Reporter: Shannon Samson
Web Producer: Amber Griswold
The latest numbers from the Centers for Disease Control show Kentucky still leads the nation in tooth loss among older adults. In many cases, dentists say habits established during childhood are probably to blame.
You may have hated it as a kid when your parents made you brush your teeth before bed, but you should thank them now. Dentists just wish there was someone to remind you when you get older.
Half of all seniors over 75 have at least one cavity, and a quarter of them have gum disease, but both can be avoided.
Marge Donovan has taken care of her teeth throughout her life and at age 85 has a beautiful smile to show for it.
Marge explained, "I was blessed with really good teeth and my mother told me they were so important because she didn't have very good teeth. So all my life, I have been very appreciative."
Of course, regular brushing, flossing and trips to the dentist make a difference, but there are other factors too.
Glenn Norton, D.M.D. commented, "Genetics is an issue. It's something you just can't control. People who open bottles with their teeth versus a little dainty lady who is not going to do that kind of thing, that's an issue."
Most people know how to prevent cavities, but know little about periodontal or gum disease, which becomes a bigger threat after age 35.
If the plaque on your teeth and gums is not removed, bacteria living there produce toxins that cause the gums to become inflamed and tender. This could lead to gingivitis, the first stage of gum disease, and if not treated, the gums eventually pull away from the teeth and the bone supporting the teeth erodes.
A visit to the dentist can be expensive, but preventive care is a good investment.
Dr. Norton said, "If you added up the total cost of doing that versus the cost of becoming a mess and trying to straighten it out, that's way more expensive."
Opening bottles with your teeth may sound extreme, but you may be guilty of other bad habits: chewing ice or chewing popcorn kernels. Doctor Norton says they just crack teeth in pieces.