Replacing missing teeth is not simply a matter of restoring aesthetic appeal to your smile — filling gaps is also important to the overall health and function of both mouth and jaw. Here, experienced San Jose, Los Gatos and Campbell dentist Dr. Ashwini Bhave discusses the changes that occur when a tooth is lost, and outlines solutions for preserving the integrity of bone and your entire facial profile.
Sometimes a tooth is most appreciated when it’s gone. When it was healthy, beautifully arrayed with your other teeth across the mouth, it never called attention to itself. Unless it developed a cavity, chip, crack or other imperfection, it was rarely noticed. But without this tooth firmly rooted in your jaw and filing its space, the adverse consequences begin to multiply.
Without this single anchor, other teeth will move out of position, lacking the buttress that prevented drifting. This sets in motion other effects, such as misalignment of your bite and changes in the way your lips and cheeks appear. With your bite out of position, you may develop temporomandibular joint disorder (TMJD), and with new gaps in the mouth the pitch and patterns of your speech may change.
The most serious effect of a missing tooth is loss of bone in the jaw. This happens because the root of every tooth does more than anchor the tooth in the mouth: It also provides necessary stimulation to the jaw bone. Without this stimulation, the bone will atrophy, and as it shrinks your entire facial profile can change. This unhealthy reordering in your mouth can also increase the likelihood you will develop periodontal disease, which puts additional stress on the integrity of the bone.
Like the famous “for want of a nail” proverb popularized by Benjamin Franklin, the story doesn’t end well. In Ben’s version, the missing nail was literally the root cause of why “the kingdom was lost.” In the case of your oral health, a single missing tooth represents a missing root that can dramatically change the entire configuration of your mouth, the integrity of your jaw bone and the appearance of your lower face.
Fortunately, there are proven technologies and procedures that can limit the consequences of missing teeth. Dentures are the oldest solution, and the least expensive. The biggest drawback is that although dentures stop teeth from drifting, they do not stimulate the bone in the jaw.
Dental implants are the best overall solution to missing teeth. They look and feel like natural teeth and restore function, balance and beauty to your smile. Because each implant is rooted in the jaw with a titanium post, implants also provide the necessary bone stimulation to maintain the integrity of your jaw, as well as your natural facial profile.
To learn more about dental implants and other solutions to missing teeth, schedule an appointment with Dr. Bhave at her San Jose office by calling or emailing Bay Area Dental Specialists today.