A person’s mouth works most efficiently and effectively when every part—teeth, gums, muscles, ligaments, joints, bone—work together properly. When something is not quite right with any one of those parts, over time other bodily functions can be affected. The main purpose of the mouth and its structures is to chew food—break down the food into digestible pieces. Many people spend a good portion of their lives trying to make sure that their chewing function is as it should be. Such things as missing or cracked teeth, sore or clicking jaws, or teeth that don’t fit properly together can affect how and what a person eats, and how the body processes what he or she does eat.
Missing Teeth a Major Matter
Missing teeth can affect a lot more than people realize. Missing teeth can affect esthetics for certain, impacting not only peoples’ first impressions of you, but also your self-esteem because you realize your smile is not perfect.
Not replacing missing teeth can ultimately result in dietary issues—people may avoid certain foods because they can’t chew them, missing out on nutrients that the body needs to stay healthy, and because food isn’t broken down as much as the body needs, the digestive system has to work harder to process the food and a person may experience more bouts of indigestion, acid reflux, stomach upset, and other gastric-related issues.
Missing teeth also mean that chewing forces aren’t as evenly distributed as nature intended. For example, if a person is missing molars, chewing may be done by incisors, which biologically were never designed to do that. This all affects the development and health of the mouth structures. Jaw joints, muscles and ligaments can become tight or stretched and painful, and the bones under the gum can deteriorate and may not be able to support restorations if left too long.
What to do about Missing Teeth?
There are generally three methods for replacing missing teeth, each one depending on a person’s budget and needs.
Crown, bridge or partial denture – These are usually used for replacing one, two, or three teeth or short spans of space in the mouth. The crowns needed to fill in the spaces, are usually suspended from existing teeth. The supporting teeth are usually ground down, root canaled, and then clasps or bars secured to them to which the crown, bridge or partial denture will clip. A “fixed removable bridge” or denture is one option where the denture is secure during function, but easily removable for cleaning.
Full denture – This is usually reserved for those patients who are missing all of their teeth in either (sometimes both) arch. This is usually acrylic with porcelain crowns and sits on the gum. With today’s modern cosmetic and prosthetic dentistry technology, full dentures are much more natural looking than in the past.
Implant-based restoration – To avoid grinding down and structurally compromising adjacent teeth, and/or the deterioration of underlying bone from chewing forces being applied directly on top as opposed to inside and through, implant-based restorations are becoming the treatment of choice for many patients. They are long-lasting, once successfully integrated, and act and look more like natural teeth.
Each treatment plan is decided through consultation with a dental professional and depends on a person’s individual financial and biological circumstances. You owe it to yourself to get all the facts about what your dentist can do for you.