With the exceptions of crowding and orthodontia, missing teeth need to be replaced.
Your teeth have a purpose. They are used for smiling, eating and communicating. If you are missing one tooth or several teeth, your ability to pronounce certain words correctly may be affected. Missing teeth may also affect your ability to chew and digest food properly, which is not good for your overall health.
One of the most common reasons people replace missing teeth is aesthetics. Simply put, it just looks nice to have a youthful, healthy smile with straight white teeth.
Consequences of Not Replacing Missing Teeth
When you lose a tooth, you lose some ability to chew your food properly. For each missing tooth, you lose approximately 10% of your remaining ability to chew food. Additional stress may be placed on the adjacent teeth in order to chew all the food you eat, or you do not chew well enough and what is swallowed is not quite ready to be digested. This can lead to digestive difficulty. You might have to eliminate certain favorite foods because you cannot chew them thoroughly. Studies indicate that individuals without teeth do not live as long as those with a full set of teeth in part, because of the dietary restrictions caused by missing teeth. Efficiency decreases and function suffers when you loose a tooth.
Malocclusion (Bad Bite) Develops
The adjacent teeth surrounding a missing tooth will eventually shift towards each other in order to fill in the gap, and the opposing teeth will tend to supererupt. Misaligned teeth can become very problematic. These teeth more prone to decay and gum disease because it is much harder to keep the teeth clean when they are not aligned properly. Root structure that is normally covered by gum and bone may become exposed. This can result in increased sensitivity to sweets and temperature, and also lead to tooth mobility.
Bone is Lost
When you lose a tooth, the interplay between the tooth and bone is disturbed. The roots of a tooth promote healthy bone retention and development. Putting stress or a load on the bone through the ligament that attaches the tooth to the bone maintains bone tissue. Activities such as biting and chewing stimulate the root structure, which in turn stimulates the bone that the root is attached to.
When a permanent tooth is removed and not replaced, the bone no longer receives physical stimulation at that particular site and it starts to breakdown and resorb. Also, the gums (gingiva) pull back. This can weaken neighboring teeth until they collapse.
Your Appearance Changes
Major problems can occur if multiple teeth are lost and not replaced. When the bite collapses due to malocclusion, the distance between your chin to the tip of your nose decreases. This is called a loss of vertical dimension, which makes your face look shorter and misshapen. The facial muscles of the cheeks sink into spaces once occupied by your teeth and lose tone, resulting in a saggy and wrinkly appearance. You look older which can affect your self-image and self-esteem.
Let’s face it, when an extracted tooth’s space is visible when you talk or smile it’s not a pretty sight. Losing a tooth is pretty serious.
Jaw Joint (Temporomandibular Joint) Dysfunction
When teeth are out of alignment due to a collapsed bite, you may start to unconsciously grind and clench your teeth. This is called bruxism. In addition, losing vertical dimension puts extra stress on your jaw joints. These factors can lead to temporomandibular joint (TMJ) dysfunction.