Understanding tooth loss

Posted on: 14 March 2017

Losing a tooth, whether it's the result of periodontal disease or a physical impact, can be a very distressing experience. It can lead to a number of oral health issues and make a person feel insecure about their smile. Read on to learn more about this dental problem.

Is a missing tooth a serious problem?

It's a common misconception that tooth loss is nothing more than a cosmetic issue and that those who replace their missing tooth do so only because they want to improve the appearance of their mouth. In reality, the cosmetic issues associated with tooth loss are merely the tip of the iceberg; failing to have a replacement fitted can lead to major dental health problems which could take a great deal of time and money to deal with.

One of the most serious complications that can occur is deterioration of the jawbone. The pressure that teeth place on the jaw when a person chews their food or speaks helps to stimulate and thus preserve this bone; when one or more teeth are lost and are not replaced, the section of jawbone underneath begins to reabsorb back into the person's body. Bone loss in this part of the face can affect both their speech and their ability to chew properly.

Another complication that may develop as a result of tooth loss is the repositioning of other teeth. In addition to having a negative impact on the appearance of the person's smile, this can also affect the alignment of their bite, which, in turn, may result in speech issues (such as a lisp) and difficulties with biting and chewing.

Treatments for tooth loss

Partial dentures and dental implants are two of the most common methods employed by dentists to treat tooth loss. The former is a removable device, consisting of one or more artificial teeth, attached to an acrylic base. It secured in the mouth by a combination of metal clips or clasps and suction.

Wearing a partial denture is an effective way to disguise a missing tooth and thus improve the appearance of the person's mouth. If worn regularly, it can also prevent the shifting of the surrounding teeth and thus help the person to retain a correctly-aligned bite. However, a partial denture will not protect against bone loss. Additionally, because it is removable, there is a chance that eating certain foods could dislodge it, which, although not harmful, can be embarrassing if it happens when the wearer is eating in public.

A dental implant is a small titanium column which is inserted into the missing tooth's socket. It serves as a replacement for the root of the tooth. After it has been in place for a few months, the implant will fuse with the jawbone, creating a secure, permanent anchor for the artificial tooth that will then be positioned on top of it. This fusion process helps to prevent bone loss and all of its associated problems. Moreover, unlike a partial denture, a dental implant is firmly rooted in place, meaning that there is no risk of it slipping or being dislodged whilst the person is eating.