Most people are aware that missing teeth make us appear older, but have you ever wondered about the health implications of not replacing a missing tooth? According to a study conducted by the University College London and Harvard University, the average Briton is missing 6.97 teeth, and an enormous 74% of adults in the UK have had a dental extraction. Tooth loss occurs for a variety of different reasons, including decay, infection, wear, trauma, and gum disease. Whatever the reason for tooth loss, the impact on your life is often significant.
In addition to the common concerns about appearance, there are other real issues and dangers present if you decide not to replace a missing tooth. We’ve compiled a list of potential risks to help you better understand the importance of replacing your missing tooth:
- Bone Loss
One of the most significant risks related to not replacing a missing tooth is bone loss (bone resorption). Bone loss occurs after a tooth is lost or removed because the roots of the tooth are no longer embedded into the jawbone, leaving a void. Over time, resorption will occur and the jawbone will begin to deteriorate. If the missing tooth is not replaced, as your jawbone begins to be affected, you will notice that your face shape will gradually change, and your lips may appear asymmetrical and sunken. Unfortunately, bone resorption doesn’t only impact the tooth that’s missing, but puts you at risk of losing neighboring teeth as well. By not immediately replacing a missing tooth, the ability to provide a successful denture, bridge, or implant is often compromised due to the loss of bone.
- Drifting Teeth
If lost teeth are not immediately replaced, this can have a detrimental effect on surrounding teeth. The opposing teeth are most likely to be affected, and will continue to drift or move until there is an equal and opposing force. They might even drift and touch the opposing gums where the extracted teeth once were. Drifting teeth may cause your bite to change, leading to muscle soreness and Temporo-Mandibular Joint Dysfunction (issues with your jaw joint).
- Tooth Wear
In an attempt to avoid biting and chewing in the area where a tooth or teeth are missing, you will most likely begin overusing other teeth when eating. For example, if a tooth or teeth were extracted on the right side of your mouth, you would begin eating on the left side of your mouth. Uneven chewing forces cause excessive wear, and can lead to further tooth loss.
- Reduced Ability to Speak Clearly and Eat Certain Foods
A serious risk of not replacing a missing tooth, is a reduced ability to speak clearly and eat certain food types. Depending on which tooth or teeth are missing, it may become difficult to bite and chew certain foods. Eventually, this can lead to diminished health and poor nutrition. If certain teeth are missing (such as the ones at the front) it can also impact your ability to speak properly. Pronouncing certain words can be difficult, and you may develop a lisp.
- Reduced Self-Esteem
Whilst the examples above are all tangible effects of a missing tooth, there are intangible effects of a missing tooth which are present, and can impact your life in severe ways. If a missing tooth can be seen when you smile, speak, or eat, you may start to avoid doing any of these activities in public. This can have a detrimental effect on your social life, your job, and relationships. Depending on your age, career path, and relationship status, the cost of a missing tooth throughout your lifetime can really add up if you’re not confident to smile, speak, or eat in front of other people.
Options and Solutions
Whilst the potential risks of not replacing a missing tooth or teeth are great, we are fortunate enough to live in a society where options for replacements are readily available. There are several options to consider, including dentures, dental bridges, and the most popular and durable option – dental implants.
At Eccleshill Dental, we are proud to have helped many patients replace missing teeth, and regain their confidence. If you would like some friendly, confidential advice on the options and costs involved, telephone the practice on 01274 633406 to book a complimentary consultation with our patient care coordinator.
Together, let’s find your smile.