A full and healthy adult smile — minus wisdom teeth — contains 28 teeth. Unfortunately, women and men between the ages of 20-64 in the United States have, on average, only 25.5 teeth.
If you’re one of those who is missing at least one tooth, you may have delayed replacing it. Maybe it’s a molar that can’t be seen when you smile, so you figure it’s no big deal. Or, maybe, you even like the way it makes you look.
However, a missing tooth is more than an aesthetic concern. A beautiful smile is great — and important. But your teeth aren’t in your mouth for cosmetic reasons. They’re there to function. If one goes missing, it throws off the function of all your teeth and risks a lot more than that.
At our clinic in San Antonio, Texas, Anthony Osei, DDS, PhD, takes missing teeth seriously. He and our team advise you to replace your missing tooth as soon as possible to avoid complications.
How can tooth replacement save more than that one missing tooth? Read on to find out.
Your teeth need each other. Literally. Teeth help support one another and maintain stability in your gums and jawbones.
When your permanent teeth erupt (push through your gums), they only stop the eruption when the tooth touches the surface of nearby teeth. In other words, the teeth next to each tooth help keep it in place.
If just one tooth goes missing, the rest of your teeth in that arch lose their support. They’re now endangered by a phenomenon known as “super eruption” (or supraeruption). The teeth on either side of the gap start to push upward (super erupt). Without support, they start to lean toward the gap or twist out of alignment.
In addition, the tooth above or below the missing tooth (depending on which arch it is) is also endangered. Without the support of an opposing tooth, the tooth in the opposite arch can also start to super erupt.
Super erupted teeth become wiggly, loose, and may fall out. So, just one missing tooth can eventually lead you to lose all of your teeth.
Teeth are tools that your digestive system needs to work efficiently. When you chew your food properly and sufficiently, your saliva releases enzymes that aid in digestion.
If you’re missing one or more teeth, however, the alignment and functionality of your bite is compromised. You may not be able to chew thoroughly enough, which could lead to digestive troubles.
You also lose out on some of the nutritional value of the foods you eat. Improperly chewed food does not digest properly, which means you don’t absorb all the nutrients you need to thrive.
Your temporomandibular joints (TMJs) are the complex joints that attach your jawbone to your skull. They allow you to open your mouth to eat, talk, and yawn. They can also move side to side.
Ideally, your two arches of teeth fit together like gears and put equal pressure on your TMJs. A missing tooth, however, compromises that fit. When you’re missing a tooth on one side of your mouth, you may favor the other side of your mouth for chewing. This places unequal stress on your TMJ.
Signs that you may be developing a TMJ disorder are a clicking or popping jaw. You may also have jaw pain or difficulty when opening or closing your mouth.
Each time you chew your food, the action exerts force on your teeth that travels all the way down the roots and into the jawbone. That force “reminds” the bone that it’s active and needed, and must continually produce new bone cells to replace old or dying cells.
Without the pressure and force of a tooth in the jawbone, that area of bone starts to atrophy. It doesn’t get the message that new bone cells are needed. That’s why people who replace their teeth with dentures, rather than dental implants, often look like they have short lower faces; their jawbones have atrophied.
Dental implants are the only tooth replacement that mimic the healthy stress of natural teeth. That's because they’re inserted deep into your alveolar bone.
The longer you wait to replace a missing tooth, the more complications you may develop.
Use your dental plan benefits before the end of the year to replace your missing tooth ASAP.
Don't throw away your flexible spending account money, either: Contact us by phone or through our online form for restorative dentistry and tooth replacement today. As a bonus, you’ll look better, too!