Teeth can be lost in various ways, through genetics or periodontal disease, or by injury. Whatever the cause, the effects can be felt for a long time, both in aesthetics and in the impact this can have on your oral and general health.
Aesthetic results of missing teeth
The aesthetic effect is, literally, the most obvious result of a missing tooth, and the pain or discomfort of the actual tooth loss will probably be replaced by embarrassment because of your gappy smile.
However, that’s not the worst of it. The face may also change, with wrinkles forming around the mouth, and the cheeks drooping, especially if the back molars are no longer there.
Effects on oral health
While the aesthetic aspects are important to your self-image, tooth loss can have a serious impact on your oral and general health in the following ways:
- Your chewing action can become lopsided and less effective, and an extra workload can be put on the remaining teeth.
- As adjoining teeth shift, possibly skewing in the process, or opposing teeth grow longer to fill the available space, your bite can change considerably.
- The chances of tooth decay and gum disease may heighten as food debris get trapped in the gap and result in the growth of bacteria and plaque. This may threaten not only your oral health, but also your general well-being.
- Your speech may be affected.
- Cheek and tongue biting could increase, resulting in pain and the possibility of ulceration.
- Bone may be lost and gum recession increased. In addition, your changed bite may impact on your Temporomandibular Joint, where the jaw meets the skull. This can cause jaw pain, headaches, and perhaps even contribute to the development of osteoarthritis.
What can be done to fill the gap?
Dental Implants are one of the major options, either as a complete treatment, or by providing a base for other replacements. These titanium alloy root subsitutes are inserted into the jawbone to form a base for individual artificial teeth, and, sometimes, for bridges or partial dentures.
Individual Tooth Implants
Dentists consider dental implants to be the best option because they do not rely on other teeth for support, and the adjacent teeth are not damaged or cut. Implants are also the nearest to natural teeth, taking almost as much biting pressure, and looking the most natural. The progression of gum recession and bone loss, is also less likely to occur than with other options, because implants are directly connected to the bone.
As their name implies, bridges literally span the gap between your teeth, replacing the missing tooth or teeth with false porcelain or ceramic ones. Bridges are traditionally braced by being joined with crowns to the natural teeth abutting the space. However, some have metal wings, which are joined to existing teeth with resin. In instances where there is no tooth to support it on one side, bridges can be joined onto only one tooth.
Implant supported bridges are similar to ordinary bridges, except the bridge is supported by implants rather than natural teeth – usually on an equal ratio of one implant to one false tooth.
Removable dentures can be customized to replace one tooth, several teeth or the whole set of teeth. In many instances, dentures are constructed so as to rely on your remaining teeth for support, but sometimes implants are used to fill this role. Support gives more stability to the dentures.
Your dentist will advise you on which option is best for you. Various factors will be taken into account, like the state of your health, gums and remaining teeth. Seek advice without delay after losing a tooth, or having one extracted, before tooth shifting, and bone loss become part of the equation.