Oral health is a strong indicator of health for the rest of the body. For older patients with chronic disease and managing complex medical conditions, maintaining good oral health is one pathway to a greater quality of life. Aging increases the risk for poor oral health. Poor oral health impacts overall health and increases the risk for diabetes and heart disease. Periodontal (gum) disease or tooth decay (cavities) are the most frequent causes of tooth loss. About 75 percent of adults aged 60 and older have some of their natural teeth, as 25 percent have severe gum disease. Older Americans continue to experience dental decay on the crowns of teeth and on tooth roots (e.g. due to gum recession).
Having missing teeth can affect nutrition, as there is often a preference for soft, easily chewed foods with the absence of teeth. Dentures, or other even implants, may not be as efficient or effective for chewing food as natural teeth. As a result, denture wearers or older patients missing teeth may choose soft foods and avoid fresh fruits and vegetables, or other healthy foods that require more chewing.