Is It Really Important to Replace a Missing Tooth?

According to the American College of Prosthodontics, 178 million people in the United States are missing at least one tooth and more than 35 million people don’t have any teeth, at all. Tooth loss occurs due to a number of reasons, some of which are quite preventable and others may not be.  However, regardless of the reason you may have a missing tooth, the impact on your life is often significant.  Do you know the cost of not replacing a missing tooth?

In addition to the common concern about missing teeth making you appear older, there are other real issues and dangers present if you don’t replace missing teeth. Learning more about the long-term costs and risks of not replacing a missing tooth can help you understand better why tooth replacement can be important and highly beneficial

Top 3 Costs of a Missing Tooth:

1. Bone Loss 

“Use it or lose it” is certainly true in your mouth.  When a tooth is lost, the bone shrinks or atrophies.  This is also known as bone resorption and is one of the most significant dangers of not replacing a missing tooth. Bone loss occurs after a tooth is gone because the natural roots of the tooth are no longer embedded into the jawbone, leaving a void. Over time, the jawbone will begin to deteriorate from nonuse.  Teeth when present actually preserve jaw bone!

Unfortunately, bone loss doesn’t only impact the one tooth that’s missing, it actually puts you at risk of losing neighboring teeth.  As time passes without replacing missing teeth, the teeth in the surrounding area will drift or move without the support of the tooth that is missing.  This begins what we call a collapsing bite and can be difficult and very expensive to address.  Also, with bone atrophy or resorption, you may notice that your face shape will change gradually and your lips may appear thin, uneven or sunken.

Bone grafting is a treatment that can add bone back to your jawbone, however, the longer you wait to have this done, bone will continue to be lost or atrophy.  Thus, more grafting layers could be needed with more costly and have less predictable results.  The sooner you replace a missing tooth and utilize the available bone in that area, the cost can be reduced and the treatment can be more comfortable with a higher and more predictable success rate.

2. Reduced Ability to Eat Certain Foods and Speak Clearly

Depending on which tooth or teeth are missing, it may become difficult to bite into and chew certain foods.  This can lead to less enjoyment of eating and negatively impact your quality of life more than you may realize. Foods that you may enjoy such as steak and dense meats, fresh vegetables and fruits or crunchy snacks may no longer be choices for you.  Also, because you cannot bite or chew near the missing tooth or teeth, you’ll most likely begin overusing other teeth to compensate for the missing tooth or teeth. Over time, this can place stress on these teeth and place them in jeopardy thus a domino effect of more tooth loss.

In a related factor, diminished health and poor nutrition can also result from missing teeth. One example can be digestive issues as you begin to eat softer foods or don’t fully chew foods before swallowing, thus sending whole or bigger foods to the stomach.  Nutrition actually starts in the oral cavity!  Chewing foods releases vital vitamins and nutrients to your body.

Speech is another related concern.  If certain teeth are missing, such as the ones in the front, it can impact the way you speak and your ability to clearly pronounce certain words. You can develop a lisp or a change in how you pronounce certain words and sounds.

3. Reduced Self-Esteem

While the examples above are all tangible and fairly obvious effects of a missing tooth, there are also a few intangible effects that a missing tooth can have. While you may not be able to see these effects on the outside, they are still present and can impact your life in significant ways.

If a space from the missing tooth can be seen when you smile, eat, or speak, you may start to avoid smiling, eating, and speaking to people in public. This can have a significant impact on your social life, your job, and as a result, the amount of money you are able to earn at your job. There is plenty of science to support the benefit of a full and healthy smile! If gum disease develops due to the missing tooth, you may begin to experience bad breath, as well. Depending on your age, career path, and relationship status, the lifetime costs of a missing tooth can really add up if you’re not confident to smile, eat, or speak in front of other people.

These top, compelling costs of a missing tooth or missing teeth are real and those of us in the dental profession see the negative effects every day.  Conversely and so rewarding, we also see the joy and high satisfaction when someone replaces their missing tooth or teeth! Call or visit us today if you are interested in your options of tooth replacement.  Not only will you save dollars in the long run, your investment today can pay off in wonderful and tangible ways!