If you have missing teeth what you think the most popular reason is for wanting to replace them? You guessed it, cosmetic.
The next most common reason is function, when we have missing teeth it can often be very difficult to eat and chew properly. In fact, from a dental point of view this is actually a very good reason for replacing missing teeth, if you don’t address these bite problems then headaches and other jaw joint issues can manifest.
So what is the often untold reason why you should replace missing teeth?
There are actually two EXTREMELY good reasons why you should replace missing teeth:
- To prevent further bone loss
- To present teeth drifting
These reasons are often not discussed particularly well outside of the dental practice, they aren’t immediately obvious, have no immediate symptoms yet in the long run can have rather devastating effects on your overall dentistry, and here’s why.
Preventing Bone Loss by Replacing Missing Teeth
When a tooth is extracted for whatever reason it leaves a socket or hole. Rather than regenerate new bone in this area what tends to happen is the surrounding bone collapses into this hole, as it does so the overall amount of bone in the area shrinks.
Because the bone supports the delicate soft tissue or gum on top of it the result is that as it shrinks the gum shrinks also. The implications of this is that it can make it aesthetically rather difficult to replace the missing tooth in future and can also affect the way the adjacent teeth look.
This is because the gum in between the teeth forms part of the overall architecture of your smile, what you want to see is nice gum between each tooth, but if the gum results black triangles have a tendency to open up between your teeth.
As you can see from this photograph the overall effect, even if the missing tooth was replaced by dental bridge, would not be great… This is the perfect area of the spinach to get caught!
To prevent teeth drifting
This can seem a rather strange concept, why would your teeth drift? The reason is that there are many forces going on in your mouth, your tongue pushes outwards and your cheeks push inwards. In fact, your teeth will have a tendency to continue erupting but the only thing that stops them is the teeth opposing on opposite jaw.
So guess what happens if the teeth on the opposing jaw removed? That’s right, your teeth can continue to erupt and grow down into this space.
The adjacent teeth to the space will also have a tendency to tip, again this is because the teeth are in a very fine balance when everything is in place in your mouth and all teeth are present for the last word.
Remove one of these forces, the balance shifts and the teeth start drifting.
So what’s the problem with this?
Well, the problem is that your bite can be affected. What could happen is that you inadvertently start clench or bite together in a slightly different way, this can put forces on the muscles around your face and jaw and all of the muscles in your face, jaw, head and neck are linked together. These muscles can then become tired and aggravated overtime causing headaches and other jaw joint muscle related problems
With the teeth moving like this it can also make restoring them rather difficult. If one of the teeth that has drifted requires a dental crown then this can become more problematic if it is at an angle. The same problem applies to the teeth opposing the space if it drifts down. If this tooth requires a crown then this can be rather difficult.
Also, take a look at the image above showing the tooth drifting. Look at the gum line, notice how it has changed the gentle curves and architecture of how the gum should look… This has an obvious cosmetic disadvantage which can only be corrected with gum surgery.
What is the solution?
Whilst a dental bridge or denture can adequately replace missing teeth and support the adjacent teeth and opposing teeth preventing them from drifting and over erupting, bridges and dentures do not prevent the additional bone loss which can cause the extra problems. Only a dental implant (or not losing your teeth in the first place) can actually deal with this rather significant effect.
Dental implant, from a biological point of view, becomes a simple replacement for your natural tooth and supports the surrounding bone, thereby reducing the effect of this bone loss.