SANTA CRUZ, SCOTTS VALLEY CA
Loss of a tooth
A missing tooth (or missing teeth) can have a number of consequences, from mere inconvenience to serious health risks. A dentist will always recommend replacing teeth that are missing. Why is this? And how can a tooth be replaced?
Personal and health consequences of tooth loss
There are many reasons a dentist suggest replacing teeth:
- Restoring a patient’s speech
The teeth play a substantial role in the way a person talks, especially the front teeth (top and bottom). Depending on which one it is, a missing tooth can change speech patterns, a change which might be permanent. Replacing that tooth, however, will restore speech.
- Restoring ability to eat
A missing tooth may make it hard to eat certain kinds of foods, and some of these may have to be given up completely. Replacing the missing tooth will prevent this outcome.
- Restoring a patient’s appearance
The change in appearance caused by the loss of a prominent missing tooth (such as a top front tooth) can readily be imagined. But even a lost tooth that is less visible might still change the way a sufferer looks. For instance, the spot with the missing tooth may take on a sunken aspect. Moreover, a lost tooth has been shown to increase wrinkles and even alter the overall shape of the nose.
Furthermore, the loss of one tooth will often cause a shift in the others, further changing the appearance. This is a factor in another reason a dentist will recommend tooth replacement:
- Restoring alignment of the teeth
Other than altering a person’s appearance, the shift in teeth caused by tooth loss has even more serious consequences. One of these, bluntly put, is pain. The teeth all cooperate in distributing the pressure of biting. A tooth that is missing cannot perform this function, which can put stress on the jawbone where the missing tooth is and might ultimately lead to bone loss and to an aching mouth. Also, a missing tooth puts strain on the temporomandibular joint (TMJ), which connects the lower jaw to the skull. This is the joint that allows the mouth to open and close, and strain on it can make chewing, drinking, swallowing, speaking, singing, or even yawning painful.
Even if this unpleasant outcome can be avoided, there might be pain for other reasons. Shifting of the bite due to tooth loss can cause different kinds of wear on the teeth that moved, possibly leading to pain from grinding teeth, and to headaches.
Furthermore, misalignment can cause the remaining teeth to become damaged, which may even lead to further tooth loss (especially if the shift makes it more difficult to floss, as it frequently does). This, in turn, leads to an additional reason a dentist will recommend replacement of a missing tooth:
- Restoring oral health
Flossing and brushing helps get rid of bacteria in the mouth, bacteria which can lead to bad breath. Of course, no one cherishes the idea of having offensive breath, but this is not the only drawback of increased oral bacteria. Another is that is can lead to tooth discoloration. Bacteria produces acid, which can cause tooth enamel to deteriorate. Since a tooth’s whiteness comes from enamel – the tooth beneath it is actually more yellow in color – thinning enamel caused by bacteria buildup can cause tooth yellowing.
Even worse, bacteria which can cause bad breath and yellowing can also lead to periodontal disease. This, in turn, can lead to pain and to the loss of even more teeth.
- Minimizing overall health risks
A final reason a dentist will recommend replacing missing teeth has to do with a patient’s overall health:
- In extreme cases, the inability to chew and the restrictions on diet can lead to health consequences from a missing vitamins and minerals, and even to malnutrition.
- Studies show a link between a missing tooth a heart disease and heart attack.
- Other studies show a connection between missing teeth and increased risk of stroke, Alzheimer’s disease, and cancer.
For all these reasons, dentists will almost always recommend that missing teeth should be replaced. There are a variety of ways to do this. One way is by means of dentures. These are often recommended if the person has lost most of his or her teeth. A partial denture can be used to cover gaps if more than one tooth is lost which are not right next to each other.
If the majority of the teeth are still present, a bridge is an excellent option. A bridge woks by attaching replicas of missing teeth made from plastic or porcelain onto existing teeth, forming what is literally a “bridge” over the gap. A bridge is especially recommended for loss of more than one tooth right next to each other.
Alternatively, in the last several decades dental implants have become a very popular method for replacing missing teeth. Implants involve placing an anchor into the jaw onto which an artificial tooth is fitted. Implants work best for a single missing tooth, and have the added advantage of minimizing the possibility for the weakening of the jawbone.
Missing teeth can be dismaying, but there are treatments available which can get a person smiling again. A dentist will provide the best possible advice as to which of these will be most advantageous to a patient.
Contact our Santa Cruz area cosmetic dental office for a consultation to find out which treatments are best for your oral health. Please call Ebrahimian Integrative Dentistry at (831) 824-5111 or contact us online to request an appointment today.