Health Policy

Tooth loss in the very old: 13-15-year incidence among elderly Iowans.

Warren, J.J.; Watkins, C.A.; Cowen, H.J.; Hand, J.S.; Levy, S.M.; Kuthy, R.A.
2002 Feb

Abstract

OBJECTIVES: Very few studies have reported tooth loss incidence over a period of 10 years or more, and fewer have reported tooth loss occurrence in subjects aged 80 and older, so that the long-term pattern of tooth loss in the very old is largely unknown. This study assessed 13-15-year tooth loss incidence among a cohort of Iowans, aged 65 and older at baseline.

METHODS: Oral examinations were conducted on 520 subjects beginning in 1983, and periodically until 1988, with another round of examinations conducted on surviving members of the initial cohort during 1996-98.

RESULTS: Of the 73 remaining subjects, 45 subjects lost a total of 153 teeth during the period (mean=2.1 teeth lost), with a maximum of 17 teeth lost. Molars were the most commonly lost teeth, while canines and maxillary incisors were the least commonly lost. Bivariate analyses found that tooth loss was associated with untreated decay at baseline and level of periodontal attachment loss at earlier examinations. Logistic regression identified only greater severity of attachment loss as a significant risk factor for tooth loss (Adjusted odds ratio=2.4, P=0.006). The impact of tooth loss on subjects' lives was assessed using OHIP and other questions. The occurrence of tooth loss over the study period had little impact, but the number of remaining teeth significantly impacted subjects' ability to eat or chew food, swallow, or their willingness to smile.

CONCLUSIONS: These results suggest that tooth loss continues in the very old, that periodontal attachment loss is associated with tooth loss in this age group, and that loss of teeth over one's lifetime does affect certain quality-of-life measures.