As we age, we gain a lot of wisdom but we also lose a few things—including our teeth! By age 50, most people in the U.S. have lost at least 12 permanent teeth. It is easy to think that if the lost tooth isn’t noticeable visually that it is not worth replacing. After all, it costs money to get dentures, bridges or dental implants. Tooth loss impacts more than the appearance of your smile. Tooth loss also impacts how you use your mouth to chew as well as overall jaw strength. Before you put off replacing a missing tooth, consider the consequences of losing teeth.
- Infection – If you lost a tooth, find that tooth and get to a dentist as soon as possible! If a dentist isn’t available, consider going to a hospital emergency room. Dental implants are natural-looking teeth that can replace missing teeth. Don’t try to put the tooth back inside your mouth. Losing a tooth may have an underlying condition, which is why it’s important to schedule regular dental checkups.
Even if your tooth simply gets loosened during an impact, you should go to the dentist to have it checked out. You want to make sure you take action early to avoid the unwanted jaw and facial impacts of losing teeth. Infections can lead to serious problems.
- Weakened jawbone – Teeth are bones, and the bones of your mouth all work together to shore up the strength and alignment of your jaw. When teeth are missing, your jaw loses some of its structural integrity. Bones are strengthened by weight-bearing exercises and friction, and chewing with your teeth helps stimulate the jawbone, keeping it strong and healthy. If part of the jawbone does not have teeth to stimulate the bone regeneration process, the jaw can weaken, resulting in the loss of more teeth and potential changes in jaw shape.
- Increased tooth loss – When one tooth goes, it can have a cascading effect that weakens the jawbone and gums, ultimately paving the way for more teeth to fall out or to be lost easily in unexpected impacts.
- Changes in face shape or mouth shape – When a tooth is missing, it allows the other teeth to move around. Particularly when multiple teeth are missing, you can see noticeable changes in the cheeks, the jawline, and other areas of the face. When front teeth are missing, the lips tend to sink in and lose volume. The visible gaps after losing teeth can also be unseemly.
- Difficulty chewing – If back teeth are missing, you may be unable to chew food normally. This can slow down eating and increase the likelihood of choking.
- Muscle imbalances – If you are unable to use one side of your mouth for chewing due to losing teeth, you may overdevelop the muscles on the other side of your jaw, which can result in pain or headaches.
- Inability to wear dentures – Dentures and bridges work great to replace missing teeth, but if enough teeth are missing, over time, your jawbone can weaken and change shape, preventing dentures from fitting or making the surrounding teeth too weak to support dentures or a dental bridge. Many people are turning to dental implants as a natural-looking, permanent solution.
What puts someone at high risk of losing teeth?
- Not getting regular dental care is one of the most significant factors in tooth loss, after age.
- Poor oral care at home is also a factor. Make sure you brush and floss regularly.
- Smoking can lead to losing teeth.
- Diabetes can increase the risk of losing teeth. So can other medical conditions such as high blood pressure and rheumatoid arthritis.
Interestingly, front teeth are more likely to fall out due to gum disease than back teeth.
What are the options for replacing lost teeth?
Dental implants are the preferred way to restore lost teeth and ensure the stability and strength of the jaw. Implants are surgically embedded into the jawbone and have the same function as regular teeth. They have the greatest longevity of any tooth restoration approach and are the easiest to care for long-term, even though the implant process can require multiple visits over several months.
Dental bridges or dentures can also serve as tooth replacements. They are slightly more affordable options, but they may not be as effective at preserving jawbone strength. However, bridges and dentures, if worn consistently, can prevent teeth from moving around and altering the shape of the mouth and jaw.
Get Expert or Emergency Help If you have lost a tooth or suffer from missing teeth, contact LifeSmiles as soon as possible to speak with Dr. Randy Mitchmore about replacement options. He is trained in surgical and non-surgical tooth replacement approaches. The long-term health of your mouth is the most important thing to us, so call us for a consultation where we can discuss your options.