If you’re wondering why missing a tooth (or teeth) is such a big deal then read on because a missing tooth sets off a series of negative events.
We’ve touched on the concept of progression in one of our previous blog posts when we talked about what happens when a cavity is left untreated. We went over how the damage starts small just with the protective layer of your tooth being harmed. And then what happens next (when the decay is left to its own devices) it begins to damage the internal tooth structure leading to pain and the necessity of a root canal!
And that’s where we left off.
If you get to that point you might choose to have the tooth removed, or if too much damage has already been done then a tooth extraction may be necessary. Unfortunately, while an extraction provides relief from tooth pain it sets in motion other issues needing to be addressed.
Today we’re going to look at what happens to your oral health when a tooth is lost, whether from decay, extraction or injury and what you can do about it. Losing an adult tooth can cause a host of additional problems if the tooth loss isn’t addressed, and not just because of cosmetic concerns, surprisingly.
Why Do People Lose Their Teeth?
First of all, it’s important to understand why people lose their teeth because we want to do everything we can to avoid missing teeth. Of course, we can all expect that there’s going to be some very obvious reasons as of why a person might lose their teeth (such as in the case of an accident) but there’s actually about eight other factors that can contribute to tooth loss and you can do something about almost all of them!
We’ve already mentioned this one, but cavities can be fixed with fillings, crowns, and veneers. Extensive decay is what leads to tooth loss or impaired tooth function. Signs of decay include dark spots on enamel, tooth sensitivity or a toothache. This is why it’s necessary to take action quickly for tooth decay before it becomes a larger, more painful, and costly issue.
Awwww, this is a BIG one when it comes to tooth loss and your health. It’s sneaky because you may not personally notice any symptoms (at first). But the truth is, more than half of the U.S. population has periodontal disease (aka gum disease).
It comes about when plaque (aka bad bacteria) builds up under the gum line and begins to destroy the gum tissue & supporting structure that keeps your teeth from falling out.
If this disease is not maintained then the gums will pull back, or recede, from the tooth.
When this happens the tooth can lose supportive bone structure and become destabilized. For adults, gum disease is the biggest culprit when it comes to tooth loss, and this is why having a superb oral health routine at home is important. It’s also equally important to see the hygienist at the recommended intervals because that is the only way to keep those harmful bacterial colonies at bay!
Injury or Trauma
Ok so obviously if you hit your tooth hard enough you could lose it, but severe fractures, cracks, or other injuries to the tooth can invite tooth loss. Whether you crack a tooth chewing on hard candy, opening packages with your teeth (for the love of Pete, stop doing this!), sustaining a sports injury, or exposing the tooth to extreme hot or cold temperatures (downing an icy beverage after eating something hot), your tooth can pay the price.
We definitely have to mention that tobacco use is a prime culprit when it comes to harming your teeth. It impacts your oral health and can lead to tooth loss and even oral cancer. If you smoke, there’s no better time than today to stop. (We believe in you. You can do it!)
Aka teeth grinding. When you clench or grind your teeth, whether it be in your sleep or while awake, this can wear down tooth enamel over time which leads to decay and potential infection. If you are a night grinder, simply wearing a night guard while you sleep can help cushion your teeth and protect them from damage.
if you are over 35 you are at greater risk for tooth loss, mainly because teeth wear down over time, making them susceptible to fractures and cracks. This is why ongoing dental visits are necessary as it allows our dentist to spot problems early when they are the least costly and least invasive to treat.
Alright gentlemen, unfortunately, being male increases your risk of adult tooth loss. You can, however, pre-empt oral health problems by maintaining your daily oral hygiene routine, seeing our dentist at least twice a year to remove tartar and check for problems, avoid tobacco and limit alcohol consumption.
If you have diabetes or cancer, this can affect your tooth and bone structure. Managing the disease helps protect your oral health, although chemotherapy and radiation treatments make your gum tissue more vulnerable.
What happens when you have missing teeth?
As we mentioned earlier missing teeth don’t just impact your looks, they can also harm your dental health. Guess what happens to the surrounding teeth when a tooth is lost?
You got it, they can start to shift into the extra space, and when they do, your bite can be off.
When misalignment happens, it can cause the remaining teeth to wear down quicker. You can even end up with cracks or fractures from uneven chewing pressure, which then results in cavities and gum disease.
And if that wasn’t bad enough, when a lost tooth isn’t replaced, the lack of pressure on the supportive bone beneath the tooth causes deterioration of the bone. The result? Your facial profile is diminished making you look older.
You see, the alveolar bone that supports the teeth needs constant stimulation provided by chewing to keep up its density. When you chew, the periodontal ligament in a tooth’s socket stimulates the bone to continue rebuilding (pretty cool, right?).
Without this stimulation, the width, height, and density of the alveolar bone decrease, as does the gum tissue and the jawbone underneath (resorption). What this means for you is a change in your facial structure, especially the chin and cheeks, affecting your self-confidence, especially when it impacts how you chew and speak.
On top of that, missing the back teeth allowing the remaining teeth to drift can put excessive stress onto your TMJ joints which connect your jaw bones. When this happens you can find yourself struggling with jaw pain and headaches.
What can you do about missing teeth?
At Exceptional Dentistry, we’ve got a dentist with advanced training so we’re pleased to be able to offer our patients custom restorative options that will best fit their individual needs.
However, some of the general options that many of our patients choose for missing teeth typically include:
A Dental bridge. This is a prosthesis with two dental crowns that go over the healthy teeth on either side of the gap and has an artificial tooth connected to the two crowns to cover the gap in between. A dental bridge does not require that healthy tooth structure of two teeth be removed in order to place the crowns.
Because of this, Dr. Powell typically recommends a dental implant since it stands alone and functions just like your natural tooth.
Not all implants are created equal and the success of an implant relies heavily on the skill & training of the dentist, as well as the quality of the implant.
Dental implants replace a tooth’s root with a titanium post. Made from a biocompatible material, the titanium fuses to your jawbone, creating a sturdy foundation for an artificial tooth (aka a crown) to be placed on top.
Dentures can be a good option when there are a lot of teeth missing. We offer complete dentures replacing all of the teeth in a full dental arch, partial dentures for multiple missing teeth but still having some healthy remaining teeth, immediate dentures after teeth have been extracted, and implant-supported dentures which combine implants with dentures or Fountain of Youth™ dentures which maintain the facial support you need to stay looking youthful.
Take care of your smile and call us today
Our exceptional dentist, Dr. James Powell, along with our caring team is ready to skillfully restore the normal function, comfort, appearance, speech, and health of anyone struggling with missing teeth. If you have questions or concerns about your oral health in Palmdale, C.A., please reach out to us at (661) 349-7725 or schedule your visit right now with us online.