How Missing a Tooth (or Teeth) Can Affect Your Dental and Overall Health
More than 120 million American adults are missing at least one tooth! This common occurrence can happen from trauma (car, sports, bicycle, etc.), how the tooth developed, cracks, fractures, severe cavities or periodontal (gum) infection.
When teeth cannot be saved and have to be removed there can be more dental and health consequences that you need to know about it!
How it affects the mouth
- Alignment of teeth means how they line up beside each other and how the bite comes together. Our teeth like to be in contact and when they are missing their neighbor teeth, they start to shift. The adjacent teeth can collapse into the space changing your ability to chew and clean your teeth well along with limiting your options for replacing the missing tooth. The opposing tooth (the tooth that no longer has a chewing mate) can also shift into the opposing space. The lonely tooth will supererrupt or move into the space to try to find its missing mate and if not treated in a timely manner will have to be removed as well.
2) MORE Cracks and Fractures:
- When a tooth is missing, your other teeth feel the extra pressure and have to work harder. Over time this added increment of pressure can cause further cracking and fracturing of additional teeth and can contribute to more tooth loss due to this redistribution of strong forces.
3) Appearance & Aging:
- If the missing tooth is in your smile line, the effect on your appearance is obvious, but if the missing tooth is a back tooth (one not seen when you smile) patients often think it will not affect the appearance. Teeth serve a valuable function of preserving bone and supporting your cheeks, lips and soft tissue of the face. Where a tooth goes missing, the tissue no longer is supported causing more lines and wrinkles, sunken in defects, and even a shortened last ⅓ of the face.
4) TMJ Issues:
- When the teeth shift, bite changes, and pressure is shifted. Often if a tooth is lost on one side, you will start chewing more on the opposite side. This can cause an imbalance that affects the muscles and joints of the jaw. TMJD (temporomandibular joint disorder) can increase as teeth are lost.
5) Bone Atrophy:
- Bone only exists in our jaw to hold teeth. As soon as the tooth goes away the bone will start to shrink back and atrophy. At first this seems inconsequential but over time this can lead to making it harder to fill in the space later and even change your lip and facial support. Removal of top teeth can affect the sinuses causing them to expand and change position.
6) Tooth Recession and Sensitivity:
- When a tooth is extracted the adjacent teeth can lose some of their tissue attachment, exposing root structure. This process is caused recession. Without the gums protecting the root component of teeth (cementum) increased temperature sensitivity occurs.
Effects on the Mind and Body
- Losing a tooth can affect your ability to smile and chew confidently. Often smiling wide or laughing can become stressful if you are trying to hide the missing tooth in your smile. Depending on the location of the tooth or teeth missing, the ability to chew especially crunchy or chewy delicious foods can be affected as well.
2) Headaches and Neck Pain:
- Deriving from the imbalance of forces affecting the TMJ headaches and neck pain can develop.
- The mouth is the first step of digestion and without adequate chewing ability digestion and absorption of nutrients can be affected.
4) Premature aging:
- Previously mentioned in tooth effects, missing a tooth or teeth can cause the appearance of fine lines, wrinkles, unsupported lip, soft tissue defects, and premature aging.
- Depending on where the tooth or teeth are lost- tongue placement in making certain sounds can change and affect the ability to communicate. Th, L, T, S sounds are just some of the phonetics that can be affected without proper tooth support for speech.
6) Upper GI Cancer, Heart Disease, Stroke:
- Although research is still ongoing, depending on why teeth are lost (periodontal disease vs cavities vs cracks, or chronic vs acute infections) the connection between tooth loss and increased occurrences of GI Cancer, Heart Disease and stroke are being evaluated.
Alright we made it through all the trouble tooth loss may cause, but now a bit of bright news— there are solutions!
Solutions to replace missing teeth (implants, bridges, removable partial dentures) and solutions to prevent further tooth loss and restore dental health are available!! If any of this information has hit home to you or you or your loved one needs to look at options for managing missing teeth please call and set up a complimentary evaluation and discussion!!
Also check out our services sections, future blog posts or shoot us an email or call to find out more about which specific solution will be best for you!!