Oral Health

Tooth loss (older adults in nursing homes)

Impaired dental function (fewer than 20 teeth)

Older adult tooth loss by:


Tooth loss affects overall health and quality of life

Teeth play an important role in speech, eating ability, appearance and quality of life. Losing a tooth can cause surrounding teeth to shift and to accumulate bacteria under the gum line, resulting in further gum disease and loss of bone and tissue. Significant bone and tissue loss leads to changes in facial appearance.

Studies have found that complete tooth loss (edentulism) is associated with poor nutrition due to the inability to eat certain foods, especially healthful fruits and vegetables and increased consumption of unhealthy foods high in cholesterol and bad fats. Poor nutrition can lead to obesity, heart disease, diabetes, digestive diseases, kidney disease, cancer, disability and death.

Poor quality of life can be an issue for people with complete tooth loss, including decreased self-esteem and decline in overall well-being. Individuals may avoid joining in social activities because they are embarrassed to speak, smile, or eat in front of others, leading to isolation.


Periodontal disease is one of the leading causes of tooth loss

Periodontal disease is one of the leading causes of tooth loss. Injuries and oral-dental trauma may also cause tooth loss. Risk factors for tooth loss include poor oral hygiene, tobacco use, dry mouth, gum disease (gingivitis) and some prescription medications. Tooth loss is preventable in most cases through proper oral hygiene, regular dental visits, avoiding tobacco and using products that help with dry mouth.


Almost 3 in 5 adults aged 65 years and older living in Minnesota nursing homes have impaired dental function

In 2016, 59 percent of older adults living in Minnesota nursing homes – about 22,747 individuals – have impaired dental function (fewer than 20 teeth). There were no significant differences in the proportion of older adults with impaired dental function by sex or age group. Race and ethnicity could not be analyzed due to the low proportion of non-White or Hispanic residents in the sample.

In 2016, 3 out of every 5 (58.5%, 95% CI = 55.3 to 63.7; n = 924 of 944) Minnesota older adults aged 65 years and older in nursing homes lacked functional dentition (had fewer than 20 teeth).

25% of older adults (65 years and older) living in Minnesota nursing homes have complete tooth loss

Tooth loss among older adults in Minnesota nursing homes, 2016

Source: Minnesota Department of Health, Oral Health Program. Older Adult Basic Screening Survey.

Data is based on an open mouth screening – the Association of State and Territorial Dental Directors (ASTDD) standardized survey. Analyzable sample size = 944 of 1,032 residents screened within a stratified random sample of 31 Minnesota Medicare or Medicaid eligible skilled nursing facilities with at least 30 beds. Tooth loss was unknown for 20 residents. Complete tooth loss means the participant screened had no natural, permanent teeth remaining (between 28 to 32 teeth missing). Partial tooth loss means the participant screened lost at least 1 natural, permanent tooth, but not all teeth (between 1 to 31 teeth missing). No tooth loss means the participant screened had all of their natural, permanent teeth remaining (i.e. 28 to 32, with wisdom teeth). See About the Data: Basic Screening Survey for Older Adults for more information.

In 2016, 25 percent of older adults living in Minnesota nursing homes had complete tooth loss and 66 percent had partial tooth loss. There were no differences in the proportion of older adults with tooth loss by sex or age group. Race and ethnicity could not be analyzed due to the low proportion of non-White or Hispanic residents in the sample.


Roughly half of adults aged 65 years and older living in Minnesota nursing homes with tooth loss own dentures

Tooth loss among older adults in Minnesota nursing homes by denture ownership, 2016

Source: Minnesota Department of Health, Oral Health Program. Older Adult Basic Screening Survey.

Data is based on an open mouth screening – the Association of State and Territorial Dental Directors (ASTDD) standardized survey. Analyzable sample size = 944 of 1,032 residents screened within a stratified random sample of 31 Minnesota Medicare or Medicaid eligible skilled nursing facilities with at least 30 beds. Denture ownership was not measured in 87 residents (no tooth loss = 63, unknown = 24). Complete tooth loss means the participant screened had no natural, permanent teeth remaining (between 28 to 32 teeth missing). Partial tooth loss means the participant screened lost at least 1 natural, permanent tooth, but not all teeth (between 1 to 31 teeth missing). See About the Data: Basic Screening Survey for Older Adults for more information.

In 2016, roughly half of older adults living in Minnesota nursing homes with any tooth loss owned dentures. Eighty-one percent of older adults with partial tooth loss and 7 percent with complete tooth loss did not own dentures.