The truth about tooth loss

Dr Adam Patel an implant dentist at The Dental Suite discusses the impact that tooth loss can have on both overall and oral health.

At what age am I at risk of losing a tooth?

Patients of all ages are at risk of losing teeth with various potential causes. Although tooth loss is more commonly associated with the elderly, research has shown that up to a third of the population will lose their first adult tooth between the ages of twenty one and thirty.

What are the overall effects of having a tooth extracted?

Evidence has shown that losing a tooth can have detrimental health, physical and psychological effects on individuals. Tooth loss directly affects ones self-esteem as it can alter the way you smile and your overall lower facial features.

What are the health detriments to losing a tooth?

Losing a tooth can have various oral and general health related repercussions. Teeth play a pivotal role in the pronunciation of words. Thus, depending on the position of the tooth in the mouth and how many teeth are missing, patient’s speech can be adversely affected.

When a tooth is extracted a patients overall chewing efficiency is reduced and in turn unfavourable forces are exerted on the remaining dentition. This can lead to weakening of other teeth and a change in dietary habits. Patients with fewer teeth tend to favour a softer diet avoiding foods that require extensive chewing. This can lead to various nutritional deficiencies as often foods containing important nutrients are avoided.

If there is an imbalance of teeth on one side of the jaw, patients will be inclined to chew more frequently with one particular side of the mouth. This can generate excessive strain on the jaw joint and muscles on one side of the face leading to further pain and discomfort.

What are the physical effects of losing a tooth?

When a tooth is extracted the immediate surrounding bone will collapse and breakdown within the following months. Apart from the obvious oral physical defect that will be visible when you talk and smile the impact is more widespread. The part of the jaw where the tooth was lost can continue to shrink for many years and cause a collapse in the facial soft tissue (such as cheeks and lips) which can manifest itself by making your facial appearance more aged and wrinkled.

Within the mouth, adjacent teeth may move into the space left by the extracted tooth, causing alterations in your bite and chewing habits. The alignment of your teeth becomes more vulnerable and the chances of the teeth becoming crooked increases.

What are the psychological implications of tooth loss?

There are long-term psychological ramifications of losing teeth. Many patients experience an increase in self-consciousness, reduced self-confidence and a subconscious reduction in their willingness to smile openly. Often this can impact gravely on an individual’s social life.

Can lost teeth be replaced?

Yes, teeth can be replaced with removable dentures, fixed bridgework or implants depending on your individual circumstance, remaining dentition and overall oral and general health. Although replacing teeth with prosthetic replacements is a viable solution, nothing can and will ever feel and function as effectively as your own natural tooth.

Is it worth replacing lost teeth?

Yes, it is invaluable. Many of the health and psychological effects discussed above can be minimised or eliminated with the correct replacement solution. Replacing teeth should not be considered an unnecessary cost, but rather a sound investment in ones future health and appearance.

What are dental implants?

A dental implant is a titanium fixture that an implant dentist will place in your jawbone. It holds a false tooth (or teeth) in place. Over several months, your jawbone will fuse with the metal root. Dentures or bridges can be screwed or clipped onto the implant. Implants are considered the gold-standard restoration in modern day Dentistry as they are the strongest, longest lasting life-like restorative option available to you.

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