Understanding the implications of missing teeth.
Teeth are lost due to many reasons such as gross decay, trauma, fracture, gum disease, etc. Some patients may not be aware of the long-term dire effects of losing teeth and how it could lead to more dental problems and further tooth loss.
Effects of missing teeth
- Losing front teeth can affect speech, esthetics and mastication in particular when incising food. This may impact the person’s self-confidence and self-esteem.
- Losing back teeth can result in masticatory functions. The more teeth are lost, the more stress would be transferred to existing dentition causing stress fractures and broken fillings.
- Patients may make several dietary changes, such as avoiding tougher meats and certain food. In the long term, this will affect the type and amount of nutrients that they receive from their meals.
- Over time, if the missing teeth are not replaced, physiological movement of the neighboring teeth will result in tilting of these teeth into the space. This makes it harder to replace the gap in the future. In addition, teeth that are tilted are harder to clean and have an increased risk of getting decay and gum disease.
- Without a corresponding tooth to bite on, the opposing tooth may over erupt. This poses a problem as the tooth will grow into the space of the missing tooth, making future replacement of the missing tooth difficult and more costly.
- When a tooth is lost, bone will resorb. It would require a bone graft before an implant can be inserted. In some cases, the ridges become knife-edged and cannot tolerate eating during eating especially when wearing dentures.
Options to replace missing teeth
1 Implants are artificial teeth. It involves a minor surgical procedure to place a titanium fixture into the jaw bone. After the fixture is fused to the bone, a crown or bridge is then fabricated over the fixture.
Implants may impart good chewing function and do not require the anchorage of other teeth such as a dental bridge.
Not everyone is suitable for implants as the success of treatment is dependent on factors such as lifestyle, oral care, individual health, etc. The patient should be assessed carefully.
Implants are closest to the original teeth lost so they would feel quite natural and more convenient. However, it takes time for implants to be integrated (at least 3 to 5 months or more) and to be completed with the permanent restoration. The patient may still need a temporary prosthesis like a temporary bridge, crown, or dentures.
It is the more expensive option.
2 A dental bridge is a fixed option that spans over neighboring teeth. If the supporting teeth are healthy teeth, it may not be a good idea to trim them down. The life span of the bridge is also dependent on factors such as the patient’s health, oral care, lifestyle, etc. It is usually cheaper than an implant and does not require minor surgery.
A bridge is fixed and so does not require removal for cleaning, unlike dentures. However, not all spaces are suitable for a dental bridge, and your dentist will advise you accordingly.
3. A denture is a traditional way to replace missing teeth. However, some patients may not be able to tolerate dentures as they may feel bulkier depending on the number of teeth replaced.
There are many types of dentures: — Acrylic, Flexible resin, and Chrome cobalt dentures. They must be removed regularly to clean to prevent denture caries. They are easy to fabricate and much more economical.
For a healthy lifestyle and confident smile, it is advisable to replace missing teeth, particularly if they are impairing on function. A thorough consultation and examination with a dentist will be needed to decide on a suitable replacement option.