Adult teeth are in it for the long haul, right? Like many things on this adventure called life, our teeth might not make it as far as we planned. Tooth loss in advanced age is expected and common. It comes with the territory. Losing teeth at a young age on the other hand can create serious issues if left untreated. Today’s post is dedicated to understanding the importance of preventing and treating tooth loss the right way so that it doesn’t adversely affect your appearance and oral health.
Why Replace Missing Teeth
Although each tooth is an individual, they do their best work with others. In fact, each tooth has a predetermined place among its peers and serves a specific role depending on its placement and shape. Lost teeth can be the result of trauma, decay or medical conditions. Whatever the cause, when a tooth is missing that area of the mouth and the surrounding teeth become less useful. There are two things that can occur over time when you are missing teeth; drifting teeth and bone loss.
When a gap is left by a missing tooth the surrounding teeth drift over time and fill the void. They can’t help it. Our teeth have a natural tendency to move towards the front of our mouth as well as the adjacent jaw. This movement is usually prevented by surrounding teeth. When this barrier is lost, teeth drift. This quickly leads to misaligned teeth and gums, creating areas that can be difficult to clean. The impacted teeth are also more vulnerable to damage as their movement reduces their structural integrity. To make matters worse, the teeth directly above or below the missing tooth (on either the upper or lower jaw) can also shift to fill the gap. This can cause cosmetic issues including changing the structure and look of your face over time. This misalignment also places undue strain on the TMJ and the rest of your jaw, which can lead to a bevy of pain and discomfort.
Bone loss is a naturally occurring phenomenon whenever a tooth or teeth go missing. The alveolar bone, which is responsible for supporting the teeth, needs the force and stimulation provided by your teeth day in and day out. When this daily stimulus is lost, the bone begins to shrink both in terms of width and height over time through a process known as resorption.
If left untreated, bone loss can create scenarios where dentures are no longer a viable option. There is simply not enough jaw bone structure to support them. Not only is this a major issue for the quality of your life and nutrition, it is also a cosmetic nightmare that can change the way your mouth and face appears permanently. You could end up being mistaken for your spouse’s parent.
How to Replace Missing Teeth
Thankfully there are a variety of effective means for treating lost teeth. This includes fixed bridges between existing teeth, partial and full dentures as well as the most permanent and effective option of all; dental implants. For a full understanding of what dental implants provide and how they integrate seamlessly as part of your mouth, check out our Guide to Dental Implants.
As with all things oral health, prevention and early action are always recommended and provide the least discomfort and financial burden possible. Your dentist and dental hygienist are excellent resources for discussing missing teeth and other oral health concerns you may have.