According to a recent report, fewer adults are facing the

dental implants vs. dentures dilemma these days. That’s because although most older adults have decay in their teeth, overall more and more of them are keeping their teeth, according to a report recently released by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC).

A Fast Decline in Edentulous Rates

Old friends laughing together and having teaThe most recent data for the rate of edentulism (complete loss of teeth) comes from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, and is summarized in a report released in May by the CDC.

The data shows a lot of progress in oral health, but perhaps the most striking data comes from the figures on complete tooth loss among seniors age 65 and over. This data shows that the edentulous rate in 2011-2012 dropped to a remarkable 18.6%. That’s down from 23% in 2005-2008, and 35% in 1988-1994.

The change in edentulism is being driven by a rapid decline in toothlessness among those entering the “senior” category. The new report showed that adults age 65-74 had an edentulous rate of just 13.0%. In 1999-2004 the edentulous rate among those age 65-74 was 24%, and in 1988-1994, it was 29%. If edentulous rates continue to fall at this pace, we could see toothlessness completely eliminated within the next couple decades.

And it’s worth noting that although fewer seniors may be needing complete dentures, most of them can still benefit from dental implants, since two-thirds of adult age 65 and over have lost at least one permanent tooth.

Disparities Persist

However, there are many potential barriers to eliminating toothlessness completely. One is that not everyone is benefitting equally from the dramatic drop in toothlessness. The CDC report shows that the toothlessness rate for non-hispanic blacks (29.2%) and non-hispanic Asian (24.2%) lags behind that of non-hispanic white (16.9%) and Hispanic (14.9%).

This is still an improvement, since the toothlessness rate for non-hispanic blacks in 1999-2004 was 32.8%, but it’s nowhere near the drop seen by other parts of the population.

Another obstacle is poverty. The current CDC report doesn’t include figures for the correlation of toothlessness and income, but in 1999-2004 the toothlessness rate for those below the Federal Poverty Level and over the age of 65 was 44%, compared to just 17% for those with income greater than 200% of the Federal Poverty Level.

As oral healthcare needs change, Rice Dentistry in Irvine is prepared to help our older patients with whatever needs they may have. If you would like to make an appointment for yourself or an older relative, please call (949) 551-5902 for an appointment with an Orange County dentist.