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JADA: More older adults keeping their natural teeth longer

January 07, 2019

By Michelle Manchir

Older Americans are keeping their teeth longer, according to the cover story of the January issue of The Journal of the American Dental Association.

Image of January JADA coverAuthors of "Tooth Loss Among Older Adults According to Poverty Status in the United States From 1999 Through 2004 and 2009 Through 2014" used data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys to assess changes in tooth loss in adults age 50 and older.

They found that complete tooth loss has decreased by more than 75 percent for adults 65-74 years of age over the past five decades. However, recent increases in retaining natural teeth generally were significant only for those not living in poverty, which researchers defined as the ratio of family income to the Department of Health and Human Services' federal poverty guidelines.

How dentists provide care may need to evolve to meet challenges that an older population presents, said Dr. Bruce Dye, corresponding author of the article and a researcher with the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research.

"The data show that older adults are keeping more of their natural teeth, and complete tooth loss is the lowest in the modern era in the United States, which of course is good news," said Dr. Dye. "Because previous studies have shown that tooth loss can reduce quality of life and lessen the likelihood of eating a healthy and diverse diet, having more teeth present suggests an increased need to protect oral health in older adults to prevent such concerns as root cavities and periodontal disease — thus helping to improve overall quality of life."

To read the full article, visit

Other highlights of the January issue of JADA include a look at preventive dental care use for children with special health care needs in Washington; a meta-analysis of the relationship between levels of serum and gingival crevicular fluid matrix metalloproteinase-8 and periodontitis; and an examination of the association between Medicaid adult nonemergency dental benefits and dental services utilization and expenditures.

Each month, JADA articles are published online at in advance of the print publication.