The number of teeth you keep as you get older could indicate just how long you will keep getting older. The main reason for loss of teeth in adulthood is gum disease, called periodontitis. This disease causes bone loss, which leads to loosening and drifting of the front teeth. This leads to the phrase, “long in the tooth,” which implies old age.

Aside from periodontitis, recent research has closely related tooth loss to “stress” during a person’s life, including specific social, emotional, economic, and educational experiences as well as health issues like chronic disease, genetic conditions, nutritional intake, and lifestyle choices. According to studies cited by the Oral Health Foundation, smoking or just continued poor oral health leads to premature loss of teeth.

No matter the cause of tooth loss, people who had lost 5 or more teeth by the age of 65 years were more likely to suffer from cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and osteoporosis, all of which could severely limit life expectancy, according to the Oral Health Foundation.

Another study concludes that the number of teeth in aging humans can affect longevity and life expectancy. Also, tooth loss is a predictor of shortened longevity.

The Oral Health Foundation is encouraging people to pay close attention to their mouth and to visit their dental team regularly to check for any signs of disease that could lead to tooth loss. The organization also notes that a similar study found that people who have a full set of teeth when they are 74 years old are significantly more likely to reach the age of 100.

“It is very evident that what is going on in our mouths can really be a useful window to our overall health. It is therefore vital that we take proper care of our mouth and pay close attention to what is happening, as it could be a sign of something more serious,” according to the Oral Health Foundation.

So, if you don’t want to get “long in the tooth,” visit your dentist regularly and reduce sugar intake. And do not smoke.