A missing tooth can be a problem at any age. Whether you've had a tooth knocked out while playing hockey, been in a car accident, or had a tooth extracted by a dentist, the results are the same – a potentially embarrassing gap in the mouth.
But what many people don't realize is that even just one missing tooth can have far more serious consequences than just how you look. Getting a dental implant to replace a missing tooth does more for you than restore your confidence – it's important for your dental health as well.
The bone in your jaws is continually renewing itself over the course of your life. In response to the stimuli it receives from your teeth as they come in contact with each other, the bone cells know they need to replace and renew themselves, a process sometimes called "bone remodeling."
Missing teeth will cause an area of your jawbone to not receive this stimuli, and over time, the bone under or over the missing tooth will lose density. In the long term, this can even cause sunken cheeks and facial sagging, changing the overall structure of your face. Enough bone loss can also complicate the process of getting a dental implant – a bone graft may become necessary to restore the bone structure.
Getting a dental implant quickly helps prevent this. Unlike a dental bridge, which is anchored to healthy teeth, an implant involves an artificial titanium root inserted into the jaw. Once this is done, the bone in the jaw will feel the same signals as it would for a natural tooth, stimulating it to continue bone remodeling.
When you have a gap in your teeth, the teeth on either side of the gap can begin to shift into the empty space. In addition to changing how your teeth look, this shift can cause a number of oral problems. As the teeth shift, the gaps between your other teeth may widen, making it easy for food to get stuck between them and cause decay.
The tooth directly above or below the gap can also shift further out into the mouth without an opposing tooth to bite against. This can expose the root and increase the risk of decay and cavities, potentially leading to more missing teeth down the line.
Difficulty Eating or Speaking
Especially with larger numbers of missing teeth, chewing can become problematic. Some foods may have to be removed from your diet, and you may end up chewing entirely on one side of your mouth, which is not good for your jaw. You may also notice difficulty with certain sounds in speaking or embarrassing whistling noises when you talk.
Lack of Confidence
It would be a mistake to think of the aesthetic consequences as just vanity. People react more positively towards people who are confident and who smile genuinely; if a missing tooth is preventing you from doing this, you're not making the best impression you can, and that could affect anything from dating to job interviews.
So if you have one or more missing teeth, don't put off getting it fixed. It could have a big impact on more than just your smile. Contact a professional such as Dr. Michael G. Allard for more information.