A frequent question that is often asked of dentists is a patient wondering if there are any consequences to tooth loss. Many times, this question is asked when the patient is facing a situation where a tooth is hurting and they are pondering whether to have the tooth pulled or invest in saving it. After all, the age old discussion starts with the fact that we have 32 teeth, “so what if I pull one?”
Generally speaking, teeth work as a team. Think of your mouth as a tight-knit family that run a successful business together. Each person of a family is dear and each has a specific role in helping the business thrive. If one person doesn’t show up, or quits, it’s tough to replace that member. Teeth work similarly.
When a tooth is lost, the teeth adjacent to the missing tooth tend to drift toward the missing space. More specifically, three teeth commonly get affected most. The tooth in front, behind and opposing move backwards, forwards, and towards, respectively. In short, all the adjacent teeth gradually drift toward the missing space. Resultingly, these teeth are much more prone to cavities, gum disease and ultimately further tooth loss. Further, your bite shifts as well and therefore you are compromising the beauty of your smile. Did you know that even your tongue undergoes what’s called “hypertrophy” which means it grows and moves into the missing space?
Another side affect that isn’t discussed as often is the fact that bone is lost when a tooth is lost. That’s right, when a tooth goes your jaw loses bone. This is because a tooth is held into your mouth by bone. When you lose the tooth, the bone no longer receives any stimulation and it gradually goes away or “resorbs” over time. Have you ever wondered why people without any teeth have so many wrinkles and look like they don’t have jaws? It’s the same concept with each individual tooth. Therefore, if a tooth is lost, replacement is usually quite important and of course, the sooner the better!
Finally, other more obvious problems include: potential speech problems, less efficient chewing which can lead to digestive issues, and weakening of adjacent teeth since they are now compensating and working harder. Therefore, I always say try to save your teeth when possible. To learn about our vast array of replacement options, visit our narrated gallery of before and after pictures.