Noncosmetic Reasons to Replace Your Missing Tooth

Given that dental decay and gum disease are the two most common oral health problems and the two primary causes of tooth loss, it isn’t surprising that the average adult doesn’t make it to the end of their life with a full set of natural teeth. 

Epidemiological studies indicate that 178 million people in the United States have lost at least one tooth; of these, some 40 million Americans have lost all of their natural teeth. Although the problem affects men and women of all ages, it’s especially common among older adults.  

As a restorative dentist with nearly three decades of experience, Quang Tran, DDS, knows that replacing lost teeth is as much about restoring appearance as it is about preserving function and protecting your oral health. Here’s what you should know if you’re missing any teeth. 

How missing teeth affect your oral health

The average person may be most worried about how a lost tooth affects their appearance, but it’s just as important to consider how it can hamper your daily life and diminish your long-term oral health. 

Having open spaces in your mouth can lead to a myriad of serious dental complications as time goes on. Just one missing tooth can cause: 

Difficulty eating and speaking normally 

Empty spaces in your mouth can make it more challenging to eat foods that are tough, chewy, or hard, especially if you’re missing one or more of your molars, which are primarily used for chewing. Lost teeth can affect your pronunciation and make your speech less coherent, too. 

Shifting teeth and bite misalignment

A major oral health consequence of missing teeth is the subsequent “drift” of remaining teeth around the gaps. Even if you’ve lost only one tooth, neighboring teeth can shift into the gap or turn and become crooked, causing a fundamental misalignment in your bite. 

Higher risk of cavities and gum disease

Besides causing uneven stress on your teeth that increases the risk of cracking, chipping, or complete breakage, an altered bite alignment caused by missing teeth can make it harder to reach certain spots when you brush and floss.  

This helps to explain why people who don’t replace lost teeth have a higher risk of developing dental decay and gum disease, both of which can lead to further tooth loss.

Chronic jaw pain or a TMJ disorder

A bite misalignment brought on by shifting teeth can have more painful ramifications, especially when it causes you to develop poor chewing habits. Over time, inefficient chewing can damage your temporomandibular joint (TMJ) and lead to clenching, grinding, and chronic jaw pain.     

Jawbone loss and facial changes

Your teeth are more than just tools for eating — they also play a central role in maintaining a strong jawbone. When you lose a tooth, you also lose the root that stimulated the underlying bone tissue and kept it healthy. 

Without stimulation, your jawbone eventually shrinks, softens, and loses its shape; jawbone deterioration can change the shape of your face and leave you looking older than you are.  

Tooth replacement options and benefits

Replacing lost teeth as soon as possible is the best way to avoid the cascade of complications that can diminish your oral health and set the stage for further tooth loss.  

Luckily, several realistic and durable tooth replacement options are available. Whether you’ve lost one tooth or multiple teeth, Dr. Tran has a restorative solution that can repair your oral health and revitalize your smile.      

Dental implants

An implant is a biocompatible titanium tooth root that’s surgically inserted into your jawbone, where it fuses with the surrounding tissue. A single implant is fitted with a dental crown; you can also get multiple implants to support a longer row of artificial teeth in an overdenture.  

As the strongest and most durable type of restoration available, implants look and feel just like natural teeth. And much like real teeth, they also stimulate your jawbone to keep it healthy. 

Fixed dental bridge

A bridge is a simple yet effective dental restoration that uses your natural teeth to support the artificial tooth that’s “bridging the gap” left by a missing tooth. A bridge may be made up of one or more artificial teeth that stay firmly in place when attached to neighboring healthy teeth.  

Full or partial dentures

Dentures are a removable dental prosthetic designed to restore full function and appearance to your mouth. They can be made to replace a full set of missing teeth or just a partial set; today’s more advanced dentures are well-fitted and held firmly in place by suction. 

Dentures are often the best solution for adults whose jawbones aren’t deep enough or strong enough to support implants.   

To schedule a visit with Dr. Tran or learn more about the tooth replacement solutions available at Smiles in Springfield, call our Springfield, Virginia, office at 703-634-4239 today.

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