The Real Cost of Tooth Loss

Categories: General Dentistry

cost of missing toothSANTA CRUZ, SCOTTS VALLEY CA

A rite of passage for any developing child is the loss of baby teeth. Most adults can remember this part of their childhood: the odd feeling of a loose tooth, the various means to get a tooth out (the string tied to the doorknob springs to mind), and the temporary change in appearance, eating, and speaking that comes when the teeth are finally out.

However, tooth loss is not only restricted to children. Unfortunately, it has been estimated that close to one in ten adults in America have suffered the loss of one or more permanent teeth through means other than wisdom teeth extraction, and this number gets higher with age.

There are, of course, consequences for the loss of a permanent tooth as an adult. Depending on which teeth are lost and how many of them have gone, these consequences can be fairly profound. A missing front tooth will decidedly affect one’s appearance, for example, which can lead to a loss of self-confidence. This might make a person too self-conscious to smile, which can be perceived as a more grim, even surly demeanor; it is not hard to see how this might have repercussions on that person’s interactions at work or interpersonal relationships. Changes in speech patterns might lead to similar outcomes.

But even if the missing tooth is not as easily visible – a back tooth or bottom tooth, for instance – or is one whose loss will not alter one’s everyday speech, there still might be lesser but significant downsides. For instance, the jawbone may resorb or diminish at the site of the missing tooth, causing a sunken-in appearance. Indeed, tooth loss has even been shown to increase wrinkles and even alter the overall shape of the nose. But these changes aren’t restricted to a person’s looks and how they speak. Certain foods may be harder to eat and may have to be avoided entirely, including favorite dishes whose absence can seriously affect one’s quality of life.

A missing tooth can cost a person dearly, but these costs can be even steeper still. The most immediate of these is an overall decline in oral health. The bacteria which can cause bad breath can also lead to periodontal disease, which can lead to the loss of even more teeth. Moreover, a missing tooth will often cause other teeth to shift, causing even more changes to a person’s smile. Worse, it can stress 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 the strain on it can make chewing, drinking, swallowing, speaking, singing, or even yawning painful. Bite misalignment due to tooth loss can cause different kinds of wear on the teeth that move, possibly leading to pain from grinding teeth to headaches. These remaining teeth can become damaged, which may even lead to further tooth loss, especially if the shift makes it more difficult to floss, as it frequently does. Additionally, a missing tooth can lead to bone loss in the jaw, which, again, can lead to a domino effect of more missing teeth.

As if all of this were not bad enough, missing teeth can lead to other health conditions. In extreme cases, the inability to chew and diet restrictions can lead to health consequences from vitamin deficiencies to possible malnutrition. Worst of all, tooth loss is implicated in higher occurrences of life-threatening conditions. A 2018 study in Europe shows a link between tooth loss and an increased risk of heart disease and heart attack. An American study from 2019 also demonstrates this link, as well as to such dire ailments as stroke.

The cost of missing teeth can therefore be very high, indeed. However, there are ways to avoid the most dangerous and painful of these consequences. The universal consensus among dentists is that missing teeth should be replaced. There are a variety of ways to do this. Historically, these have included dentures, which are often recommended if the person has lost most or all of their teeth. If the majority of the teeth are still present, a bridge is an excellent option. In the last several decades, a very popular method for replacing missing teeth has been dental implants, which have the added advantage of minimizing the possibility of jawbone resorption, which is when the body resorbs the jawbone due to a lack of stimulation from teeth. However, dental implants provide this necessary stimulation, which helps preserve your jawbone.

Tooth Replacement Options in Scotts Valley, Los Gatos, and Santa Cruz

Missing teeth can be dismaying, but there are treatments available that can get a person smiling again. If you would like to learn more about preventing tooth loss or discover tooth replacement options that are right for you, please contact Ebrahimian Integrative Dentistry by calling (831) 438-4411 to schedule a consultation.