It’s not uncommon to be missing teeth – some people are born without permanent teeth, while others may have experienced an accident or a dental issue that caused tooth loss. Many people are embarrassed by the unsightly gap left by a missing tooth, but there are side effects that are not cosmetic that can affect your life. Studies have even shown that missing teeth can be linked to depression and poor job performance.
The most obvious effect patients notice related to missing teeth is difficulty when chewing and eating. Lots of healthy foods – apples, carrots, even whole grain cereals – may cause pain when chewed with missing teeth, leading many people to either skip those healthy options or to shift chewing to a different part of the mouth. Changing your chewing pattern can cause additional wear to teeth that might not otherwise be exposed to this strain and can increase damage elsewhere in your mouth.
A missing tooth leaves an empty space that can also cause your other teeth to shift or move. The result is called “malocclusion”, which means that your teeth don’t meet properly and don’t work together the way they are supposed to, which can cause pain, headaches, and increase your chances of tooth damage. Bite misalignment may make it difficult to sleep or eat, and can lead to unnecessary loss of other teeth.
Missing and moving teeth can create changes in your speech pattern as well, contributing to the likelihood that you or your child will develop a speech impediment. Without the teeth needed to make sounds, your tongue cannot create words properly, and you can develop a lisp or find it hard to enunciate. If you combine a gap that makes you feel self-conscious when you smile with poor speech patterns, you may find that your self-confidence erodes as well.
Missing teeth can also cause bone loss. Your facial muscles atrophy from the absence of the tooth, causing tissue to decrease and weaken, and contributing to bone loss. This loss of bone causes your facial structure to collapse and change, and can make it harder to use dentures or implants to replace the missing tooth. Bone loss may also age your face as the skin and muscles shrink in around missing teeth.
Fortunately, there are several ways to replace teeth and put an end to symptoms such as bone loss and shift, restoring your smile and chewing alignment. If you have lost a tooth or a tooth has become loose due to an injury or other health issue, visit your dentist immediately to assess the problem. Your dentist may want to perform x-rays to better understand the extent of the damage.
Once your dentist identifies what is wrong, you can decide what the best solution will be for you. Your dentist might advise use of a bridge, dentures, or suggest a dental implant. When possible, your dentist can replace the tooth with a dental implant which will act exactly like a normal tooth, preventing the symptoms normally associated with tooth loss. If a dental implant is not possible, you may need a bridge, which uses existing teeth as a support. Your bridge may need to be replaced over time.
Not all tooth loss can be prevented, but proper dental care can help you avoid losing teeth. Regular checkups and good brushing habits allow you and your dentist to spot problems before tooth loss occurs, and make it possible for your dentist to provide the best options available in the event that tooth loss is unavoidable. If you have a loose or missing tooth, contact us today and we will be happy to help!