Tooth Loss And Longevity—More Than An Obvious Link?

As you age, there are many health conditions that are balanced and analyzed to determine your projected life expectancy. But which have the greatest weight? 


Recent studies have indicated that tooth loss is a major indicator for longevity and life expectancy. Scientists began to look at tooth loss as a way to identify risk factors for other diseases; however, they concluded through their research that it was also a solid measure of general health measures that play right into longevity. 

 Aging and toothlessness

Researchers were able to conclude that tooth loss due to “stress,” whether it be financial, emotional or physical, was linked to other chronic conditions and poor lifestyle choices. For example, people who had lost five or more teeth by the age of 65 were more likely to suffer from cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and osteoporosis, all of which could severely limit life expectancy. 


Keep reading as we unpack why our mouth is a window to the rest of our body and how our teeth can tell a great deal about our overall health.  


What does your mouth say about your health? 


The teeth and gums are sometimes the first indicator that there is a medical problem in another system of your body. It’s important to remember that your mouth is not a separate entity bifurcated from the rest of your body, but instead is intricately intertwined. It’s commonly known that poor oral health can lead to an increased risk of heart disease, diabetes and arthritis as well; however, it’s also important to be aware of specific changes in your mouth that could indicate other diseases.  


For example, for those with type II diabetes, poorly managed blood sugar can cause damage to blood vessels, which lead to oxygen restriction and nutrition deprivation to the gums and bones. Higher glucose levels in saliva also create a breeding ground for bacteria. Weak gums and bones will be targeted by the bacteria and result in oral health diseases and tooth loss.  


Oral health diseases are also closely linked to cardiovascular disease. These are connected by the spread of bacteria from your mouth to other parts of your body through the blood stream. When these bacteria reach the heart, they can attach themselves to any damaged area and cause inflammation. This can lead to heart disease, heart attacks and even death.  


More teeth and longer life? 


The study showed older adults who still have a full set of teeth at age 74 were more likely to live to be 100 years old than those who had already begun to suffer tooth loss. Both scientists and sociologists realize that socio-economic status coupled with lifestyle factors serve as indicators for who is most likely to lose teeth at an earlier age. Therefore, if someone has troubles in other parts of their life (or there are lifestyle considerations like smoking), then it is more likely that their oral health will be poor as well. Poor oral health is, then, linked to poor overall health.  


Health issues resulting from tooth loss 


When people are asked “what is the biggest hurdle for people with tooth loss,” the most common answer is the inability to eat certain foods. One of the largest issues with eating and tooth loss is that healthy foods which boost health are some of the hardest to eat without a full set of teeth. 


Easy-to-consume, soft-foods are often filled with sugar and preservatives that speed up tooth decay and can lead to additional disease. In addition, another side effect of tooth loss is decreased appetite. Tooth loss can damage your sensory inputs, which influence preferences. Foods and textures you previously enjoyed become unappetizing. That, in combination with pain associated form eating, can cause you to consume less food over time which can negatively impact your health. 


As you age, it is important to consume a balanced diet to keep your heart and bones healthy. Without it, it’s likely you could experience other devastating diseases or ailments.  


Stay healthy—starting with your teeth! 

Also published on Medium.