We’re often asked, “What happens if you don’t replace a missing tooth?” Luckily, the team at Bertagnolli Dental in Westminster, Colorado has the answers. We always provide accurate, unbiased and up-to-date information to our patients. A missing tooth can be dealt with in a number of ways, but some people may prefer just to leave it. With the full story, it is easier to make the best decision for your health.
Missing teeth currently affect a large percentage of the population, and around 35 million people in the United States are missing all of their teeth due to accidents, wear and tear with age, gum disease, or as a result of cancer. Some seek dentist services to start the process of replacing their tooth immediately after losing it. Depending on the age of the patient, their budget, and personal preferences, there are a number of different replacement options available, permanently or temporarily. However, what happens if you don’t replace a missing tooth are a variety of issues you will likely notice.
Your Appearance Changes
A missing tooth can drastically alter the appearance of your natural smile. If the missing tooth is near the front of your mouth, the gap may be easily visible to others when you talk, eat and smile. This change can affect some people more than others. If a gap in your teeth causes you to become self-conscious, you may start to avoid smiling or talking to other people. When a missing tooth impacts the self-confidence of a patient, it may be time to consider tooth replacement for aesthetic reasons.
Speech is Sometimes Affected
Multiple missing teeth can limit the types of food you can comfortably eat. You may have to start avoiding hard, brittle or chewy foods, or risk discomfort while chewing. Indigestion and altered nutrition are also side effects of this problem. If you lose teeth at the front of your mouth, you may experience an alteration in the way you speak. We pronounce certain sounds by moving the tongue against the back of our front teeth. If they suddenly disappear it is not uncommon to develop a lisp or for the way you enunciate words to change. For one or multiplie missing teeth, dental bridges might be the answer.
Eating Can Be Difficult
In addition to changing your appearance, what happens if you don’t replace a missing tooth is that it can also cause you to change the way you eat and talk. If you lose a tooth that is heavily used when chewing food, this can create an immediate impact in the way you chew and the types of food you can eat. You will have to compensate for the loss of your tooth by using other teeth more to bite and chew. If you are missing the molars that usually do the heavy grinding work, you may have to rely on your incisors and canines more when processing food. This unusual stress can cause them to wear down quickly.
Risk of Gum Disease
Once a tooth is lost, there is an increased risk of gum disease at the site of the missing tooth. Some people forget or never learn how to clean the area correctly, and this can lead to a buildup of bacteria. Gum disease threatens the health of the surrounding teeth and causes bad breath. To avoid this, the easiest way is to fill the empty space with an implant or dental bridge to replace the tooth. Preventing a tooth from falling out is much easier and less costly than having to deal with a missing tooth.
Accelerated Bone Loss
One lesser known, but serious side effect of what happens if you don’t replace a missing tooth is bone loss. A healthy tooth has its root firmly embedded in the jawbone. This keeps the tooth anchored in place, and the continual pressure from the tooth as it works to bite and chew food keeps the jawbone healthy and intact. As soon as a tooth is removed or falls out, nothing is stimulating the jawbone, and it starts to lose volume and density. In the first year after the tooth is lost the jawbone directly under the gap will lose 25% of its volume and continue to shrink.
This loss of bone in your jaw over time can physically change the shape of your face. As bone is lost and the underlying structure of your jaw shrinks away, your skin and lips may appear sunken and puckered around the mouth, or become asymmetrical if the tooth loss is on one side. If left without replacement for a long time, the bone can deteriorate significantly and cause the sinus to enlarge, leaving little actual bone structure remaining to anchor an implant if one is desired later. This is why it is important to act quickly when you lose a tooth. If you wait too long, it may be impossible to have an implant without more complex bone grafting.
Options for Replacing a Missing Tooth
A missing tooth can be replaced relatively quickly and easily by your dentist. There are a number of different options, each with their own advantages and disadvantages, but the most recommended option by far is a dental implant which is anchored directly into the jawbone. A crown is cemented onto this implant and acts as a permanent replacement for your missing tooth. The titanium ‘root’ means that your replacement tooth is strong enough to use for normal chewing and that the jawbone will continue to receive the pressure it needs to stay intact and healthy. Other options include dental bridges and partial or full dentures, but these will not combat bone loss as well as an implant.
Even if your missing tooth is not too visible and does not affect your self-esteem, it is important to think about the overall health of your mouth when considering the options. Our experienced dentists at Bertagnolli Dental in Westminster are happy to continue the conversation in-person about what happens if you don’t replace a missing tooth. Call us today to schedule your appointment.