Approximately 42 percent of Americans over the age of 65 are missing their natural teeth. Edentulism is a condition in which a person is missing more than one or more of the 28 permanent teeth.
Causes of Missing Teeth
Missing teeth can occur for several reasons. People lose their teeth from accidents, tooth decay or gum disease. Some people go for many years without replacing a missing tooth and are not aware of the damage they may be doing to their mouth.
Effects of Missing Teeth
- Your self-confidence could be affected by avoiding smiling or trying to hide missing teeth
- Limits your food choices (problem chewing certain foods)
- Places stress on remaining teeth and can lead to further tooth loss
- Teeth can begin to shifty and cause gaps between remaining teeth, creating food and plaque traps leading to decay and/or gum disease
- Can cause bite problems that could lead to clicking of the jaw, headaches and jaw pain
- Leads to bone loss, making fitting for dentures hard or impossible
Options for Treatment
Choices for replacing missing teeth include full dentures, partials, fixed dentures and dental implants. Your dentist will make an assessment based on your dental history, examination and your medical history. X-rays are often taken to assess your bone and other underlying structures.
Full Dentures - Used when no teeth remain. Are usually plastic resin, although metal and carbon strengtheners can be added. Full dentures rest directly on your gums and are removed, cleaned and soaked nightly. Dentures are typically the cheapest way to replace a mouth of missing teeth.
Partial Dentures - Constructed for mouths where some teeth remain. If teeth are strong, a metal-based denture grips onto the remaining teeth. If remaining teeth are weak, a plastic denture is made so that false teeth can be added as needed. Partial dentures are removable and are taken out for cleaning at night.
Fixed Bridges – A “bridge” links spaces near existing teeth. Bridges are not removable and can last up to 10 years if you take good care of the. Like a crown, a bridge can be white porcelain, gold, silver colored metal or a combination of these materials.
Dental Implants – Implants are for people who are in good health and have a good jaw to support them. Implants use titanium screws that are surgically placed in the jawbone as a root for a new tooth. The screw remains in the gum for about six months, so that the implants are accepted and jawbone grows into the threads of the implant. Then a porcelain tooth is placed on the end of the screw. Dental implants can be used to support the other treatments listed above. Implants required multiple visits to place and restore. Usually implants are the most expensive of all the treatment options.
Missing teeth may not seem like something that needs immediate attention but, without treatment, damage is done over time. Treatment options are more affordable than ever.
If you have any questions or concerns about missing teeth, contact your hygienist or dentist. Your dentist can recommend the best choice for you. Prevent future tooth loss and maintain good oral health by brushing, flossing and visiting your dentist.