It’s a common misconception that missing teeth are nothing to worry about. After all, they’re just teeth, right? Wrong. Although your teeth may not be essential for survival, ignoring your missing teeth can have severe consequences for your health and quality of life. Here’s why you shouldn’t ignore your missing teeth and what you can do to replace them.
The Consequences of Missing Teeth
If you’re missing one or more teeth, you may be tempted to just ignore the problem and hope that it goes away on its own. However, ignoring missing teeth can lead to health concerns, including:
Changes in eating habits
Missing teeth can make it difficult to eat certain foods, leading to changes in your diet and malnutrition. You may be unable to chew tough foods, such as meats, and you may avoid crunchy fruits and vegetables altogether. As a result, you may lose weight or have trouble getting the nutrients your body needs.
Oral health problems
When you have gaps in your teeth, it’s easier for plaque and bacteria to build up, which can lead to cavities, gum disease, and other oral health problems. This is because the gaps provide a place for the plaque and bacteria to hide, making them difficult to remove. No matter how often you brush and floss, you won’t be able to remove all the plaque and bacteria if you have missing teeth.
Missing teeth can also cause speech problems, such as lisping or difficulty pronouncing certain words. When you speak, the teeth help to form the words. If you’re missing teeth, it can be difficult to form certain sounds, which can make your speech difficult to understand. For example, you may have trouble saying “th” sounds or “f” sounds. So, when you communicate, your words may not be as clear as they could be.
If you’re missing a tooth or teeth, the bone in your jaw can begin to deteriorate, leading to bone loss and a change in the shape of your face. This is caused by the roots of your teeth, which stimulate the bone when you bite and chew. When the roots are gone, the bone is no longer stimulated, and it begins to shrink. Over time, this can cause your face to look sunken in.
Mental health concerns
In addition to these physical consequences, missing teeth can also have a negative impact on your mental health. Studies have shown that people with missing teeth are more likely to suffer from depression and anxiety and are less likely to socialize than people with complete dental sets. You could lose your confidence and become withdrawn, which can impact your work, social life, and relationships.
Replacing Your Teeth
If you’re missing one or more teeth, there are several options available for replacing them, including:
A well-placed dental implant is a permanent replacement for missing teeth. A titanium screw is placed into the jawbone where the tooth is missing. Once the implant has fused with the bone, a replacement tooth is placed on top of the implant. A replacement tooth is also known as a crown. Implants look and function just like natural teeth and can last a lifetime with proper care. However, they are also the most expensive option available.
A dental bridge is used to replace a missing tooth or more by literally bridging the gap with artificial teeth (known as pontics). Bridges are usually made of ceramic or porcelain and are supported by dental crowns on either side of the gap. Bridges are less expensive than dental implants but need to be replaced every five to seven years due to wear and tear.
Dentures are removable replacements for one or more rows of missing teeth. They consist of artificial teeth mounted on a plastic or metal framework that fits over the gums. Dentures must be removed for cleaning and typically need to be replaced every five years due to changes in the shape of the mouth over time.
Regardless of your choice, it’s important to replace missing teeth as soon as possible. The longer you wait, the more damage will be done to your mouth and jawbone. Gaps in your teeth can also lead to a variety of other health problems, so it’s important to address them as soon as possible. If you’re not sure which replacement option is right for you, talk to your dentist about your options—they can help guide you toward the best solution for your needs.