What happens if I do not replace a missing tooth?
One of the most common reasons people seek replacing a missing tooth is for aesthetics. Simply put, it just looks nice to have a healthy smile with straight white teeth. Unfortunately not all of us are so lucky to just naturally have a nice smile.
“About 78 percent of Americans have had at least one cavity by age 17 “. ¹
Sometimes cavities are too severe to fix with a simple restoration or tooth decay has progressed to the point that the tooth is likely non-salvageable. In these cases we may need to remove the tooth from the mouth in order to prevent further damage to the surrounding tissues, bone and remaining teeth.
Perhaps the next most common reason to replace a missing tooth is because of function. Your teeth have a purpose. They are used for smiling, eating and communicating. If you are missing a tooth or several teeth it may affect your ability to pronounce certain words correctly. Missing teeth may also affect your ability to chew and digest food properly.
Furthermore, a gap in your smile may contribute to development of a malocclusion. Misaligned teeth can become very problematic as the teeth surrounding the missing tooth will tend to shift towards each other in order to fill in the gap. In some cases this can cause the the opposing teeth to supererupt, potentially increase sensitivity to sweets and temperature, and lead to tooth mobility.
Another reason to replace a missing tooth is to prevent bone resorption. The roots of the teeth promote healthy bone development. “Bone tissue is maintained by putting stress or load on it through the periodontal ligament; activities such as biting and chewing stimulate the root structure, which in turn stimulates the bone that the root is attached to. When a permanent (adult) tooth is removed and not replaced, bone stimulation stops at that particular site, and the alveolar bone – the portion of the jaw bone that anchors the teeth in the mouth – no longer receives this physical stimulation and starts to resorb. Bone resorption is the natural process by which large cells called osteoclasts break down bone.” ²
When the bone resorbs the face can appear misshapen or sunken-in through the cheeks and jaw-line. Also the bone becomes less functional not properly supporting the surrounding teeth. Please view this video for more information: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=69OxyJ5Ok50&feature=endscreen&NR=1
1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Oral Health 2000: Facts and Figures. Available at: http://www.cdc.gov/oralhealth/publications/factsheets/sgr2000_fs1.htm