From gum disease to injuries, there are tons of issues that can lead to missing teeth. Not only do tooth gaps negatively impact self-confidence, but they may also cause oral health problems. Let’s take a closer look at the potential consequences of missing teeth, as well as available treatment options.
What Are the Consequences of Missing Teeth?
Even a small gap in your smile can greatly impact your day-to-day life. Here are a few possible oral health issues that may occur as a result of missing teeth.
Every tooth plays an essential role in the chewing process. For example, front teeth are used to break off small bites of large food items (such as apples), while back teeth help grind up chewier foods (such as meats). Molars, meanwhile, are used to chew virtually everything. Foods that become especially challenging to consume with missing teeth include:
- Hard foods (like raw vegetables or nuts)
- Sticky foods (like gum or candy)
- Hot foods (like hot beverages)
Difficulty chewing is more than an inconvenience. If you don’t chew properly, you may experience acid reflux and similar digestion problems.
When you have a gap in your teeth, the adjacent teeth will gradually move closer together in an effort to fill the gap. As a result, your teeth may become misaligned. Known as malocclusion, this can cause the following problems:
- Muscle plain
- Tooth sensitivity or decay
- Gum recession
- Further tooth loss
Uneven teeth also pose cosmetic issues. If your teeth aren’t aligned properly, it’s harder to be confident in your smile.
Every time your top teeth make contact with the bottom teeth, your jawbone is stimulated and strengthened. If a tooth is missing, the part of the jawbone around that area will not receive the stimulation it needs. When this happens, the jawbone will shrink and the gums will recede into the gap, leading to these consequences:
- Sagging facial skin
- Changes in facial structure
- Difficult speaking and chewing
- Headaches and facial pain
- Temporomandibular joint disorder (TJD)
In addition to causing pain, a weakened jawbone may alter the appearance of your face and make it harder to pronounce certain words.
What Are the Solutions for Missing Teeth?
Even just one missing tooth can cause long-term problems for your oral well-being. Fortunately, there are treatments available for those with tooth gaps. Here are three common solutions.
Dentures are artificial tooth replacements that look and feel just like real teeth. Some dentures are removable, while others are secured in place with an adhesive. While they’re typically used in situations where a patient is missing most or all of their teeth, there are partial dentures available for filling in small-scale gaps. To create the dentures, Dr. Kevin F. Postol will make a wax or plastic impression of the patient’s jaw and mouth. Then, a technician will shape them until they’re a perfect fit. Benefits of dentures include:
- Realistic appearance: Dentures are designed to look natural.
- Low maintenance: Fixed dentures can be maintained with regular brushing and flossing, while removable dentures just need to be rinsed regularly.
- Works for most patients: Unlike other tooth replacement options, partial dentures can suit almost any patient.
Of course, there are some cons to dentures as well. For instance, they cannot handle certain foods and need to be replaced regularly (about every seven to 10 years). They’re also prone to slipping, which can be embarrassing in social situations.
If you’re missing teeth but think dentures are too extreme, dental bridges may be the right solution. Staying true to their name, they quite literally “bridge the gap” between teeth using posts and prosthetic teeth. Dr. Postol will start by installing two posts (or crowns) over the teeth adjacent to the gap. Then, he will place artificial teeth over the posts. Secured in between these teeth is another artificial tooth, which seamlessly fills in the gap and completes your smile. Benefits of dental bridges include:
- Strong bite force: Compared to dentures, dental bridges offer a stronger bite force that can maintain the shape of your jawbone.
- Long-lasting: On average, dental bridges last for about 15 years.
- Secure: Dental bridges remain secure in your mouth, meaning you don’t have to worry about an embarrassing slippage situation.
On the downside, dental bridges are not 100% effective in preventing bone loss and jawbone deterioration. Moreover, if the crowns don’t fit properly, the patient may experience tooth decay underneath.
When it comes to tooth replacements, dental implants tend to be the most popular option. They involve artificial, customized tooth roots that are implanted directly into bone tissue. First, Dr. Postol will make a small incision in the gum to expose the jawbone underneath. If the bone is strong enough to support implants, he will drill holes and install the tooth roots. Patients with weaker jawbones may need a bone grafting procedure before they can use implants. Benefits of dental implants include:
- Permanent solution: Unlike other artificial teeth options, dental implants typically last a lifetime.
- Easy maintenance: Dental implants are designed to function just like normal teeth, so they can be maintained with regular brushing and flossing.
- Stability: Since they’re anchored to your gums, dental implants are highly secure.
In comparison to dentures and dental bridges, dental implants offer the most benefits. Not only are they permanent and easy to care for, but they’re also the closest thing you’ll find to real teeth.
Where Can I Get a Tooth Replacement?
Whether you’re missing one tooth or several, it’s important not to let the problem go unaddressed. Over time, missing teeth can cause tooth decay, gum disease and serious jawbone deterioration. If you’re looking for high-quality dental implants or other tooth replacements, Dr. Postol and his team are here to help. After an initial consultation, we can determine the best solution for your needs. Learn more by requesting an appointment today!