Losing a tooth (or teeth) has much, much more drastic consequences than just leaving an unsightly gap in your smile and forever waiting for the tooth fairy to leave a coin under your pillow. (Note to adults: You'll wait forever).
The loss of a tooth is usually due to one of two things: trauma or extreme tooth decay. Although it can be fixed with restorative options like dental implants, bridges and dentures, so many people do not opt for treatment and simply live with the gaps in their mouths. The cost of having restorations done could be off-putting for some people, prompting them to forego the treatment entirely. The reality however is, not replacing lost teeth could have more far-reaching consequences than you might be aware of.
Teeth are good for each other
First off, let's talk about the way your teeth are designed to help one another rebuild their own bone tissue. Each tooth needs continuous stimulation to maintain its density. This stimulation comes from its neighboring teeth, by making fleeting contact numerous times a day. These small stresses are transmitted through the ligament that surrounds the tooth, causing the bone to remodel and rebuild continually. Knowing this, you can imagine what would happen if your teeth miss out on the opportunity to have their bone tissue stimulated for remodeling. There is a 25% decrease in width of bone during the first year after tooth loss.
As your remaining teeth keep losing width and height, your gum tissue also takes a hit. It becomes difficult to chew and speak. It's a snowball effect – as your teeth basically shrink and your gum tissue deteriorate as a result, the more teeth you risk to lose.
Furthermore, as your teeth's bone tissue is lost, the bone beneath it (the jawbone, in essence), also begins to deteriorate and ultimately melt away. The distance between your nose and your chin shrinks, and extreme loss of bone can also make you prone to jaw fractures.
Another important thing to remember, is that your teeth can shift from time to time. You ultimately want them to shift and move around as little as possible. However, shifting can be accelerated significantly with one or more teeth missing. The gaps create massive spaces into which neighboring teeth can shift. It's a domino effect – your entire bite (occlusion) can be impacted.
Adding to this, an improper bite can lead to problems that aren't necessary only in your mouth, like headaches and muscle pain.
The core function of your teeth – chewing – can be severely affected if there are one or more missing. Depending where the missing teeth are, you may have trouble chewing some foods properly. Missing front teeth can make it difficult to bite off chunks of food, while missing molars may cause difficulty in grinding up meat and other foods. Failure to chew adequately can impact digestion, resulting in problems like acid reflux, tummy ache, irritated gut and even constipation.
Your speech and pronunciation of certain words may also be affected by missing teeth. With large gaps in between teeth, you might find yourself slurring, whistling or even spitting when speaking.
Here's what you should (and shouldn't) do to prevent loss of teeth
Maintain good oral hygiene. This we all know, right? But it's important to stick to the rules diligently, and teach your children good oral hygiene habits as well. Brush twice a day and floss at least once a day to prevent the bacteria in your mouth from spreading. The bacteria in plaque are responsible for not only cavities, but also gum disease, which can lead to the loss of one or more teeth. It's important to see your dental hygienist and/or dentist at least once a year, even if you don't have any apparent dental issues or aches. Remember to give the team at City Dentists a call for an appointment.
Which brings us to the next point – don't harm your teeth with the food you eat! Sugar, for example, mixes with the bacteria found in plaque to produce an acid that attacks tooth enamel. If not fixed in time, this could lead to tooth loss.
Stray away from behaviours that can be harmful to your teeth. This includes grinding your teeth, smoking, chewing ice, and opening hard things with your teeth. These actions can cause loss of teeth.
Eek, you've lost a tooth. What now?
Thankfully, we live in a modern era with more than enough solutions for problems like missing teeth. Phone City Dentists immediately! Your options are:
A dental implant is a good option if you're missing one tooth, or several in different areas of your mouth. It involves surgically mounting a titanium metal post into your jaw. A replacement tooth is then mounted to the implant.
A fixed dental bridge might be effective if you're missing more than one tooth in a row. It bridges a gap caused by a missing tooth using a dental prosthetic or artificial tooth. The prosthetic is attached to adjacent teeth and then bonded in place using dental cement.
A removable partial denture could be useful if you need to replace some of your teeth. It's similar to complete dentures for the whole mouth, but only a smaller piece. It consists of replacement teeth attached to a natural-looking pink base.
Contact your dentist at City Dentists for more information on all of the above. The sooner you have a missing tooth fixed, the smaller your chances are of any nasty consequences.