About Tooth Loss

Key points

  • Tooth loss can lead to poor diet, low self-esteem, difficulty speaking, and lowered quality of life.
  • Leading causes of tooth loss include untreated cavities, periodontitis, and smoking.
  • A combination of good oral hygiene, overall self-care, and professional dental care can help prevent tooth loss.


Tooth loss can lead to poor diet, low self-esteem, difficulty speaking, and overall lowered quality of life.1

The leading causes of tooth loss include untreated cavities (tooth decay), periodontitis (gum disease with associated bone loss), and smoking.234

A growing number of studies indicate that people with chronic conditions more often have untreated dental conditions, which can result in tooth loss.567

Among U.S. adults 50 years or older, those with certain chronic conditions (such as diabetes, heart disease, or emphysema) have more frequently experienced tooth loss.6

From 1999 to 2016, the prevalence of tooth loss among U.S. adults 65 years or older has decreased by about 35%. However, many are still affected by complete tooth loss:48

  • About 1 in 8 (13%) adults 65 years or older had complete tooth loss in 2015–2018.
  • About 1 in 6 (18%) adults 75 years or older had complete tooth loss in 2015–2018.

Tooth loss is largely preventable. A combination of oral hygiene practices, overall self-care, and professional dental care can help you avoid tooth loss.


Some ways to describe tooth loss severity include:26

  • Loss of “functional dentition” (having fewer than 20 teeth remaining).
  • Severe tooth loss (having 8 or fewer teeth remaining).
  • Complete tooth loss (no natural teeth remaining).

Who is at risk

Some groups are still disproportionately affected by complete tooth loss.

Complete tooth loss was about three times more common among older adults who had lower income (34%) compared to those with higher income (11%) in 2011–2016.4

Complete tooth loss was about three times more common among older adults who had less than high school education (32%) compared to those with greater education (10%) in 2015–2018.8

The prevalence of complete tooth loss was higher among non-Hispanic Black older adults (25%) compared with Hispanic older adults (15%) and non-Hispanic White older adults (11%) in 2015–2018.8

A growing body of research shows association between some chronic conditions and having higher risk for tooth loss. 567

A recent study found that complete or severe tooth loss was at least 50% higher among adults reporting the following conditions (than those without the condition):6

  • Fair/Poor general health
  • Heart disease
  • Diabetes
  • Emphysema
  • Asthma
  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Liver condition
  • History of stroke


Untreated dental cavities (tooth decay) and periodontitis (gum disease with associated bone loss) are the two leading oral diseases that cause tooth loss. Both diseases are largely preventable and can be treated before they result in tooth loss. Another leading contributor to tooth loss is smoking.234


Adult (permanent) teeth begin erupting as early as age six.9 There are multiple preventive measures that can help people protect and keep those teeth healthy across the lifespan.

Things you can do to support your oral health and help prevent tooth loss include:

  • Brushing twice daily.
  • Flossing daily.
  • Limiting foods and beverages that are high in added sugar.
  • Having at least a yearly dental check-up (even if you have no natural teeth remaining).
  • Having professional dental cleanings.
  • Having additional dental visits if recommended by your health care provider.
  • Asking your health care provider about chronic conditions that may increase risk for tooth loss.

Although tooth loss is more common among older adults, younger adults and children are also at risk for premature tooth loss due to untreated cavities and other factors. Premature loss of a baby tooth before the adult tooth is ready to erupt can lead to various malocclusions (abnormal tooth positions) and other complications.1011

Dental sealants can prevent cavities for many years.12 Community water fluoridation provides a safe, cost-effective, and widely accessible way to help prevent cavities by rebuilding, strengthening, and protecting a tooth’s surface.13

Treatment and recovery

A dentist can offer treatment options to help replace missing teeth. Depending on your unique treatment needs, you may be referred to a dental specialist such as a periodontist14 or prosthodontist15 to help restore your oral health.

How to Find Low-Cost Dental Care‎

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services provides information on where to find low-cost dental care. Additionally, many dental or dental hygiene schools have a clinic, staffed by the professors and students, where care is provided based on ability to pay. Find the closest program through the Commission on Dental Accreditation.

What CDC is doing

CDC's Division of Oral Health (DOH) provides leadership to improve the nation's oral health.

We promote proven interventions, such as dental sealants and community water fluoridation, to reduce the rate of cavities, especially for people at highest risk. We also support data collection efforts to help monitor progress towards improving the nation's oral health.

Some of the oral health data collected through the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey are used to monitor progress towards several Healthy People 2030 objectives. One of those objectives involves reducing the proportion of U.S. adults who have experienced complete tooth loss.

DOH efforts to improve oral health of the nation include:

  • Funding state, territorial, and tribal oral health programs.
  • Conducting oral health-related research.
  • Working to integrate medical and dental care.
  • Partnering with organizations that support the DOH mission.
  1. Griffin SO, Jones JA, Brunson D, Griffin PM, Bailey WD. Burden of oral disease among older adults and implications for public health priorities. Am J Public Health. 2012;102:411–418. doi: 10.2105/AJPH.2011.300362
  2. Kassebaum NJ, Bernabé E, Dahiya M, Bhandari B, Murray CJ, Marcenes W. Global burden of severe tooth loss: a systematic review and meta-analysis. J Dent Res. 2014;93(7 Suppl):20S–28S. doi:10.1177/0022034514537828
  3. National Institutes of Health. Oral Health in America: Advances and Challenges. U.S. Dept of Health and Human Services, National Institutes of Health, National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research; 2021. Accessed January 3, 2024. https://www.nidcr.nih.gov/sites/default/files/2021-12/Oral-Health-in-America-Advances-and-Challenges.pdf
  4. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Oral Health Surveillance Report: Trends in dental caries and sealants, tooth retention, and edentulism, United States, 1999–2004 to 2011–2016. U.S. Dept of Health and Human Services; 2019.
  5. Wei L, Griffin SO, Parker M, Thornton-Evans GO. Dental health status, use, and insurance coverage among adults with chronic conditions: Implications for medical-dental integration in the United States. JADA. 2022;153(6):563–571. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.adaj.2021.12.012
  6. Parker ML, Thornton-Evans GO, 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.
  7. Griffin SO, Jones JA, Brunson D, Griffin PM, Bailey WD. Burden of oral disease among older adults and implications for public health priorities. Am J Public Health. 2012;102:411–418. doi: 10.2105/AJPH.2011.300362
  8. Fleming E, Afful J, Griffin SO. Prevalence of tooth loss among older adults: United States, 2015–2018. NCHS Data Brief. 2020;368:1–8.
  9. Nelson SJ, Ash MM. Wheeler's Dental Anatomy, Physiology, and Occlusion. 9th ed;2010.
  10. American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry. Management of the developing dentition and occlusion in pediatric dentistry. The Reference Manual of Pediatric Dentistry;2023:466–83.
  11. Kim S, Park S, Lin M. Permanent tooth loss and sugar-sweetened beverage intake in U.S. young adults. J Public Health Dent. 2017;77(2):148–154. doi:10.1111/jphd.12192
  12. Ahovuo-Saloranta A, Forss H, Walsh T, Nordblad A, Mäkelä M, Worthington HV. Pit and fissure sealants for preventing dental decay in permanent teeth. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2017;7(7):CD001830. doi:10.1002/14651858.CD001830.pub5
  13. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Federal Panel on Community Water Fluoridation. U.S. Public Health Service recommendation for fluoride concentration in drinking water for the prevention of dental caries. Public Health Rep. 2015;130(4):318–331. doi:10.1177/003335491513000408
  14. American Academy of Periodontology. What is a periodontist? Accessed December 18, 2023. https://www.perio.org/for-patients/what-is-a-periodontist/
  15. American College of Prosthodontists. Why see a prosthodontist? Accessed December 21, 2023. https://www.gotoapro.org/why-see-a-prosthodontist/#495