Wondering what happens if you don't replace a missing tooth? You're in the right place!
If you are missing teeth, it's critical that you replace them, and not just because of aesthetics. Missing teeth can have serious and irreversible implications on your oral health and overall health. There are various problems that can develop and evolve when you lose a tooth, including tooth migration, shifting and tilting, and alveolar bone loss.
Because this is such an important health issue and one that's often neglected, especially if a person is missing a back tooth, we've organized the following information. Learn all about missing teeth and what happens when you don't get them replaced.
Many people aren't aware of just how important it is to replace missing teeth, especially if they are near the back of your mouth and not visible when you smile. Additionally, just because you don't notice any negative effects to missing a tooth, problems may develop over time.
Table of contents
Causes of missing teeth
There are a number of reasons why an adult may be missing teeth. Sometimes it's due to an accident that knocks out a tooth or damages it to the extent that it can't be saved.
Another common reason is tooth decay or gum disease, which if left untreated may ultimately require tooth extraction.
Some people are missing teeth because of genetic conditions, the main one being hypodontia, which means you never develop all of the 32 teeth that adults normally have.
You won't always have to have a tooth extracted because of damage, trauma, or decay. In fact, dentists will do everything they can to save a tooth, usually with root canals, because the current assumption is that just about anything is better than losing a natural tooth.
What happens if you don't replace a missing tooth?
Do you need to replace a pulled tooth? And what happens if you have a tooth pulled and you don't replace it? First, yes, you do need to replace a tooth that has been pulled. Or a tooth that is missing for any reason for that matter.
If you don't, there are many things that can happen. The three primary effects on your oral health are:
- Extrusion: Teeth may migrate up or down in the space left by the missing tooth because there's nothing there to fill the space out.
- Tilting: Adjacent teeth may tilt or shift into the empty space left by the absent tooth.
- Alveolar bone loss: Teeth help provide structure and support for surrounding tissues, and when they are absent, these tissues, including bone, tend to weaken and erode.
The three main effects on your general health are:
- Chewing: It's more difficult to properly chew food. This can force you to limit what you eat and contribute to problems like indigestion.
- Nutrition: When you can't chew properly and your diet is limited, you may experience nutritional deficiencies.
- Lowered immunity: Nutritional deficiencies can weaken your immune system, leading to illness and death.
So what else happens if you don't replace an extracted tooth?
People with missing teeth may also experience:
- Self-consciousness about appearance
- Damage to adjacent teeth
- Problems with speech
- Misalignment of other teeth
- Increased risk of gum disease and decay
How to get a missing tooth replaced
Thankfully, there are many options when it comes to replacing a missing tooth. Some are better than others in terms of benefitting your oral and overall health. Others still should really only be used as a temporary solution. The problem is, that the best options are also the most expensive, making funding a barrier to many patients who would benefit from these treatments.
Dentures are removable and can replace some or all of your missing teeth. Full dentures generally consist of an acrylic plate that rests against your palate or around the floor of your mouth, and fake teeth that are made to function like normal teeth.
You can also get partial dentures, which hook around your existing teeth to stay anchored in place. Dentures are not the most ideal way to replace missing teeth because they can slip, warp, and get food stuck under them. But, they are also one of the most affordable options, and admittedly, custom-made dentures are much better than nothing.
Bridges consist of a crown on either side of one or two pontics (artificial teeth). The crowns fit over the teeth on either side of the gap. These teeth need to be shaved down in order for the crown to fit properly. Bridges are typically considered to be a superior solution to dentures.
Implants are the best way to replace missing teeth. They consist of a screw that is placed in your jaw and actually replaces the missing tooth root, an abutment, and a crown that sits on top and looks just like a natural tooth.
Implants are stable and can last a lifetime, and they even help to limit alveolar bone loss, something that bridges and dentures can't do.
Dental implants look and function just like natural teeth and are the only type of replacement teeth that are embedded into the jaw bone. These artificial tooth roots stimulate the jaw bone the same way natural tooth roots do which keeps the bone healthy. This solid foundation enables the implant to function like a healthy tooth while remaining securely in place.
It’s also important to keep in mind that a dental implant is a complete restoration. There is no special dental care necessary – just brush and floss like you always do – and the implant’s foundation will allow you to enjoy your favorite foods without worry. The crown is also designed to match the shape and color of your other teeth for beautifully natural-looking results. With proper care, your implant can last a lifetime.
Dr. Sukhdeep Dhaliwal, DDS, MD, FACS – Kitsap Oral, Maxillofacial & Dental Implant Surgery
So, what happens if you don't replace missing teeth?
Besides the aesthetics of a gap in your smile and sagging cheeks, you may also have difficulty speaking, chewing, and swallowing.
This can lead to malnutrition and a weakened immune system. And the lack of a tooth to stabilize surrounding tissue can also contribute to loss of alveolar bone density.
For all of these reasons and more, it's essential that you get your missing teeth replaced. The best way to do this is with implants, and if you can't afford to pay for them upfront, speak with your dentist about your implant financing options.
Jarlife.net: Dentition and Malnutrition Risk in CommunityDwelling Older Adults. Consulted 13th January 2022.