If you’re missing a tooth, you’re far from alone. While tooth loss in America has declined overall since the 1970s, around 180 million people are missing at least one tooth, with nearly 40 million missing all of them. Dentures and other replacement treatments exist, but because tooth loss is predominant among those in lower income communities, many people are forced to live with lost teeth indefinitely.
Whether you want to replace your missing teeth or learn about the long term effects of missing teeth, Cobblestone Dentistry has you covered. Let’s explore what causes missing teeth and how they might impact your health and quality of life.
What are the leading risk factors of tooth loss?
Some risk factors for tooth loss are controllable, but others aren’t. Either way, it helps to understand what these risks are so you know how susceptible you might be. The leading risk factors include:
- Age – 25% of the population over 65 have severe tooth loss, defined as having eight or fewer teeth.
- Gender – Men are less likely to look after their dental health than women, which leads to higher rates of tooth loss.
- Poverty – Lower income individuals are less likely to receive dental care, which can cause treatment to be more expensive in the long run. A lack of dental education also contributes to the problem.
- Smoking – Smoking is one of the leading causes of gum disease, which can result in tooth decay and loss.
- Drug use – Beyond nicotine, other addictive drugs like methamphetamine can lead to tooth decay.
- A history of medical conditions – hypertension, diabetes, and rheumatoid arthritis can lead to tooth loss.
- Improper dental care – Not brushing and flossing daily increases the risk of tooth loss for anyone, regardless of other risk factors.
What causes tooth loss?
On their own, these factors don’t directly cause tooth loss, they only increase the likelihood. The actual leading causes of tooth loss are as follows:
- Periodontal (gum) disease – Gum disease is by far the leading cause of tooth loss, responsible for about 70% of all cases. Gum disease is a bacterial infection that affects both your gums and the bone structures beneath it. If bacteria remains under your gums for too long, plaque and tartar can build up and inflame them. This can loosen your teeth and cause tooth loss.
- Trauma – While other causes of tooth loss are predictable and preventable, it’s also possible that an accident or injury can knock a tooth out. This sometimes happens during sports, car crashes, or fist fights.
- Cavities – Cavities are holes that develop inside teeth due to bacterial infections. When not filled, they can destroy a tooth from the inside out.
What are the side effects of missing teeth?
Your teeth are important! While missing one or two isn’t always a huge detriment, tooth loss can cause a host of problems, including:
- Difficulty chewing food – Missing front teeth can make it difficult to tear pieces off of food, while missing back teeth can make grinding hard or crunchy foods much tougher. In some cases, chewing with missing teeth is painful.
- Moving teeth – Your teeth are attached to your jaw bone, but they can shift when tooth loss creates unnatural gaps between them. This can lead to an irregular bite that causes further problems.
- Speech problems – Most people think of speech as coming from the lips and tongue, but your teeth play an important role. Those suffering from tooth loss sometimes slur their words or make whistling sounds.
- Jaw bone loss – Teeth play an important role in supporting your jaw bone, so loss can weaken your jaw bone and cause bone loss.
- Oral infection – Leaving exposed gum tissue openings increases your risk of developing a bacterial infection. This can cause further problems.
- Aesthetic problems – Many people with missing teeth are insecure about their smile, which shows off the gaps. Additionally, severe tooth loss can degenerate your jaw line, since teeth help define it. In severe cases, mouths can look sunken-in.
Missing teeth can also create incompatibilities with other dental services.
Can you get veneers with missing teeth?
Veneers are layered materials placed over a damaged tooth. Because of their ease and simplicity, many people with missing teeth wonder if they can use veneers to replace them. Unfortunately, they can’t. Veneers require a piece of remaining tooth to adhere to. However, there is no reason why you can’t get a veneer on a damaged tooth even if other teeth are completely missing.
Can you get braces with missing teeth?
In some cases, it is possible to get braces with missing teeth. Braces can help prevent shifting due to tooth loss. Sometimes they can also move teeth to help make up for gaps caused by missing teeth. However, your orthodontist might recommend replacing your tooth before getting braces. You’ll have to ask whether you’re a candidate or not.
How to treat missing teeth
No matter your state of loss, you have options for missing teeth. Let’s explore a few:
- Dentures – Dentures are appliances that stand in for missing teeth and gum tissue surrounding it. They’re custom-crafted to fit your mouth shape. There are two kinds: full and partial, so no matter your state of tooth loss, there’s a perfect set of dentures for you.
- Bridges – A dental bridge is a replacement tooth, so named for the way it bridges the gap between your other teeth. They can be made of materials like porcelain, zirconium, ceramic, or composites. They act as an alternative to partial dentures.
- Implants – Dental implants are replacement tooth roots which offer a foundation for replacement teeth. They are usually permanent solutions, unlike dentures, which might need to be replaced eventually.
Treatment for Tooth Loss at Cobblestone Family Dentistry
Are you missing one or more teeth? You have options! Contact us today to set up your appointment, and we’ll help you decide which option is right for you.