Unlike your baby teeth, your adult teeth are meant to last. Your tooth enamel — the outer layer of the tooth— is the hardest part of your body. It’s even harder than any of your bones!
But that doesn’t mean your teeth are invincible.
Missing teeth can happen for a few different reasons. Untreated tooth decay can lead to a tooth dying and falling out. And gum diseases caused by untreated bacterial infections can loosen the gums around your teeth, making the teeth more susceptible to decay and eventually falling out.
Then there’s always a good old fashioned accident that could knock out your tooth on the soccer field, ice-skating rink or ski slope.
A missing tooth can be both uncomfortable and unsightly. But missing teeth can also cause a host of health problems, including trouble with chewing, talking, and chronic headaches.
Missing teeth could also increase your risk of an oral infection, which could spread to the rest of your body and cause more serious issues.
Discover how missing teeth can hurt your oral health, how you can avoid tooth loss and your options for fixing missing teeth.
Missing teeth and poor oral health
Your oral health is the gateway to your overall health. And a key risk factor to your oral health is missing teeth as an adult.
Research shows that your oral health risks increase with each missing tooth. Some of the problems you could encounter with a missing tooth include the following:
- A missing tooth can cause your jaw bone to shrink and your gums to recede, which can weaken the teeth on either side of your missing tooth. This can increase the risk of your adjacent teeth to have problems with plaque buildup and tooth decay.
- Neighboring teeth may grow into the gap, leading to crooked or crowded teeth.
- A missing tooth can increase your risk of gum disease, as receding gums can create pockets where bacteria can grow.
Poor oral health and your overall health
The oral health issues that accompany a missing tooth can lead to more serious health issues if you let them lie. Untreated tooth decay or gum infections can lead to the following health problems:
- Heart Disease: Untreated tooth decay can cause infections and inflammation, which could lead to cardiovascular disease, strokes, or clogged arteries.
- Endocarditis: Germs and bacteria from your mouth can spread through your bloodstream and reach your heart. This can lead to endocarditis, which is an infection of the inner lining of your heart.
- Premature Birth: Studies show that pregnant women with gum disease may be more likely to give birth prematurely, possibly because gum disease may increase the level of chemicals in the body that induce labor.
How to fix missing teeth
There are several solutions to fixing a missing tooth. Here are a few options to address the problem and stave off future oral health issues:
- A denture is a sort of dental apparatus that goes in your mouth, with fittings for the spaces where missing teeth used to be.
- Dentures are typically made of metal or acrylic and can be partial for cases where you still have some natural teeth, or complete in cases where all your teeth are missing.
A bridge is a “filler” tooth that’s mounted to teeth on either side of where the lost tooth was, and bonds to your mouth.
- A dental implant is a more permanent solution than dentures or bridges and feels a lot more natural and like a real tooth.
- A titanium support is fused to the jaw, then a false tooth is fitted onto the support.
- Your existing natural teeth are unlikely to be affected by a dental implant and are typically the best long-term solution to a missing tooth.
How to prevent missing teeth
Although there are solutions for fixing a missing tooth, the best solution is prevention.
Maintaining an effective oral health regiment is your first defense in keeping all your teeth healthy and happy:
- Brush twice daily with fluoride toothpaste. Make sure your toothbrush bristles are in good condition. When they start to show wear, it’s time for a new toothbrush (about every 3 months).
- Floss at least once a day.
- Maintain a healthy diet and limit your intake of sugary foods and drinks. Avoid tobacco use.
- Visit your dentist for regular cleanings.
Addressing dental problems early is the key to preventing oral health issues and even more serious conditions in other parts of your body. Dental insurance will help you get the preventive care you need to avoid losing your teeth, and to pay for the treatment you need should you lose a tooth in the future.