In the 1200s, Viking children were paid for their first lost tooth. Today the Tooth Fairy's under-the-pillow donation makes the transition from baby to permanent teeth less scary.
But if you're an adult and you're losing a tooth — or teeth — there's nothing rewarding about it.
Around 178 million Americans are missing at least one tooth, and about 40 million are missing all their teeth. The most common causes of tooth loss are severe gum disease (periodontitis), tooth decay, and trauma.
Severe gum disease affects almost 50% of adults ages 30 and over, and hits 70% of those 65-plus. It can develop from lack of daily dental hygiene (flossing and brushing) or from having a chronic disease like diabetes. Bad gums also make it more likely you'll suffer body-wide inflammation that damages internal organs.
Tooth decay, like gum disease, comes from bacteria run amok in your mouth. It, too, is inflammatory.
Trauma — such as a car accident or sports-related accident, a fall, or an on-the-job mishap — can break or dislodge a tooth. If that happens, reposition the tooth in the socket immediately, if possible. If not, put it in a glass of milk or in your mouth next to your cheek. See a dentist within 30 minutes. Don't touch the root, rinse the tooth with soaps or chemicals, or wrap it in anything.
Eliminating gum disease reduces your risk of heart disease and cancer, so eat a non-inflammatory, plant-based diet, don't smoke, brush twice and floss once daily, and see your dentist/hygienist every six months for regular cleanings.