Posts for: June, 2014
There’s more to tooth loss than you might think. Because teeth are part of a larger system that facilitates speaking, eating and digestion, a lost tooth could eventually affect your overall health.
Tooth loss is actually about bone loss. As living tissue, bone continually reforms in response to stimuli it receives from the body. The alveolar bone (which surrounds and supports the teeth) receives such stimuli as the teeth chew and bite, as well as when they contact each other. All these stresses — hundreds a day — transmit through the periodontal ligament to the bone, stimulating it to grow and remodel.
A lost tooth reduces this stimulation and causes the alveolar bone to resorb (dissolve) — as much as 25% of its width the first year alone. Unless the process is stopped, the underlying basal bone and the periodontal (gum) tissue will begin to resorb too. Without this structural support the facial height shrinks and the front teeth begin to push forward, making chewing and speaking more difficult. These teeth begin performing functions outside their normal range, leading to damage and possible loss.
The primary goal of oral hygiene and dental care is to prevent tooth loss. When tooth loss does occur, however, it’s then important to restore the lost tooth with an artificial replacement if at all possible — not only to regain form and function, but to also stop further bone loss.
While the fixed partial denture (FPD), also known as a fixed bridge, has been the restoration of choice for many decades, dental implants may be the better long-term option. Although more expensive initially, implants can achieve a life-like restoration without involving or altering adjacent teeth as with FPDs. Plaque retention and tartar accumulations are much less likely with an implant, and the bone-loving quality of titanium, the metal used for implants, actually encourages bone growth. As a result, implants have a much higher longevity rate than FPDs.
Taking care of your teeth through effective hygiene practices and regular checkups may help you avoid tooth loss altogether. But if it can’t be avoided, restoring lost teeth is the single most important thing you can do to prevent even greater problems down the road.
If you would like more information on dental implants, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more about this topic by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “The Hidden Consequences of Losing Teeth.”
Common Causes of Tooth Loss
- Disease and Decay: The most common reason for tooth loss is gum (periodontal) disease. When gums and root structures become infected, bone loss can occur. When this happens, many teeth fall out or become too weak to be useful and must be extracted. Tooth decay can also progress to an extent that warrants removal.
- Injury: Sports accidents are among the leading causes of tooth injury, but they are by no means the only cause. Any blunt trauma to the face—especially the jaw—can potentially cause tooth injury, which often leads to tooth loss. When teeth are chipped or fractured, they will need to be treated or removed to prevent periodontal disease.
- Trauma can lead to tooth loss in a variety of ways—sometimes in ways that do not become apparent until months or even years have passed. Root fracture, for instance, may not be evident until infection develops and the injury site becomes incredibly painful. In some rare cases of root resorption, body cells attack the root surface and break down its structure, even after the injured tooth has been treated.
- Hypodontia: This cause of tooth loss is not as uncommon as you might think. Hypodontia is the congenital absence of one or more teeth. Some people are unlucky enough to be born with anodontia, a condition where all permanent teeth fail to develop. In rare cases of anodontia, teeth do not develop at all. Most commonly, when a person has congenital tooth absence, their baby teeth will stay in place until they fail due to lack of root support or dental disease and need to be removed.
Options for Restoring Missing Teeth
- Dental Bridges: A form of crown restoration called a tooth bridge can be placed over teeth adjacent to the gap left by the missing tooth or teeth. Dental bridges are often recommended for patients who are missing multiple teeth. They improve overall appearance and prevent bad “bites” from forming when the remaining teeth begin to shift.
- Dentures: A denture is a removable replacement for missing teeth and is available in two forms—partial or complete. Complete dentures are used when all teeth are missing; when natural teeth are present, partial dentures are a better option.
- Dental Implants: Before dental implants, dentures and bridges were the only options available to Westfield residents. However, our facilities are now equipped with the technology to provide patients with the best tooth restoration method available today. A dental implant is a prosthetic device that is surgically inserted into the jaw and topped with a dental crown that looks and functions just like a natural tooth. Implant restoration is a great option for people who have one or multiple missing teeth; implant-supported dentures are even an option. Implants offer many benefits over the alternative restoration methods, including comfort, improved speech, and easier eating. Unlike dentures and bridgework, implants also stimulate bone growth, protecting your healthy teeth and discouraging bone loss in your jaw.