Do missing teeth have to be replaced?

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We all know accidents happen – You fall over on your bike on a sunny weekend, the dog runs in front of your feet and trips you over, or now with lockdown easing, after a really good Saturday night dinner with friends you misstep coming out of the restaurant. But what happens when that simple fall causes you to lose a tooth? Do you just go without a tooth?

Luckily, our own Dr Eugene Foo has a special insight into this. While also a general dentist, he has undergone the necessary training to complete dental implants, and explains why it is important to replace missing teeth.
Dr Foo says having a missing tooth/teeth has 3 main effects:

  1. Aesthetics (seemingly the most obvious)
  2. Functionality
  3. Overall oral hygiene health (surprising right?)

We’ve talked about the effects of your smile in our earlier blog about being unhappy with the look of your teeth and the effects it has on general physical and mental wellbeing, or if you haven’t had a chance yet, check it out here. A missing tooth effects your confidence, and subsequently can impact your self-esteem. It can stop your desire to do the things your normally love, because of the negative feelings you may associate with a missing tooth/teeth.
The second impact is to the overall function of the mouth. To “replace” or “fill” the missing space, teeth may natural migrate toward the empty space. This impacts your bite, which can lead to difficulties with eating, and also cause jaw issues (for example – TMJ).

The impact that a missing tooth can have which may surprise most people is the effect on your overall dental health. A missing tooth can lead to the natural movement of teeth to fit within the empty space, which can cause food to become trapped between teeth in hard to reach spaces, leading to decay and cavities over time, which can lead to gum inflammation and receding gums.

So a missing tooth has a lot of effects, does that mean you have to get a dental implant? Dr Foo says no, it depends on each patient and their own unique circumstances and dental needs. The most basic replacement for a missing tooth is a denture. Dentures are a typically removable prosthetic device, designed to sit a false tooth where a tooth used to be. The benefit with dentures is that they are removable which makes keeping the area clean much easier, will stop the surrounding teeth from moving and fill the missing space, however for a majority of individuals, they require major adjustment to as they can be uncomfortable physically and mentally.

Another option Dr Foo suggests is a dental bridge. A dental bridge may be considered a middle option, where a fake tooth sits (just above/on the gum) where the missing tooth was, and as the name suggests, is permanently bridged to the 2 adjacent teeth. The benefit of the bridge is similar to a denture in that it will fill the missing space and stop the surrounding teeth from moving. But if not placed properly, a bridge can lead to decay of the adjacent teeth the bridge is placed on, and if not maintained properly, can cause food trapping and influence overall oral health.

The most permanent option Dr Foo notes, is that of a dental implant. This is when a screw is placed into the bone to act as an anchor, with a crown placed on top. The biggest advantage is that it is considered the most stable and long term option for a missing tooth/teeth, and can look the most natural. The entire process can take as little as 4-6 months to allow for full healing of the screw before placing a crown on top to keep the implant stable. Some people may hesitate at the thought of a dental implant, as the biggest factor associated with this is the cost, however the cost is split across the spaced out appointments.

Don’t forget, while there are a number of options available, it is important to discuss with the dentist what you’d like to achieve, as not all options may be suitable for you. Keep up to date with us on our socials! You can find on Instagram and Facebook @aboutsmilesdental