Think that missing a single tooth is no big deal? Think again. Your teeth are designed to work as a single unit. When one is gone, may follow suit like a row of dominoes. The results can include widespread tooth loss, facial changes, nutritional problems, and even speech impairment.
When Good Teeth Go Bad
Our teeth allow us to enjoy a huge variety of delicious, nutritious foods. But they do more than that. They play a key role in communication by enabling us to form certain sounds. They also help to give your face and jaw its structure. Few parts of the body play so many important and essential roles.
Unfortunately, teeth are not indestructible. They are especially vulnerable to harmful bacteria that live in your mouth. These malicious microorganisms survive by scavenging bits of nutrition from food particles. They’re especially fond of sugar, which is why dentist urge all of us to limit our consumption of sugary treats.
Cavity-causing germs secrete corrosive acids that wear away at the enamel on your teeth. This is what causes cavities. Once infection gains a toehold in a tooth, it spreads all the way to the roots. Unless the person receives dental care, he or she may eventually develop the following problems:
- Further tooth loss. When a tooth goes missing, the remaining teeth are subjected to bilateral pressures that cause them to come loose as well.
- Risk of further infection. The cavity left behind by a missing tooth is a natural gathering spot for bacteria.
- Bone erosion. The bones in your face are like the muscles throughout your body. Without stimulation, they begin to dissolve. Have you ever seen someone with missing teeth whose face appears shrunken? That problem is caused by tooth-related bone loss.
- Greater risk of TMJ disorder. The temporomandibular joint (TMJ) is what enables your lower jaw to move up and down. When a tooth is missing, your TMJ undergoes added stress. This can cause headaches, back or neck pain, and difficulty opening and closing your mouth.
- Speech impediments. Our teeth play a major role in how we speak. When one is missing, this can inhibit our ability to communicate clearly.
- Nutritional deficiencies. Staying healthy requires eating a well-rounded, nutritious diet. People with missing teeth often must forgo many of the foods that keep us fit. This weakens the remaining teeth and sets us up for ongoing health issues.
Options for Replacing Missing Teeth
Fortunately, there are many ways that dentists can restore missing teeth, including:
- Dentures. While not the perfect solution, dentures do restore much of the functionality lost when teeth are missing.
- Crowns and bridges. These treatments use dental adhesives and oral prosthetics to reconstruct missing teeth.
- Dental implants. These are currently the state-of-the-art in restorative dentistry. Implants fuse with the bones in the patient’s jaw, mimicking the way that healthy natural teeth work.
Talk to your dentist about these restoration options during your upcoming appointment. You’ll soon be on the road to healthier teeth and a happier life.
About the Author
Dr. Jennifer Miller earned her DDS degree from the University of Minnesota. She’s a proud member of the American Dental Association (ADA) and an active volunteer in community service projects. You can reach her office online or by calling (507) 246-1116.