Losing your baby teeth is perfectly natural. Those deciduous teeth prepare the way and serve as guides for the permanent teeth that should last you a lifetime. Losing an adult tooth is not natural. In humans, permanent teeth never grow back, and the absence of a tooth can lead to a wide range of dental problems. Most such troubles can be overcome through various dental restoration options, but if you choose to ignore the tooth loss, it can lead to serious health issues over time.
- Misalignment – Your teeth are supported by those next to them. After losing a tooth, the nearby teeth will eventually lean into the unoccupied space. This shifting can be subtle, but it can cause a domino effect that eventually affects all of the teeth in that arch. This can lead to a crooked smile, change the shape of your face, result in a bad bite, and even cause headaches and joint pain.
- Gum disease and tooth decay – Misalignment also makes your teeth more difficult to brush and floss properly. Some parts of a tooth can become inaccessible. If you cannot clean a surface of a tooth, plaque accumulates, hardens into dental calculus, and eventually leads to cavities and deeper tooth decay. The accumulation of plaque can also inflame your gums and lead to gingivitis. Gingivitis is relatively minor and even reversible, but that early stage of gum disease will eventually develop into periodontitis. Periodontitis is much more serious and not reversible, and it is the leading cause of tooth loss in adults. Gum disease can also lead to and exacerbate other health issues, including diabetes and cardiovascular disease.
- Jawbone deterioration – Your jawbone supports your teeth, but your teeth also support your jaw and provide stimulation that is integral to bone growth. If you have a missing tooth, your jawbone does not get the stimulation it needs in that area. The bone in that area deteriorates and is not replaced. This can have a domino effect as well since the jaw shrinks over time. Your remaining teeth are less effectively supported. In addition, this can dramatically affect the shape of your smile and your overall face.
How Do You Overcome a Missing Tooth?
Modern dental medicine is quite advanced and provides multiple ways to replace one or multiple missing teeth, which means you have options. Not everyone is a candidate for all options, however. Therefore, you should schedule a consultation with a dentist. Your dentist can assess your oral health and discuss the options as well as the pros and cons when it comes to function, feel, and aesthetics.
The most common options are:
- Dental implant – Dental implants are the most sophisticated tooth-replacement option available and the most recommended, but they are also the most involved and most expensive option—at least up front. Since implants can last a lifetime, the cost becomes much more favorable over time. The procedure involves screwing one or more titanium posts into your jaw. While that may sound horrific, the process is fast and painless. That implant now provides stimulation to your jawbone as a tooth root would. An abutment is attached to the post in order to support a crown, and once the surgery has healed, your dentist will create a custom crown and attach it to that abutment.
- Implant-supported bridge – An implant-supported bridge is a way to overcome several or more missing teeth. The procedure is similar to the one discussed above, but the dental restoration spans several or more missing teeth. Traditional bridges use the remaining natural teeth for support, but that can cause problems over time. The advantage of this approach is that the implant provides support while stimulating the jaw.
- Implant-supported denture – If you are missing all or most of your natural teeth, then implant-supported dentures are a permanent and convenient solution. This restoration is often referred to as all-on-X, where X refers to the number of dental implants required, which is usually four to six. Your restoration will look and function like natural teeth and can last a lifetime with proper maintenance.
- Full and partial dentures – Dentures are an affordable way to replace missing teeth. Full dentures can restore all of the teeth along an arch, and partial dentures are ideal for filling in a gap. Modern manufacturing techniques let the dentures look just like natural teeth, and many dentists can make them in an on-site lab. There are potential downsides, however. Dentures can lead to gum and jawbone deterioration. As your gums and jawbone shrink, your dentures will no longer fit well and will have to be adjusted or replaced.
Replace Your Missing Teeth
Just a single missing tooth is a serious oral health issue that should be corrected as soon as possible. Jeffrey D. Clark, DDS, is a leading restorative and cosmetic dentist who can help you choose the best tooth-replacement option for you. If you choose an implant-supported restoration, Dr. Clark will be working with one of the premier oral implantologists in the region. Call Scottsdale Dental Excellence at 480 585 1853 with any questions and to schedule your consultation.