If you’ve lost a tooth, especially one that’s not visible to others when you speak or smile, you may think you can slide by without replacing it. Sure, it will feel odd for a while, but you’ll get used it — or will you? Not replacing a missing tooth can have serious physical and mental consequences. The replacement process is not as difficult as you may think, and will pay off in the long run. We take a look at the consequences of failing to replace a lost tooth, and go over your options for replacement.
What are the physical consequences of not replacing a missing tooth?
Having a missing tooth can lead to long-term problems both inside and outside your mouth. Over time, the teeth surrounding the missing tooth will shift toward each other in an attempt to fill in the gap. This leads to a condition called malocclusion, which means the teeth are not aligned properly.
Malocclusion can cause serious problems like an overbite or crossbite that result in extra strain on the jaw, difficulty chewing, and even an increased risk for tooth decay. The treatment for this more severe issue is braces or even surgery, which will likely end up being more expensive than a single tooth replacement.
The increase in tooth decay can also lead to problems with other teeth. Missing teeth can cause you to not chewing your food properly (either consciously or unconsciously). Not chewing your food properly can lead to digestive issues like acid reflux and malnutrition from nutrients not being absorbed properly in the digestive tract. It may seem like a back molar hidden from view doesn’t need to be replaced, but those teeth are essential for proper chewing and digestion.
Missing teeth can also cause bone loss along the jawline, which leads to a sagging appearance around the mouth. The bone tissue no longer receives support from the tooth, and it weakens over time.
What are the mental consequences of not replacing a missing tooth?
Beyond the physical effects, having a missing tooth can have negative mental consequences in the short and long term. For better or worse, society casts a negative light on people with missing teeth. Look closely at characters on TV or in movies that are supposed to be poor and/or unintelligent — chances are they have at least one missing tooth.
Those perceptions from pop culture spill over into reality, especially in an age when just about anything can be said on social media. Even the toughest skin will weaken over time, just like the spot in your mouth where your tooth is missing. As life expectancies continue to rise, you could be living with the stigma and difficulty speaking or eating for decades, even if you lose a tooth at age 50 or 60.
What can be done to replace my tooth?
Replacing a missing tooth is no longer the ordeal it once was. The most common treatment is a dental implant. Implants consist of a titanium post covered by a crown or denture. The process typically takes about three months from start to finish, which leaves plenty of time for your mouth to adjust to the implant and heal before the crown or denture is applied. The implant and temporary crown can be applied on the same day, allowing you to return to normal activities while the permanent crown is made. The end result is a tooth that looks and feels just like the one you lost! Financing options are available to ensure that you can restore a broken smile without breaking the bank. A dental implant is a wise investment of time and money, given the serious consequences associated with not replacing a missing tooth.
Do you have any questions about replacing a missing tooth? Call Westermeier Martin Dental Care to schedule an appointment with your dentist 716-508-4547.