Why It’s Important to Replace Missing Teeth
You might think that losing a tooth is not such a big deal. You have plenty more, after all, right?
You’d be wrong there though. Each of your teeth has an important role to play, and teeth are team players; they work together. When one is lost, there are several significant effects on the remaining teeth.
The Causes of Tooth Loss
Of course, it’s not at all uncommon to lose a tooth to disease or decay at some point in one’s lifetime. Sometimes a tooth is lost despite our best efforts at keeping our teeth in good shape. Gum disease and tooth decay are the leading cause of tooth loss.
Accidents and sports injuries can also result in loss of a tooth. As we age, our teeth become more fragile, the strength of the teeth and the enamel decreases, and we become more at risk of tooth loss.
Consequences of Tooth Loss
A missing tooth in the front of your mouth can put a real damper on your smile and your confidence. Depending on the location, missing teeth can affect your speech. Missing teeth can also affect your appearance, as the cheeks can become sunken in over gaps, making you look older.
As if that’s not enough to chew on, there can be even more worrying consequences. Once a tooth is lost, the bone area under the missing tooth begins to deteriorate almost at once, as the stimulation of biting and chewing is needed to keep bone tissue healthy.
Effects on the Remaining Teeth
The teeth on either side of the gap take on additional strain and become in danger of being lost too, as a result of bone loss under the missing tooth. Adjoining teeth will shift towards the gap in an attempt to fill it in. Hence the teeth may become misaligned, affecting the bite pattern.
There is more pressure on the remaining teeth which have to compensate in order for you to chew your food properly. Teeth may have to take on a role that they were not designed for, for example a canine which is designed for cutting or biting food may have to take on the work of chewing or grinding, which is the work of the molars. Hence food may not be chewed properly, affecting digestion.
Rather scarily, the tooth above or below the missing tooth can grow longer into the gap, become loose or more at risk of fracture.
Options for Tooth Replacement
So what to do about missing teeth?
Dentures are the cheapest alternative and the best solution when many teeth are missing – but they fail to provide the stimulation your jaw needs to avoid bone loss.
For one or more missing teeth, a bridge may be anchored to the teeth adjoining the gap. Bear in mind that a bridge or a partial bridge does not support the remaining teeth and can put additional strain on them. As with dentures, bridges do not prevent degeneration of the jawbone.
For a missing tooth, a dental implant is the best long-term solution, despite the fact that implants are fairly expensive. A titanium post is surgically set into the jawbone and serves as an artificial tooth root, and a replacement tooth is fitted onto it. Ideally this needs to be done as soon as possible after loss of a tooth, as healthy gums and adequate bone is needed.
Bone will begin growing around the implant, which provides stability for the remaining teeth and prevents further tooth loss. If the procedure is delayed, there may not be enough bone to support an implant and a surgical bone graft might be needed. This is why it’s important to replace a missing tooth as soon as possible.
If you have missing teeth, having them replaced is important to your health. Make an appointment with your dentist to find out how you can avoid the health consequences of missing teeth.