According to a recent American Dental Association (ADA) report, the average adult between the ages of 20 and 64 has three or more decayed or missing teeth. Tooth loss is a universal problem, and there are several causes behind it and numerous consequences affecting the individual involved. Our experts at Innovative Implant and Oral Surgery, located in Feasterville, PA, take a closer look at this all-too-common issue.
Causes of Missing Teeth
The most common missing teeth are wisdom teeth, upper lateral incisors, and second premolars/bicuspids. And while injury, gum disease and tooth decay are the most common causes of tooth loss, some people have congenitally missing teeth, which means they were born without certain teeth.
Missing teeth can result in serious health issues if left untreated, such as malnutrition when food is not properly chewed and digested, as well as speech defects. All of the teeth are needed in the jaw to prevent teeth from moving. If teeth shift in the jaw, they can cause large gaps in one area and overcrowding in another, as well as bite problems that may require orthodontic treatment. Just a single missing tooth can weaken the overall structure of the mouth, leading to more tooth loss. If the missing teeth are in the front of the mouth, it may be unattractive and cause embarrassment and self-esteem issues.
Missing teeth may also be the result of inherited congenital disorders. Children who visit a dental professional when they are young have a better chance of having these issues treated early, so the dentist can plan accordingly when there is no adult tooth to grow after the removal of a baby tooth.
Tooth decay that is linked to gum disease, called periodontal disease, is the most common cause of tooth loss. This may happen when the teeth are not cared for properly. Plaque and tartar may develop, causing decay in the tooth and deterioration in the gums and bone. Eventually, the teeth will gradually become loose and fall out. Proper oral hygiene – including brushing twice every day and flossing once every day – prevents this from occurring. Plaque can be held at bay, but if tartar develops, only a professional cleaning can eliminate it. This is the primary reason dental professionals recommend having regular cleanings twice each year.
Finally, injuries that may be the result of playing sports or from a car or other type of accident are also major contributors to tooth loss, such as a blow that knocks out a tooth. However, if the injury affects the gum or jawbone, it can also result in tooth loss. While it’s impossible to prevent accidental injuries, sports injuries can be prevented with a mouth guard, helmet and other protective gear. A custom-made mouth guard is the best bet, and it should be worn during practice as well in actual competition.
The Consequences of Missing Teeth
There are several negative consequences of missing some or all of your teeth.
- Missing teeth will affect the overall appearance of your face. Not only will your smile be affected by the gaps from missing teeth, but if you’re missing too many teeth, the skin around your mouth won’t be supported properly and will start to sag, making you appear older than you are.
- Missing teeth will make it more difficult to chew your food properly and may even affect the way you speak.
- Missing teeth may have emotional consequences; many people feel less confident about their smile when they have tooth loss.
- Missing teeth disturbs the relationship between teeth and bone. Gum and bone are no longer stimulated well enough due to the missing teeth, so the jaw bone starts shrinking and your gum pulls back. In turn, this can weaken neighboring teeth until they collapse. Teeth in the opposite jaw can then start growing into the gap.
- Missing teeth can lead to or aggravate TMDC (Temporomandibular Joint Dysfunction)
Treatment for Missing Teeth
It is important to replace missing teeth for proper chewing of food, jaw support, stability of the remaining teeth, and an attractive smile. A missing tooth disrupts proper function and the teeth next to and above the missing tooth/teeth will shift, move, and tip into the space in time. It is much easier to restore a missing tooth soon after it is lost than waiting a number of years after teeth have shifted significantly.
Missing teeth are replaced through removable partial dentures, fixed dental prostheses (“bridges”), or partial or full-mouth dental implants. If you live in the Greater Philadelphia area, visit the professionals at Innovative Implant and Oral Surgery to discuss which option is right for your smile makeover. Contact us and you’ll be well on your way to getting attractive, brand-new teeth.
Additional Resources on Tooth Loss Causes and Treatments:
- WebMD, “9 Risk Factors for Tooth Loss,” https://www.webmd.com/oral-health/guide/9-risk-factors-tooth-loss
- National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research, “Tooth Loss in Adults,” https://www.nidcr.nih.gov/research/data-statistics/tooth-loss/adults