How Important Is it to Replace Missing Teeth?


If you have recently lost one or more teeth, your dental health has reached a crossroads. It's easy to consider just letting things go, particularly if the new gap in your dentition sits in a spot where no one can see it. Unfortunately, doing nothing in a case like this will surely lead to trouble down the road.

The truth is that with nothing to prevent them from going rogue, your remaining teeth are likely to move around, tilt and shift position in your mouth. The result is a misalignment that will put your overall oral health at risk. If you neglect to replace those missing teeth, you are likely to experience:

  • Gum disease. Nature really does abhor a vacuum. It instinctively wants to fill in empty spaces, and in your mouth, it does this by allowing the teeth on either side of a gap to shift and tip toward its center. The new positioning leaves those teeth open to a buildup of tartar and plaque which can be hard to brush or floss away. The more it continues to accumulate, the greater the odds you will develop gingivitis and eventual periodontal disease.
  • Trouble chewing. If your missing teeth formerly lived in the back of your mouth, it won't be long before you notice problems with the way in which the ones that remain fit and work together. If the resulting misalignment grows sufficiently severe, it may require the intervention of an orthodontist. Furthermore, with fewer teeth in your mouth to do the job of chewing, the stress of this activity falls entirely on those that do remain. When forced to carry more of the load than they were designed to handle, their alignment can worsen and they might even break.
  • Pain in the jaw and facial muscles. As continually shifting teeth throw your bite further out of position, you'll find yourself moving your jaw in unnatural ways each time you try to eat. Muscle pain will result, and unless you take steps to correct the situation, temporomandibular joint trouble is sure to follow, bringing with it a clicking jaw, headaches and even dizzy spells.
  • Bone loss. To maintain its normal density, the bone in your jaw requires stimulation. The act of chewing ordinarily provides this, but when you're missing one or more teeth, the bone in those locations never receives the shot in the arm it needs to stay in shape. Instead, it will start to recede, causing adjacent teeth to loosen and even affecting your facial appearance in a way that you might not care for.

The worst part is that you may never realize the extent of the damage until it has progressed to a stage that could be untreatable. Fortunately, there are things you can do right at the start to reduce the risk of future problems. The choices of remedy include:

  • The fixed bridge. This appliance will do the job of filling in missing spaces. However, it does have disadvantages. The teeth to which it will attach must be ground away to a certain extent, and once the bridge is in place, the unfamiliar need to act as supports will stress them to an undesirable extent. In addition, even though it fills filled in the empty spaces, your bridge will not provide the underlying bone with the stimulation it needs to keep from disintegrating.
  • The removable partial denture. A removable partial is less expensive than a fixed bridge, and no neighboring teeth will be harmed in its fitting. Nevertheless, the appliance will be less stable, and its tendency to move can lead to discomfort while causing problems with eating and speaking. It will also do nothing to stimulate the bone in the jaw.
  • The Maryland or resin-bonded bridge. A potential solution for restoring teeth that don't receive much stress, the resin-bonded bridge attaches to your natural teeth with wing-like projections, thereby sidestepping the need to grind those teeth down. While it will improve your appearance, it is less strong than fixed or removable bridges and boasts a far shorter lifespan.
  • The full removable denture. This inexpensive solution may improve your appearance, but its size, shape and tendency to move around can cause discomfort and interfere with its wearer's ability to taste food. In the worst-case scenario, full dentures have been known to fall entirely out of the mouth, and they do nothing to combat bone loss.
  • Dental implants. A dental implant is surgically inserted into the jawbone with which it soon integrates.Implants look and act like natural teeth while preventing the bone loss that commonly occurs with other tooth replacement methods.

Some of these options will suit you better than others, but whatever restoration method you choose in the end will be better than doing nothing. Don't let one or more missing teeth cause mayhem in your mouth. Call Dr. James White today to discuss your options.