Prevention of Dental Disease and Tooth Loss
Tooth loss is primarily the result of one or more of the following: dental decay, gum disease, and trauma. Dental decay (caries) and gum disease (periodontal disease) are preventable. Trauma, at least while playing sports can be prevented by mouth guards, helmets with face shields.
Recent advances in the prevention and management of dental infections (dental decay and gum infections) - the main causes of tooth-loss in all age groups - have dramatically reduced the chance of tooth loss.
Prevention of tooth decay is best directed towards those who are at particular risk. Those adults who have had a lot of decay in the past or have gum recession exposing the vulnerable root surfaces are at particular risk to this disease. Fluoride (toothpastes and mouth rinses) and chlorhexidine (mouthrinses) have been shown to be effective in reducing the chance of new decay in those individuals at risk.
The use of tobacco products (cigarettes and smokeless tobacco) have been linked to oral diseases such as gum disease, dental decay, leukoplakia (white patch lesions), and oral cancer. Smoking tobacco results in stained teeth, dry mouth, and bad breath. The use of smokeless or chewing tobacco has a negative effect on the lining of the mouth, gums and teeth. Excessive alcohol consumption has also been linked to oral cancers.
The consequences of poor dental health are not confined to the mouth. Bacteria found frequently in the mouth have been associated with pneumonia in elderly people - the leading cause of death in this population. There is also a strong link between xerostomia (dry-mouth usually from the use of medications) and pneumonia. More recently, evidence has emerged to support an association between poor oral hygiene, advanced gum disease and heart disease.