Maintaining healthy teeth and gums can help you keep your teeth for life

Not so long ago, it was rare for an older person to go to bed without taking out his or her dentures. However, endentulism (toothlessness) has been declining in this country since the 1950s. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), approximately 25 percent of the current population over age 65 is toothless.

Periodontal disease is the leading cause of tooth loss in older adults. “However, people should realize that while their likelihood of developing periodontal disease does increase with age, maintaining periodontal health can help you keep your natural teeth for a lifetime,” says Dr. Gene Fortman, a local periodontist and member of the American Academy of Periodontology. “Not everyone can avoid the signs of aging, such as wrinkles or the need for bifocals, but periodontal disease can often be prevented.”

A variety of risk factors make older individuals especially susceptible to periodontal disease especially the presence of other diseases. Research has shown a connection between periodontal disease and other inflammatory diseases of aging, such as diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis or heart disease. Other factors that may influence the progression of gum disease include medications, mental health, worsening memory, diminished salivary flow and functional impairments.

To help prevent periodontal disease and maintain a healthy, toothy smile as you age, it is important to keep your dental professional up to date on any changes in your overall health, the goal is to make adjustments in oral care before these changes result in full-blown problems in the mouth.

Dr. Fortman recommends comprehensive daily oral care, including regular brushing and flossing, and routine visits to the dentist to avoid gum disease. If gum disease develops, a consultation with a dental professional, such as a periodontist, can lead to effective treatment. A periodontist is a dentist with three years of additional specialized training in the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of gum disease.

For more information on preventing periodontal disease in older adults, visit

About the American Academy of Periodontology

The American Academy of Periodontology (AAP) is the professional organization for periodontists, specialists in the prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of diseases affecting the gums and supporting structures of the teeth, and in the placement of dental implants. Periodontists are also dentistry’s experts in the treatment of oral inflammation. They receive three additional years of specialized training following dental school, and periodontics is one of the nine dental specialties recognized by the American Dental Association. The AAP has 8,000 members world-wide.