Senior Dental Health in Numbers

December 30, 2014

Despite advanced research and advancements in the dental industry, oral health issues remain one of the most significant challenges faced by seniors today. An estimated 70% of seniors (ages 65 and older) experience gum disease, while only 47% of all adults have gum disease. Seniors also have higher tooth decay rates when comparing to children. Tooth decay and gum disease are the most frequent causes of tooth loss. Although the rate of tooth loss is actually declining, about a quarter of America’s seniors are missing all of their natural teeth.

Oral cancers (mouth, throat and tongue) are primarily diagnosed in the elderly. The American Cancer Society reports about 31,000 cases a year, 7,400 of these cases resulting in death. The average age for these cancers is 62 years old.

Senior dental health can be complicated, as older adults may suffer from several issues at once. Some of the most common problems that seniors experience from poor dental health include: darkened teeth from thinning tooth enamel, dry mouth (medication and disease side effect), diminished sense of taste, root decay from exposure to acids, gum disease, tooth loss, denture-induced stomatitis and thrush.[1]

Several reasons can contribute to inadequate dental care in older Americans. Often, seniors have more difficulty accessing care to prevent and control diseases than do younger adults or children. Many senior Americans do not have dental insurance and lack of dental insurance coverage affects treatment choices and the ability to seek clinical care. Consequently, senior Americans with the poorest oral health are those without insurance benefits. Taking medications, wearing dentures and other general health conditions are a few other factors that seniors face.[2]


Some of the most common problems from poor dental health include: darkened teeth, dry mouth, diminished sense of taste, root decay, gum disease, tooth loss, stomatitis and thrush.”


With proper care and regular check-ups, your teeth can last a lifetime. No matter your age, it is never too late to start caring for your oral health. Many seniors are at risk for a number of health problems; however, tooth loss is not necessarily an inevitable consequence of aging, but is actually the result of preventable oral disease. Learn how proper oral health is vital to living a healthy life.

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[1] Friedman, Michael: “Dental Care for Seniors.” WebMD. May 22, 2014. <>

[2] “Oral Health for Older Americans.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. July 10, 2013. < s/adult_oral_health/adult_older.htm>