Experts estimate that roughly 178 million people in the United States have lost at least one tooth, and 40 million Americans are missing all of their natural teeth. If you’ve lost one or more teeth, you know how it affects your ability to chew normally and smile with confidence.
But did you know that missing teeth can also affect your oral health? When there’s a gap in your smile, you’re more likely to experience jawbone loss, abnormal enamel wear patterns, shifting teeth, bite misalignment, dental decay, and gum disease.
While there are several excellent options for replacing missing teeth, dental implants are the singular “gold-standard” solution that comes closest to replicating natural teeth. They’re also the only choice that supports and protects your long-term oral health.
Here at Smiles in Springfield, our restorative dental expert Quang Tran, DDS, recommends dental implants whenever they’re a viable option. Here, he explains why they’re the best tooth replacement choice for your oral health.
Every healthy, natural tooth has an underlying root that feeds its development and keeps it anchored firmly in the jawbone. But a tooth’s root doesn’t just serve the tooth itself; it also stimulates the very bone tissue that surrounds it.
When you lose a tooth, the underlying bone no longer has the stimulation it needs to remodel itself at a normal rate. Without a replacement root, the affected area of bone tissue begins to shrink and recede away.
Made of biocompatible, long-lasting titanium, a dental implant is an artificial replacement root that’s surgically set into your jawbone. Just like a natural tooth root, it prompts the surrounding bone tissue to continually remodel and rebuild itself, so it stays strong, dense, and healthy.
One of the biggest oral health ramifications of missing teeth is the ensuing “drift” of remaining teeth around the gaps. Even if you lose only one tooth, the natural teeth on either side of that empty space can slowly shift toward it, narrowing the gap and leading to misalignment of your bite.
A natural tooth that isn’t held steadily in place by its neighboring teeth can also turn inward or outward and become crooked. And if you’ve lost any of your primary chewing teeth (molars), your other teeth may suffer excessive wear as you compensate with altered chewing patterns.
By serving as a permanent replacement for a missing tooth, dental implants help protect and preserve your remaining natural teeth as well as your bite. The exposed portion of the implant (root post) is capped with a porcelain tooth (crown) that fits in with its neighbors and matches your bite perfectly.
The cascade of oral health problems prompted by tooth loss may start with jawbone loss and shifting teeth and lead to excessive dental wear and bite misalignments, but that’s not where they end.
Left untreated, drifting teeth or an altered bite alignment can make it harder to reach certain spots when you brush and floss.
This explains why people who take longer to replace missing teeth are more likely to develop dental decay and periodontal (gum) disease, both of which can lead to further tooth loss.
Promptly replacing a missing tooth with a dental implant is the best way to preserve your oral health and prevent the inevitable problems — including cavities and gum disease — that happen when gaps go unfilled for too long.
When it comes to replacing missing teeth, you have plenty of choices. Besides implants, our team offers a full range of custom bridges and dentures, including implant-supported dentures.
But while conventional bridges and dentures can effectively fill the gaps left by missing teeth and keep any remaining teeth in position, they don’t protect against bone loss. They’re also not as stable, durable, or long-lasting as implants.
If preserving optimal long-term oral health is important to you, then implants are without a doubt the best restorative solution. Call 703-634-4239 to learn about the many benefits of implants or to schedule an appointment with Dr. Tran in our Springfield, Virginia, office today.