The loss of one or more teeth can have a variety of effects on a person. From self-esteem issues to premature aging, dietary changes, and further oral health problems, the effects of tooth loss extend far beyond the teeth themselves. If you're missing one or more teeth, you don't have to live with these problems. There are several different ways to restore teeth and improve your appearance and oral health.
Complications of Missing Teeth
When you lose one or more adult teeth, several things can happen depending on which teeth you lose. For instance:
- Teeth tend to shift into adjacent gaps over time, contributing to poor tooth alignment. This, in turn, increases your risk of gum disease and tooth decay.
- Losing an incisor or molar can make it harder to bite or chew certain foods. This may mean you’re forced to restrict your diet—and sometimes this may even mean you’re getting fewer essential nutrients.
- Depending on the teeth that are missing, you may find your speech is affected. Certain sounds—such as F and Th, for instance—are made by pressing the lips or tongue against the front teeth. If those teeth are missing, it’s harder to make the sounds.
- Tooth loss can make you look older because your cheeks appear less full. Your cheeks and mouth area can develop a shrunken look that gets worse over time.
- The jawbone beneath starts to atrophy when not supported by roots. This means the jawbone loses density and shrinks over time, which contributes to an aged appearance.
Replacing Missing Teeth
If you’re missing teeth, replacing them with restorations is the best way to prevent future problems such as dietary restrictions and changes in appearance. It’s also an important way of preserving your oral health, by preventing alignment changes that contribute to oral health problems.
There are three common ways to replace missing teeth: bridges, dentures, and dental implants.
Bridges are used to replace a row of up to three missing teeth. A bridge is a dental device that’s fixed permanently in place, so the teeth can be brushed and flossed like natural teeth. This makes them convenient to take care of, but because the missing teeth must be in a row for a bridge to work, they’re not a workable option for everyone.
Dentures tend to be more commonly used because they’re both affordable and versatile. Dentures can replace any number of missing teeth, from 1 tooth to a whole mouthful. The main drawback to wearing a denture is that they’re a removable dental device. Dentures aren’t fixed permanently in place the way bridges are, so dentures can sometimes slip when you laugh or cough.
Dental implants are perhaps the best option for replacing missing teeth because they mimic the function of natural teeth more closely than any other restoration method. However, they are by far the most costly option and do require surgery, so many people prefer to stick with a bridge or denture.
Ask Your Dentist for Advice
Choosing between a bridge, denture, or dental implants is a big decision, and it’s important to have good accurate information about all three methods. Talk to your dentist for advice on tooth restoration, to make sure you choose the option that’s best for your needs.