Tooth Loss, Your Health, & The Importance of Treatment
If you’re one of the more than 178 million Americans who have lost at least one permanent tooth, you may be wondering if you need to have it replaced.
At Mid-Valley Dental Care, we want our patients to understand how beneficial it can be to replace their missing teeth with a permanent solution like dental implants. Removable dentures and traditional bridges offer some relief, but they don’t adequately protect against tooth loss related health issues.
It’s true that untreated tooth loss can negatively affect your self esteem, but it can also make it harder to eat, speak, and smile. Even worse, missing teeth increase your chances of developing serious health issues. In this helpful guide, you can learn more about the dangers of tooth loss and better understand the importance of dental implants.
How Tooth Loss Affects Your Oral Health
Your teeth support each other like bricks in a wall, and when you lose a tooth the entire structure can fall out of balance. Mesial drift or dental drift describes this tendency of our teeth to occupy empty spaces.
Some dental drift is normal and usually happens slowly over time. However, tooth loss can lead to dramatic changes in your dental alignment. Teeth which were properly positioned shift out of place and try to fill the space left behind by a missing tooth.
Not only does this dramatic shifting affect the appearance of your smile, it makes it more challenging to clean your natural teeth. As a result, plaque gets trapped and accumulates in hard to reach places. This plaque increases your risk of tooth decay and gum disease.
Dramatic dental drift like the kind caused by tooth loss will also irritate your gums and make you more susceptible to gum disease.
The roots of your teeth nourish your jawbone and act as receptors, which stimulate your body to maintain the density of your jawbone. When you lose a tooth, there are no roots to promote the nourishment and strengthening of your jawbone. This leads to resorption, the loss of jawbone density and the eventual reabsorption of that section of jawbone into your body.
Resorption does not contain itself to the area where the tooth was lost. It can spread out to bordering teeth, making them more susceptible to fractures, loosening, decay, and gum disease. If the teeth surrounding an area where resorption has taken place are lost, the cycle can start again and lead to further tooth loss down the road.
Loss of jawbone density also means the muscles in your face are unsupported and will begin to deteriorate. This can lead to premature wrinkles, making you look older than you are.
No matter what related issues your tooth loss is causing, missing teeth leave open wounds in your mouth. Bacteria can accumulate and multiply in these wounds, causing inflammation and infection that could lead to gum disease. Gum disease is a leading cause of tooth loss in adults as it affects teeth, jawbone density, and gum tissue near the open wound.
Chewing with missing teeth will also lead to an increased risk of gum disease. Your gums can become inflamed as they take on the full force of your bite without teeth to protect them. This inflammation can lead to infection.
Temporomandibular joint disorder or TMJ occurs when you develop issues with the joints connecting your jaw to your skull. The nerves in the temporomandibular joints can become aggravated by tooth loss, because you are forced to alter how you use your jaw. The extra wear and tear on your remaining teeth and exposed gums, as well as the changes in how you use your jaw, all can contribute to TMJ.
Common symptoms of TMJ include:
- Pain in your jaw
- Popping in the joints in your jaw
- Facial pain
- Locking of jaw joints
- Facial Swelling
Studies like those conducted for the peer reviewed journals, BMC Oral Health and The European Journal of Preventive Cardiology, both suggest a link between gum disease and cardiovascular disease. The theory behind this phenomenon is that bacterial infections of your gums travel from the blood vessels in your mouth to your heart.
Because tooth loss increases your risk of gum disease, the more teeth you’re missing, the more likely it is that you’ll suffer from heart related health issues such as heart attack, stroke, and coronary artery disease.
Your teeth play a vital role in the digestive process, breaking down food into smaller, more digestible pieces and helping your mouth produce saliva to extract nutrients from food. Missing teeth inhibit the digestive process, making it harder to properly chew food for digestion.
Your stomach will overproduce acid as it tries to digest improperly chewed food, causing indigestion and erosion of the stomach lining.
Frequently Asked Questions
How much do dental implants cost?
Dental implants tend to have a higher initial cost than other restoration options, but they offer a number of advantages over removable prosthetics. Some of these advantages include:
- Superior functionality
- Completely natural appearance
- Lasting performance
- Exceptional durability
- Protection against alignment issues
These advantages help ensure that dental implants are worth the expense in the long run. Call us to discuss available financing options and learn how we can help make dental implants affordable on our financing page.
How long do dental implants last?
Dental implants are built to last up to 25 years, but they can last a lifetime with proper care. This means brushing and flossing twice a day and visiting our office for dental checkups twice a year.
I’ve lost most or all my teeth, can I get implants?
Absolutely! Multiple tooth and full arch restorations allow Dr. Lau to replace full upper and lower arches of teeth with permanent prosthetics. Depending on how many teeth you have lost, full arch and multiple tooth restorations can be a more affordable option than replacing them with individual implants.
Exactly like single tooth implants, full arch and multiple tooth restorations are permanently bonded to your jaw and look and perform like real teeth. Unlike dentures, you’ll never have to worry about them slipping or shifting in your mouth.
How late is too late to get dental implants?
Dental implants usually need a minimum of 1 to 2 mm of jawbone density for successful placement. The more time that passes with missing teeth, the more jawbone density tends to decline.
This is why it’s so important to contact us as soon as possible after experiencing tooth loss or damage. We’ll be able to measure the health of your jawbone and help support your candidacy for dental implants. If your jawbone isn’t found to be sufficiently dense, supplemental procedures are available to strengthen and prepare your jaw for dental implants.
I only lost one tooth, do I still need a restoration?
What can I eat or drink after dental implant surgery?
Before eating again, let your anesthetic wear off. This will help prevent you from accidentally biting down too hard on your cheeks, lips, tongue, or healing implant.
Dr. Lau will discuss with you what items are safe for you to eat or drink after surgery. Soft foods that are usually recommended include:
- Cooked vegetables
Avoid eating foods that are hard, chewy, or sugary and drinks that are hot, sugary, or alcoholic. These items, when consumed too soon after treatment, can increase your risk of sensitivity, damage your implant, and impede the healing process.
Slowly reintroducing foods from your normal diet after at least a week of recovery is generally advised.
Don’t Wait For Tooth Loss to Cause More Problems, Call Today!
The longer your tooth loss goes untreated, the greater your chances of developing serious issues. That’s why Dr. Lau recommends getting treatment with dental implants as soon as possible.
Call our office in Northridge, CA by dialing 818-239-4956 or fill out the online contact form below and schedule a consultation with Dr. Lau. Dr. Lau and his team at Mid-Valley Dental Care will assess your needs and help you choose the dental implant solution that works best for you.