added; "Tooth loss itself comes with its own problems, it can lead to issues with eating and therefore a person's ongoing nutrition and even create problems with their ability to communicate. 

"We welcome more research into this matter as it may be a way to detect and prevent diseases related to tooth loss and other serious systemic diseases."

    1. Friedman PLamster I. Tooth loss as a predictor of shortened longevity: exploring the hypothesis. Periodontology 2000. 2016;72(1):142-152.
    2. Kaufman L, Setiono T, Doros G, Andersen S, Silliman R, Friedman P et al. An Oral Health Study of Centenarians and Children of Centenarians. Journal of the American Geriatrics Society. 2014;62(6):1168-1173.