How Missing Teeth Can Harm Your Oral Health
A healthy mouth can keep major systemic diseases at bay and keep medications working properly at current dosages. And, by having a full complement of teeth, this can improve one’s overall health. While many patients consider missing teeth to be "no big deal", or part of the “aging process” we assure you it is not a normal process and tooth loss can cause more harm than anticipated. Hence, it is essential to replace most missing teeth without any delay.
Consequences of Missing Teeth
Here are a few possible consequences that you may have to face as a result of missing teeth:
- Bone Loss: One major problem related to missing teeth is the loss of healthy jawbone. Teeth allow one to incise (tear into food), bite and chew food (make smaller particle size for swallowing) which keep the bones healthy. If you do not treat your missing teeth, your jawbone will deteriorate over time. Similarly, any other body part that has lost function; that part will atrophy or waste away and become smaller, less strong if not used. So, this is like any site in the mouth that has a new missing tooth. The chewing forces do not stimulate the edentulous area where the tooth was extracted so the bone height shrinks and wastes away with the passing of time.
- Tooth Decay: Missing teeth can make brushing and flossing more difficult, resulting in plaque formation that leads to gum disease, tooth decay, and even tooth loss. Even with the recommended proper electric toothbrush and dental aides, plaque removal is still difficult at best unless you practice improving. This needs to involve being shown your current status and your improvement tracked. We offer to each of our patients to schedule with our dental hygienist, and you will be shown specific areas you can improve.
- Trouble with Chewing: Chewing food is one of the major problems of missing molar teeth. Chewing on hard food like nuts or crackers can get difficult if molar teeth are not replaced on time. Similarly, missing your front or an incisor tooth can make biting food quite difficult. The less teeth you have, the more you are counting on the remaining teeth and are essentially overusing the remaining teeth. They can suffer with wear and other problems when one tooth is asked to do the work of several missing teeth.
- Chronic Headaches: Temporomandibular joints (TMJ) connect the jaw to the skull that helps in chewing food. When you have a missing tooth, your food biting patterns can change and cause a chain reaction that can result in headaches often severe and lasting, non-specific gum disease or additional tooth loss if not treated. Other TMJ disorders include earache, popping, or a clicking jaw.
- Restricts Diet: Missing teeth make it difficult to chew goods such as fresh fruits, whole grains, and lean meat. With a limited choice of food, your body starts to lack proper nutrition, and this can result in poor health.
- Loss of Confidence: With missing teeth, you may lose the confidence to go out and socialize. Missing teeth also affect your speech patterns, adding to further loss of confidence.
Treatments to Fix Missing Teeth
The following are a few possible treatments that can be done to fix missing teeth:
- Dental implants: This is the most common solution to fix your problem of missing teeth because they look and feel like real teeth. Whether replacing a single tooth or multiple teeth, implants provide the most permanent solution. Though the dental implants process can sometimes take longer than usual to get to the finished product and involve a surgical phase, the result is worth the time and patients are typically the happiest.
- Flipper - This is a temporary partial denture that is taken in and out of its position to clean. It typically is the smallest partial (removable) denture and while it needs to fit next to teeth to the sides of the missing tooth, it is small, relies on the suction of the roof or palate of the mouth so it often does not require (metal or other) clasps. It is the most cost effective, fastest but not a permanent option. The primary goal is always to get a fixed, non-removable option to get your smile looking, functioning and you feeling your absolute best!
- Denture: A denture is a dental appliance and term used to discuss replacing all missing teeth in one arch. A partial denture is just how it sounds, it replaces some but not all teeth in an arch. A denture is essentially made of acrylic and a partial dental is made of acrylic and may have a metal or acrylic base. Dentures can protect gums and partial dentures also help protect adjacent teeth from further damage. Partial dentures also help prevent tipping and tooth movement which can be very detrimental to function and full access for cleaning.
- Implant-supported Bridge: If you have multiple missing teeth, an implant-supported bridge may be your best solution. The teeth at each end of the missing space are secured in place with implants, and the tooth or teeth in the middle is supported because the bridge is made as one unit; this can give a natural and beautiful look.
- Tooth-supported Bridge: In this process, a tooth-supported bridge uses existing teeth to support the placement of a bridge. A crown is placed on the teeth on either side of a missing tooth or teeth and the single unit piece dental appliance is cemented permanently into place. It is a non-invasive procedure and is more cost effective than dental implants if you have enough tooth structure to still use. This may not be a viable option for every candidate looking to discuss tooth replacement.
Tips to Prevent Missing Teeth
Missing teeth can be fixed in more ways than one, but prevention is the only solution.
- Brushing is a Must - Make sure to brush your teeth twice a day for a full two minutes each time. Brushing teeth removes plaque and bacteria, which causes tooth decay. Brushing teeth with fluoride toothpaste is recommended and it is important to have a good toothbrush with soft bristles. Everyone would benefit from the use of an electric toothbrush. Oral B is the best electric toothbrush.
- Floss Twice a Day – Just as brushing, flossing is also important to keep teeth healthy. Flossing ensures no food particle is left stuck between your teeth. Flossing as perfectly as possible once a day is generally sufficient.
- Drink Water Drink plenty of water to keep your mouth hydrated. A dry mouth is a root cause of tooth decay and other oral issues.
- Say No to Tobacco – Smoking or chewing tobacco causes gum lines to recede. It leads to gum diseases and can cause your teeth to fall out. If you smoke for a lifetime, you will suffer from some tooth loss.
- Maintain a Balanced Diet - Avoid sugary food and drinks, which can cause tooth decay and other dental problems. Eat nuts, fresh fruits, and vegetables to strengthen jawbone and help produce saliva in the mouth.
Take all the above necessary precautions to avoid losing your teeth. Make sure to visit us twice a year for examinations and regular check-ups. We will work with you to identify any issues regarding your oral health and most importantly after correcting any pertinent or urgent dental needs, we will come up with a preventive plan to help save you time and money.
Always remember decay and gum disease do not hurt. Make sure to have two exams a year to catch any problems early so they are easy and not very time consuming and costly repairs. If you have been told you have tooth decay problems or gum disease, act soon before it gets too late and costs you a tooth or worse yet, your teeth!
Contact us today to schedule an appointment for your routine care and hygiene visit!