Tuesday, December 11, 2012

The importance of replacing missing teeth

Throughout the course of one's life, teeth are lost for many reasons including cavities, gum disease, cracked roots and accidents. Missing teeth compromise your eating habits, speech and appearance. The loss of a front tooth will negatively affect the appearance of your smile and your self confidence. Losing a tooth in the back of your mouth can lead to numerous problems affecting your ability to chew, your ability to properly clean your teeth and the health of your remaining teeth. Replacing a lost tooth will prevent further destruction and save your remaining teeth.

The loss of a single tooth starts a chain reaction. Let's assume that a lower molar in the back has to be extracted. The tooth directly above the lost tooth is now useless, because it no longer has a lower tooth to chew against. Losing one tooth can result in the loss of the use of two teeth. 

Back teeth have a lifetime tendency to erupt (move farther into the mouth). Only the presence of a tooth to chew against keeps a back opposite tooth from erupting too far. The tooth immediately above the missing tooth has a tendency to over-erupted which will cause some of its roots to be exposed. Exposed roots do not have an enamel covering and decay much faster than the crown of the tooth. 

Now the resulting unevenness among the upper back teeth has created areas between these teeth that trap food debris. It is very difficult to keep spaces between uneven teeth clean, despite your best efforts at brushing and flossing. The accumulation of food debris and the resulting bacteria cause inflammation of the surrounding gum tissue. The inability to easily remove the trapped food debris accelerates tooth decay.

When teeth are lost, the remaining adjacent teeth are also adversely affected. These teeth have a tendency to tilt (lean over) into the space the missing tooth once occupied. They also have the potential to drift or move. Now that a tooth has been extracted, a space is left. This allows the lower molar directly behind the space to tilt and drift forward and it will tilt farther and farther over time. The upper molar no longer makes proper contact with the adjacent, erupted molar or with the tilted lower molar. This will cause the upper molar to tilt and drift backward. The bite is no longer stable. 

A tooth tilted over will develop a gum pocket along its forward root. Gum pockets are narrow, abnormal spaces or clefts that develop between the gums and the tooth root. These pockets trap food debris and bacteria. A gum pocket is a problem, because you can almost never keep it clean. The debris and bacteria that collect in a gum pocket lead to ever-worsening inflammation of the gums. When an area of the gums is constantly inflamed, as happens in a gum pocket, the bone immediately adjacent to the gum pocket also becomes inflamed. Inflamed bone softens, and slowly begins to resorb (disappear). Chronic gum inflammation and the eventual loss of underlying bone are symptoms of advanced periodontal disease. When left untreated, this condition will negatively affect your facial appearance and damage your remaining teeth.

 If missing teeth are not replaced, a chain of damaging events may occur. Over time, one missing tooth can lead to bone loss, periodontal disease and the eventual loss of remaining teeth. Replacing a lost tooth today will avoid grief and greater expense tomorrow.