The impact of tooth loss
As a dentist I know just how important it is to try and keep your own teeth. Patients often baulk at the cost and hassle crowns and fillings and root canal therapy to save their teeth, but once a tooth is lost some important changes occur.
What happens when we loose teeth?
When a tooth is taken out the jaw bone in the region of the missing tooth will shrink. As more teeth are lost, a larger volume of bone and gum will shrink. The majority of shrinkage will occur in the first 6 months, but will continue for years after. Teeth that are adjacent to the tooth gap will try to close off the gap by tilting into it and the teeth in the opposite jaw may also move up/down into the gap. Gum problems and tooth decay are common as a result of unnatural tooth movement and the consequence could be the loss of additional teeth.
Tooth loss and impact on General health
Natural teeth can chew with 33 times the force of dentures. Dentures are not as good as natural teeth when it comes to chewing. Chewing certain foods such as meat can certainly present a challenge, as the plastic denture teeth just cannot exert enough force to chew a steak. Sticky foods also present a challenge, as they will dislodge the dentures. Blackberries, raspberries and tomato seeds find their way under the denture and cause immense pain when trying to chew.
As teeth are lost the range of foods that you can eat is diminished. More processed food is consumed and this can effect your digestion and nutritional balance.
We can all appreciate an attractive smile. Loosing a tooth, particularly a front tooth can impact on your self-confidence.
In the past, as several teeth were lost, all a dentist could offer as a replacement was a denture. When dining out, many denture wearers can only order soft food from the menu. The dentures can slow down your chewing and it may be embarrassing always being the last one to finish. It is surprisingly common that patients are so self-conscious about their dentures that they have not even told their spouse that they are wearing them! Many patients also worry about ever going into hospital and relatives seeing them without their teeth.
How do dental implants work?
Missing teeth and dentures should not need to happen. It saddens me when I hear that patients have accepted gaps in their mouth. Whether young or older fixed teeth rather than dentures really improve your everyday life. What’s better than enjoying a catch up with your loved ones whilst having your favourite meal?
Dental implants are the most advanced option to replace missing teeth. They are little screws that are placed in the gums and they function just like real teeth. You can eat and socialise as you did before you lost your teeth.
Are dental implants for everyone?
Saving your own teeth is always the better option if this is possible. One of the best qualities of dental implants is that they do not suffer from decay like teeth. However, the gums around the teeth need to be cared for properly. It is really important that you commit to a maintenance regime as per your dentist’s recommendations.
Are dental implants expensive?
Like most other things, you pay for what you get. There are more than 1000 implant companies on the market today – are they all good? – I do not know! There are only a handful of implant companies that have been around for a very long time and they dominate the market. These companies produce different implant types. Some implants have a special coating that makes them very expensive but also produce better results. I would suggest that you choose an implant that has a proven track record rather than searching for the cheapest possible option. Once their implants have been completed, every patient I have ever treated has appreciated the time, effort and skill that has gone into restoring their smile and ability to eat properly.
So remember- always try and keep your teeth. When a tooth is lost it is often best replaced. Ask your dentist about tooth replacement options including dental implants.
Dr. Stefan Abela
BChD, MFDS, RCS Eng, MSc, MORTH RCS Ed, AHEA, FDS Orth RCS Ed
Stefan is a Consultant in Orthodontics at one of the most prestigious London teaching hospitals; Guy’s and St Thomas NHS Foundation Trust.
Stefan is also a specialist in Orthodontics and is registered on the General Dental Council (GDC) specialist list. Stefan qualified as a dental surgeon in 2003 and underwent further training in various specialties including restorative dentistry, paediatric dentistry, oral medicine and complex oral and maxillofacial surgery including the management of facial trauma.