Understanding Tooth Loss in Seniors

Date: 2nd July 2024

Dental issues can be expected at any age, but as an older adult, years of wear and tear and a lifetime of prior dental treatments can eventually take a toll on one’s dental health. Additionally, many older adults are concerned with how certain medical conditions and medication can impact their oral well-being over time.

Unfortunately, there is no way to stop the aging process, but there are prevention and preparation steps that can make the transition into older adulthood easier on your smile.

tooth loss in seniors

Common Causes of Tooth Loss

Tooth loss is the most common dental issue facing older adults today. Research has shown that most patients over 60 retain a limited number of natural teeth. This unfortunate circumstance can result from factors related to socio-economic, medical, and dental issues common in older adults.

Common socio-economic influences on tooth loss in seniors are limited income, lack of dental insurance, lack of transportation to dental appointments, and lack of awareness of the importance of oral health.

Many older adults lack dental coverage with their insurance and, as a result, need to pay out of pocket for services they may not be able to afford outright. Many older adults either do not drive or need access to transportation to the dentist. Additionally, older adults may feel dental care is a luxury and not a necessity. These barriers prevent our older patients from getting the care they need for their oral health and overall well-being.

Medical conditions in older adults can significantly impact their ability to retain their natural teeth. Conditions such as Diabetes and Epilepsy can make patients more susceptible to dental diseases and conditions that negatively impact their ability to retain their natural teeth.

Many medications prescribed to older adults have oral implications. A common side effect of commonly used medications is dry mouth, also known as Xerostomia. Dry mouth is not only uncomfortable but can also make a patient more prone to cavities. Saliva plays a vital role in rinsing the teeth of food and particle buildup throughout the day. It also carries essential minerals that are useful in strengthening teeth.

Dental Diseases

Dental diseases can make patients more susceptible to tooth loss over time. Periodontal disease, a primary condition of concern for senior patients, is related to many oral conditions responsible for tooth loss.

Periodontal disease is a common dental disease in which bacteria in the oral cavity slowly destroy the supportive structures of teeth. These include the jawbone surrounding the teeth, the ligaments holding them in place, and the gums that cover the surfaces of bone and teeth. While periodontal disease is treatable, it is not curable. It requires diligent effort on the part of the dentist and patient to manage it.

Periodontal disease can contribute to tooth loss in several ways

Gum recession:

Gum recession occurs when diseased gums shrink away from the tooth’s crown, exposing the root, which is very susceptible to cavities. Cavities on the root of the tooth are challenging to control and treat. A patient may have a cavity on the root repaired with a filling only to find that a new cavity returns in the same location. Excessive damage from recurring cavities will eventually require the tooth to be removed.

Bone Loss:

Periodontal disease is caused by bacteria that slowly destroy the bone surrounding the tooth, which provides stability for chewing forces. Over time, the supportive bone holding a tooth in the jaw disappears, leading to tooth loss.

Periodontal Pockets:

Periodontal pockets occur when bacteria in the mouth destroy the ligaments holding a tooth in the jawbone, but the gums that overlay the tooth remain intact. This area is often referred to as the “collar” of tissue surrounding the neck of the tooth. As the ligament destruction continues, the collar sinks deeper and deeper, creating a large “pocket” around the tooth. This pocket continues to trap food and bacteria and accelerates the progression of periodontal disease.

Dental decay (cavities) is another dental disease that significantly impacts older adults’ ability to retain their natural teeth. The need for fillings to restore function to a tooth compromised by dental decay can weaken a tooth over time. If the filling needs to be replaced several times over the years in the same location, less of the strong, natural tooth structure remains to withstand the chewing forces. Large fillings that replace natural tooth structure can weaken over time and fracture, often taking a portion of the tooth with it. These fillings can be replaced with a crown that covers the tooth, but sometimes, the tooth is badly damaged and must be removed.

What is the impact of tooth loss on a person's oral health?

It is often forgotten that the oral cavity is an anatomical structure of the digestive system. Tooth loss can cause poor digestion and nutrient malabsorption, leading to a decline in overall wellness. Therefore, our senior patients must consider their options when faced with tooth loss. The good news is that your dentist at Bonham Sunshine Dental and Implant Center in Bonham, Texas, has solutions available!

Restorative Solutions for Tooth Loss:

Losing the teeth you have cared for all your life can be frustrating. However, understanding the role of a well-maintained smile in your overall well-being should make some of these decisions a bit easier. Our expert dentist at Bonham Sunshine Dental and Implant Center will help create a treatment plan tailor-made to your needs.

While every patient’s treatment case differs, the most common restorative methods to restore missing teeth are as follows:

Dental Bridge:

A dental bridge is a prosthesis designed to replace a single missing tooth or several missing teeth within the same arch. It consists of two parts: the abutment, which is a crown cemented over a natural tooth or a dental implant, and the pontic, which is a false tooth holding the place for the missing tooth.

The abutment supports the pontic tooth, so a bridge typically requires at least two abutments to support it. Abutments can also support two or more pontics that are adjacent to each other. The pontic creates the appearance of a tooth in the space where teeth are missing.

A dental bridge is a good option for a patient with missing teeth combined with healthy natural teeth. A bridge can be fabricated to replace a single or several missing teeth in a patient’s arch—the pontics are connected to the abutments, which are cemented over the natural teeth. A bridge creates a stable and permanent solution for the patient with a natural appearance.


A denture could be a great option if you are missing most or all of your natural teeth. Dentures are acrylic plates that fit securely over the bony ridges that normally support natural teeth. They function and look like natural teeth and are a permanent solution for many patients who no longer have them.

A complete denture is recommended for those without teeth, covering the entire arch of the upper or lower jawbone. A partial denture is also an option when a patient has some teeth in the upper or lower arch. The partial appears similar to a denture, except it has metal hooks and clasps that attach to the existing teeth, helping secure it.

Dental Implants:

Dental implants have gained popularity for their versatile restorative ability. A dental implant is a small, titanium screw placed in the jawbone of a patient. A dental implant has a portion that is placed below the gum surface, referred to as the “post,” and also a portion that extends into the oral cavity called the “abutment.” The abutment is the portion of the implant that can connect to other components that are useful to the dentist in replacing or supporting missing dental structures.

Crowns, bridges, partials, and dentures are examples of dental implants’ restorative ability. Dental implants can replace a single missing tooth, multiple missing teeth, or the supporting teeth in a fixed bridge and add retention and support to a complete denture. This technique is called the “All-On-Four” method. Read more about the All-On-Four method and its benefits in this article here.

What are the Benefits of Restoring Teeth in Seniors?

There are many treatment choices for our older adult patients who want to make the transition to a healthy, natural-looking smile easy and stress-free. Our experienced dental care team in Bonham, Texas, as well as a caregiver or loved one who understands the patient’s motivating factors, may need to explain why an individual should move forward with treatment. Some discussion points for the benefits of tooth restoration are as follows:

Improved Oral Function

Restoring tooth loss benefits the patient in many ways. Our natural teeth aid in speech, digestion, and appearance. Without teeth in the oral cavity, articulating words can prove challenging.

As previously discussed, teeth have a vital role in digestion. By chewing our food (called mastication), our teeth prepare foods to be broken down by the stomach. Bypassing the mastication step leaves the hard work up to the stomach to break down our foods, leading to digestive and nutrient absorption issues.

Enhanced Aesthetics

Not only does a healthy smile restore oral function for a patient, but it also benefits an individual’s facial appearance. A complete set of teeth can lend a youthful appearance and prevent the sunken facial features that often accompany someone with missing teeth. Restoring missing teeth can give a patient more confidence in their appearance.

Preservation of Jawbone Health

Natural teeth are supported in the jawbone and secured by ligaments in their sockets. Losing even one tooth will cause bone loss from the empty space where the tooth once was. Without teeth to keep the jawbone intact, it will eventually deteriorate. Dental implants used with bone substitutes (bone grafting) can preserve the space where the natural tooth once was.


You don’t have to give up on having a healthy smile if your teeth are compromised and need removal. There are many solutions to help elevate your confidence, oral health, and function! Call Bonham Sunshine Dental and Implant Center in Bonham, Texas, for a consultation with our expert dentist to discuss the following steps to restore your smile!

Send Us a Message

We encourage you to contact us with any questions or comments you may have.