Losing a tooth can start a chain reaction of problems which will affect a number of functions you take for granted. These include the way you eat, and the way you speak. It can also impact on your oral health and therefore on your general state of health. Fortunately, your dentist can help you by filling the gap.
The most obvious consequence of a lost tooth is not hidden. It’s the aesthetic effect. It can change your smile, and affect your facial appearance in general, particularly if you lose more than one or two teeth. The absence of teeth can cause the cheeks to hollow and sag, and the area round the mouth may pucker and wrinkle.
Effects of missing teeth
- Losing a tooth can affect the way you bite into your food, and the way you chew it. The missing tooth affects the careful balance of work inherent in a full set of teeth, putting extra pressure on the remaining teeth to take on the workload of the missing teeth in addition to their own. A knife with a piece taken out of the blade cannot cut with the same effectiveness as a sharp and honed blade. In the same way, a missing front tooth will distort your biting action by breaking the cutting edge of your incisors and front teeth. The same applies to the chewing action performed by the molars, which are tasked with breaking down and pulping the food. With team members missing in action, efforts by the rest of the team can be both lopsided and less effective.
- Trying to rebalance the system, remaining teeth may start to move into the gaps. If that move doesn’t go smoothly, these teeth skew. And while they are still trying to fill the gap, teeth on the opposing jaw may compete with them. They do this by growing longer than their immediate neighbours, and jutting into the space left in the opposing jaw. Both of these outcomes can end up affecting your bite. This will, in turn, put pressure on the joint between your jaw and your skull, the Temperomandibular joint. This pressure can cause headaches, pain and possibly osteoarthritis.
- The tiniest of gaps left between the teeth, the irregular heights, and the skew teeth can threaten your oral health. Hard to reach, and therefore hard to clean, these areas are vulnerable to decay. Food particles get caught in them, providing the ideal scenario for bacteria to grow, and plaque to form. This can lead to gum disease and the further loss of teeth, as well as impacting on the jawbone and then on your general state of health. Links have been made between poor oral health and various body functions and diseases. These include heart and lung problems, arthritis and diabetes, among others.
- Lost teeth may also affect the clarity of your speech, and cause you to bite your cheek or tongue more often.
Replacing lost teeth
The three basic treatments are the use of partial or full dentures, implants or bridges.
Dentures are used to replace a few teeth, or the entire set. Partial dentures involve a few artificial teeth bound together by wire. These are attached to your remaining teeth to fill in large gaps caused by the loss of multiple teeth. When, for some reason, a full set of teeth is lost or removed, a full denture is required. Full and part dentures are removable for cleaning.
Implants are the top of the range of replacements because of how natural they look and how well they function. They consist of a titanium prong which is embedded in the root area of the jawbone. An artificial tooth, similar to the cap used in crowns, is attached to this root replacement. Implants can stand alone, or can be used as supports for bridges.
Bridges: An artificial tooth or teeth are used to span gaps. They are supported on either side by neighbouring teeth, or by implants, if the abutting teeth are not suitable. The bridge, a type of partial denture, is attached to crowns on the adjacent teeth, or connected with metal wings which are joined to the teeth with resin.
Your dentist is the best one to advise you on what solution is the best one for you, should you need to replace a missing tooth, or teeth. It is best to take immediate action. Leaving it too long could complicate matters as the body’s natural gap-filling process may have already set the chain reaction in process.