Chronic Health Conditions Linked to Increased Tooth Loss

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:
Marcia L. Parker, DMD

Division of Oral Health
National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion


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MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study?

Response: This report reviewed three measures of tooth loss among adults over 50 years old with selected chronic conditions. The report analyzed data from the 2011–2016 cycles of the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) to compare the rates of total tooth loss, severe tooth loss (less than 8 teeth), and lacking functional dentition (less than 20 teeth) among people with and without selected chronic conditions.

MedicalResearch.com: What are the main findings?

Response: Our analysis found that having chronic conditions is associated with increased tooth loss. This is important because oral health is critical to overall health, and having extensive tooth loss can limit food choices which can exacerbate other chronic conditions.

MedicalResearch.com: What should readers take away from your report?

Response: The two major causes of tooth loss–gum disease and cavities–are preventable. Extensive tooth loss can lead to limited diet choices, which can lead to obesity or weight loss. It can also negatively impact physical appearance and speech, which can lower self-esteem. Primary care providers can educate their patients with chronic conditions about their increased risk for tooth loss and the importance of healthy behaviors, including brushing with fluoride toothpaste.

MedicalResearch.com: What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this work?

Response: Our study indicated an association between extensive tooth loss and having a chronic condition. Understanding the causal mechanisms  (e.g., common risk factors, untreated dental disease increasing risk for chronic conditions or visa-versa) is important to develop more effective interventions to prevent tooth loss. For instance, persons with diabetes experienced notable improvements in tooth retention. Understanding the factors that contributed to this improvement could be helpful in developing interventions to prevent tooth loss among persons with other chronic conditions.

MedicalResearch.com: Is there anything else you would like to add?

Response: About 6 in 10 Americans live with at least one chronic disease. The relationship between oral health and chronic disease has been well documented. Oral health reflects the health of the entire body, and having a healthy mouth is important. Primary care providers have an opportunity to educate their patients about the importance of oral health, and they can also screen and refer patients to dental professionals.

No disclosures to report.


Parker ML, Thornton-Evans G, Wei L, Griffin SO. Prevalence of and Changes in Tooth Loss Among Adults Aged ≥50 Years with Selected Chronic Conditions — United States, 1999–2004 and 2011–2016. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep 2020;69:641–646. DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.15585/mmwr.mm6921a1




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Last Updated on May 30, 2020 by Marie Benz MD FAAD