The Importance of Replacing Missing Teeth

The Importance of Replacing Missing Teeth

the importance of replacing missing teeth - porcelain bridge shown in this imageThe importance of replacing missing teeth cannot be understated.

While it may be natural to think of a missing tooth as only a cosmetic issue, there are actually long term dental conditions that can develop from this.  In the first part of this article, we’ll go over four reasons why missing teeth should be replaced.  In the second part of this page, we’ll briefly explain treatment options for replacing missing teeth.

Why Replace Missing teeth?

1. Maintains Bone Structure and Facial Appearance

girl and guy with good teethBoth the upper and lower teeth support the bones and muscles of the face.  The alveolar bone (jaw bone) needs to be continually stimulated in order to retain its strength and structure.  Your teeth provide that daily stimulation to the bone underneath.  When a tooth is missing, the bone structure will disintegrate because it is no longer being used.  The surrounding muscle tissues will also shrink or shift out of place.  Replacing the missing tooth/teeth helps to sustain the underlying bone structure.  Dental implants – because they are embedded in the bone – will stimulate the bone tissue better than other restorative options.

2. Maintains Teeth Alignment

The teeth keep each other in alignment at all angles.  Every time you bite down, chew, or even close your mouth, the teeth are exerting pressure on one another.  When a tooth is missing, it can cause significant shifts in the alignment of your teeth.  For example, if a bottom molar is gone, the top molar may begin to drop down because there is nothing below it to stop its movement.  This phenomenon is called supraeruption.  Adjacent teeth may also “drift” into a space left by a missing tooth.

3. Reduces Jaw Stress

When teeth are shifted out of alignment, it disrupts the distribution of pressure as you bite down.  You will likely be able to feel a bite that is out of alignment as you eat.  Abnormal biting pressure can lead to jaw stress and TMJ disorders.  It can also exacerbate nighttime teeth grinding and clenching that can wear down your tooth enamel over time.

4. Promotes Good Dental Hygiene

The pockets of space created by missing teeth are the perfect place for bacteria to develop.  As the surrounding teeth shift to compensate for the missing tooth, new gaps may form in between the existing teeth.  Food and debris can easily get lodged in these spaces, and it can be quite difficult to clean these areas with regular brushing and flossing.  Replacing missing teeth simply ensures better dental health in the long run.

Options For Replacing Missing Teeth

There are several options for replacing missing teeth, and they are all briefly explained below.  Each of these options links out to their corresponding page where the treatment is then explained in more detail.

The options for replacing missing teeth include:

  1. Dental bridge
  2. Implants
  3. Dentures & Partials

importance of replacing missing teeth - dental bridges can replace teeth as shown in this graphic1.  A dental bridge can be used to replace a single tooth or multiple teeth at once.  The basic construction of a dental bridge is shown in this image.  The adjacent teeth, called abutment teeth, are prepared with dental crowns.  The false tooth/teeth in the middle is supported by the abutment teeth.  The entire construction is then cemented in place.

dental implants can replace missing teeth.  This picture shows a single tooth implant2.  Dental Implants can be used to replace a single tooth or multiple teeth at once.  When multiple teeth are replaced, we call that an implant supported bridge.  There are several advantages to dental implants which include:

  • The surrounding teeth are not affected as is the case with a traditional dental bridge
  • Implants help support the underlying bone structure better than other restoratives
  • Implants offer more chewing and biting functionality

The picture to your right is an example of a single tooth implant.

Click for a more detailed explanation of dental implants.

a denture can be used to replacing missing teeth3.  Complete Dentures can be used to replace all of the teeth along the top or bottom arch of a mouth.  When only some of the teeth are replaced, we call that a partial denture.  Dentures are the most cost effective option for obtaining a full set of replacement teeth.  They are also the best option when there is not sufficient bone density to support dental implants.

To your right is a picture of a complete full mouth denture