Tooth loss is a very serious issue. Tooth loss is related to a number of very serious health risks in late life, including heart risks and dementia. So it’s important that you understand your risk of tooth loss so that you can work to prevent it.

To help you understand your risk of tooth loss, we’ve developed our own tooth loss risk assessment questionnaire. Click the button below to start the assessment. It’s based on a scientific survey of risk factors related to tooth loss, with weight being assigned to the questions based on the relative risk that each confers.

The Data Source

For this questionnaire, we looked at a comprehensive survey of tooth loss risks performed by the Centers for Disease Control in 2013. This survey looked at tooth loss and other health factors in adults from Rhode Island who responded to the Behavioral Risk Factors Surveillance System (BRFSS) questionnaire in 2008 and 2011. A total of 11,385 adults responded to the BRFSS in the state. The tooth loss categories available were no teeth lost, 1-5 teeth lost, 6 or more teeth lost, or all teeth lost.

Using previous research about factors related to tooth loss, CDC researchers selected 8 predictors of tooth loss in four categories: socioeconomic status, health risk behaviors, health conditions and disabilities, and dental insurance coverage. They analyzed for other potential risk factors, but these 8 plus age were the only ones that remained statistically significant. For example, they analyzed many socioeconomic characteristics, including:

  • Age
  • Sex
  • Income
  • Education
  • Employment Status
  • Race/ethnicity
  • Marital Status
  • Urban/rural residence

But only age, income, and education were statistically significant.

Income and Tooth Loss

We understand that some people are touchy about reporting their income. It’s one of the last taboos in America that we just don’t talk about what we earn. But it’s an important predictor of your tooth loss risk because income is linked to your ability to access preventive dental care whether or not you have dental insurance. In the original CDC analysis, the cutoff point was $25,000 a year. We adjusted upward for inflation and then to the nearest round thousand, but didn’t adjust for the relative cost of living between Rhode Island and Orange County, as these are less reliable.

Education and Tooth Loss

Education is correlated with tooth loss partly because of income and partly because education teaches people about the importance of oral health. However, after a high school diploma, education levels stopped being a large predictor of tooth loss.

young man with a smile, showing a missing tooth

Smoking and Tooth Loss

Smoking is one of the greatest predictors of tooth loss. Some studies show that smokers may be as much as ten times more likely to lose teeth as those who never smoked. Smoking also increases your risk of dental implant failure.

Physical Activity

Regular physical activity helps improve blood flow to your gums, which helps keep them, and your teeth, healthy. It also helps prevent diabetes and helps maintain a healthy BMI (see below).


Diabetes increases your risks from gum disease for many reasons. It impairs blood flow to your gums, and may increase the levels of sugars in the mouth, though the primary impact is systemic inflammation, which alters your body’s immune response, making your body more likely to “go nuclear,” destroying your gums and bones as well as gum disease bacteria.


Obesity is an emerging risk factor in our study of tooth loss. It was once suspected that the primary risk factor was diabetes, with obesity just increasing your risk for diabetes. But this study among others shows that obesity is an independently associated risk factor. Potentially, this is related to diet, with increased sugary and carbonated drink consumption being the link.

Disability and Tooth Loss

A disability may increase your risk of tooth loss through several factors noted above: physical activity, diabetes, and obesity, but it may also make it harder for you to properly care for your teeth and gums.

Dental Insurance

Although dental insurance is not universally positive when it comes to dental care, it definitely helps middle-class individuals get access to preventive care, so it’s significantly associated with tooth loss.

Aging and Tooth Loss

Age is associated with tooth loss for many reasons. Over time, teeth acquire decay and wear, so damaged teeth may be lost. Our exposure to oral bacteria increases, leading to a greater risk of tooth loss. Dry mouth increases, partly hastened by medications, so there’s less protective saliva to prevent tooth loss.

Let Us Reduce Your Risk

If you don’t like the results of the survey, we recommend that you consider taking a more active role to prevent tooth loss. If you are looking for an Orange County dentist to help protect your teeth, please call (949) 551-5902 for an appointment at Rice Dentistry in Irvine.