If you presently have one or more missing teeth or failing teeth—or if you currently wear dentures—you know how tooth loss affects your life: It may cause you to be more careful when eating and speaking, and to hide your smile when you’d like to let it show. Here’s something you should consider as well: The problems of tooth loss aren’t going to go away unless you take care of them—permanently.
Statistics tell us that almost 7 in 10 adults between the ages of 34 and 44 have lost at least one permanent tooth—perhaps due to injury, disease, or another cause. If a single tooth is lost, it may not seem like a big deal—but it can set off a cascade of events that could lead to a drastic decline in your oral health.
What Happens When Teeth Go Missing?
The first thing that can happen after the loss of a tooth is migration (unwanted movement) of the adjacent teeth. When there’s a gap in the smile, the teeth nearby begin to tilt forward and drift toward the front of the mouth, potentially causing bite problems. Besides looking unsightly, it can also create a situation where it becomes very difficult to maintain oral hygiene, leading to gum disease and tooth decay.
Next, the tooth opposite the missing one—that is, its “partner” on the opposing jaw, which would normally close against it—may begin to push further out (supra-erupt) from the gums, because now there is nothing pressing against it when the mouth is closed. This can not only cause more bite problems, but may also expose the “partner” tooth’s roots and leave it more susceptible to decay if the gums are not healthy.
Once tooth loss begins, it can lead to more of the same if it isn’t properly treated. As nearby teeth are weakened by disease or bite problems, they begin to fail as well. In a short time, the body begins naturally resorbing (eroding away) the bone under missing teeth. Bone loss destabilizes the jaw structure and may lead to a prematurely aged look. Eventually, the entire mouth becomes affected, and the problem that started with one tooth is now a problem for all teeth.
What You Can Do About It
Obviously, if you could turn back the clock, you would fix the problem before it got this serious. But if you are missing one or more teeth and you’re wondering when is the right time to act, the answer probably is: right now.
If you’re considering a bridge or dentures, though, you may want to think again. Bridges rely on support from healthy teeth, which must be cut down or “shaped” to accommodate them. This can makes them more likely to become decayed or require a root canal. Bridges are expected to need replacement in about 10 years. Dentures offer a relatively inexpensive replacement option, but they are often a source of frustration and embarrassment. Worse, they don’t stop the process of bone loss—instead, they accelerate it.
Dental Implants: The Best Solution
There is now an effective way to stop the progression of tooth loss: dental implants. Implants are set directly into the jaw bone, and actually fuse with it in a process called osseointegration. This prevents further bone loss and stabilizes the bite. Implants aren’t susceptible to decay, and with proper care they can last a lifetime. Plus, they look and feel just like your natural teeth.
You can replace one tooth or multiple teeth with implants. However, the longer you wait, the more complicated (and costly) the implant procedure may be—and the longer you’ll be living with dental problems that aren’t getting better. Want to save some of that time and cost? Come in and see us about dental implants sooner… not later.