Updated on March 7, 2024
5 min read

What Causes Edentulism?

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Edentulism (tooth loss) is a condition that can affect your overall health and quality of life. There are various causes of tooth loss, but many treatments are available for it as well.

Let’s look at edentulism and its impacts on oral health in this article.

What is Edentulism?

Edentulism refers to the condition where you have one or more of your natural teeth missing. Partial edentulism is when you have some of your teeth missing, while complete edentulism is an oral cavity without teeth.1

Teeth shift deformatiuon after losing molar tooth due to tooth extraction

How Common is Edentulism?

Edentulism is more common in the adult and elderly population. Here are some statistics about this condition according to the 2019 Oral Health Surveillance Report:2

  • From 2011 to 2016, edentulism in adults decreased from 4% to 2%, with the most notable decline in adults aged 50 to 64.
  • From 2011 to 2016, the average number of teeth retained by dentate adults rose to 25.5, with significant increases in those aged 50 to 64 and near-poor adults.
  • Adults aged 50 to 64, non-Hispanic blacks, Mexican Americans, the poor, less educated, and smokers retained fewer teeth than other demographic groups.

Another 2014 study also reports the following statistics:3

  • Out of their sample size, 4.9% have edentulism
  • People aged 75 and older are more likely to have edentulism than other age groups, at 24.1%
  • Males are more likely to have edentulism (5.4%) than females (4.4%)

Is Edentulism a Disability?

The World Health Organization (WHO) considers edentulism as a disability. They also consider this condition as a physical impairment and handicap.4

This means that edentulism is recognized as a condition that affects a person’s ability to perform daily activities and participate fully in society.

What Causes Tooth Loss?

The most common causes of tooth loss are:

  • Dental caries 
  • Poor oral hygiene
  • Trauma
  • Periodontal disease (gum disease)
  • Genetic diseases, such as anodontia and hypodontia
  • Other oral diseases, such as oral cancer or tooth decay

Periodontal disease is one of the main causes of tooth loss.7 It results in tissue damage, bone resorption, and tooth detachment, which eventually leads to edentulism. 

How Does Edentulism Impact Your Health?

Whether complete or partial, edentulism can impact your oral and general health. For instance, edentulism can have a serious impact on the following:5

  • Chewing function When you have missing teeth, it can be difficult to chew on hard foods like vegetables. This can affect your diet and overall health. 
  • Speech ⁠ Missing a few teeth will impact your speech since your lips, teeth, and tongue won’t be properly positioned.  
  • Teeth shifting Your remaining teeth can shift into different positions due to missing teeth.
  • Feeling self-conscious about your appearance  When teeth are missing, the jawbone can deteriorate over time, leading to a sunken appearance in the lower face area.
  • Mental health impacts — Having missing teeth can affect your self-esteem and confidence, leading to social anxiety and isolation.

How Is Edentulism Diagnosed?

Your dentist can diagnose edentulism using different exams. The process may include:

  • Clinical examinations Your dentist will check your mouth and teeth to assess your overall health. 
  • X-rays or imaging These procedures can help dentists get an in-depth look into your jawbone and other dental problems. 
  • Dental impressions This involves taking molds of your teeth and jaw to check for edentulism. 

What Are the Major Risk Factors of Edentulism?

Some groups of people are more likely to get edentulism than others. Here are some of the major risk factors of tooth loss:6

  • Age ⁠— Elderly people are more likely to suffer from edentulism because of poorer oral health and the development of diseases that can lead to tooth loss. 
  • Smoking ⁠— Smoking can lead to different oral diseases that can result in tooth loss.
  • Poor oral habits ⁠— Failing to maintain good oral health can increase your risk of dental caries and other conditions that lead to edentulism. 
  • People engaging in high-risk activities ⁠— People who play contact sports or work in high-risk environments are more likely to suffer from tooth loss. 

Treatment Options for Edentulism

The most common treatment option for edentulism is dentures. Depending on how many teeth you’re missing, you can opt for complete or partial dentures.

Complete dentures replace all your teeth in the upper and lower jaw. Meanwhile, partial dentures are for people with only some of their natural teeth missing.

Can Edentulism Be Treated Without Dentures?

Aside from dentures, you can treat edentulism with the following procedures:

  • Dental bridge ⁠— Bridges use an abutment and a prosthetic tooth to fill in the gap left by a missing tooth. 
  • Dental implant ⁠— This procedure involves placing artificial tooth roots inserted into the jaw bone. The implant acts as a replacement for your missing tooth. 
  • Full mouth reconstruction ⁠— In some cases, people with severe tooth loss may benefit from surgery and a full mouth reconstruction.  

How to Prevent Total Tooth Loss

To prevent total tooth loss, you should:

  • Practice good dental care ⁠— Brushing and flossing your teeth twice daily can prevent your teeth from falling out. 
  • Visit your dentist regularly ⁠— Regular visits to the dentist can help detect any problems that can lead to tooth loss. 
  • Watch your diet ⁠— Foods high in sugar and starch can affect your teeth. Limit your consumption of these foods. 
  • Protect your teeth ⁠— Wearing a mouthguard when participating in contact sports and other risky activities can help prevent tooth loss. 
  • Avoid smoking ⁠— Smoking and other forms of tobacco use can increase your risk of tooth decay and other dental problems.

Tips on Living with Edentulism

Living with edentulism can be tough since it can impact your overall quality of life. Here are some tips to help you live with this condition:

  • Choose a suitable treatment option Your chosen edentulism treatment must be the most suitable one for your needs and lifestyle. 
  • Talk to a dental professional Dental professionals can assess your condition and suggest the best treatment.
  • Avoid harmful habits. Habits like smoking and eating too much sugar can increase your risk of tooth loss, worsening your condition. 
  • Seek support Support groups are available to help you cope with the effects of living with missing teeth. 


Edentulism, or total tooth loss, can significantly impact a person’s oral health and overall quality of life. Fortunately, various treatments are available to help people with edentulism. Remember to practice good oral health habits and visit the dentist regularly to prevent tooth loss.

Last updated on March 7, 2024
7 Sources Cited
Last updated on March 7, 2024
All NewMouth content is medically reviewed and fact-checked by a licensed dentist or orthodontist to ensure the information is factual, current, and relevant.

We have strict sourcing guidelines and only cite from current scientific research, such as scholarly articles, dentistry textbooks, government agencies, and medical journals. This also includes information provided by the American Dental Association (ADA), the American Association of Orthodontics (AAO), and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP).
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