FROM THE DENTIST: Why Replace Missing Teeth?

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Brought to you by Dr. Evan Ridge 
“Dr. Evan Ridge is originally from Rockland County, New York. He attended the University of Delaware and graduated with honors with a degree in exercise physiology and biology. Dr. Ridge’s passion for science and art led him to pursue a career in dentistry.”

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It’s never easy to hear that you need to have a tooth removed, but luckily, there are plenty of options to replace a missing tooth.   A missing tooth is more than a space in your smile.  However, many people will ask if it is even necessary to fill the space left behind.  After all, they say, we have so many.

The short answer is: yes.

1)  To allow you to continue to eat well.

Each tooth has a vital role in how we break down our food.  Approximately 90% of all chewing happens by the premolars and first molars.  Losing just one has a great impact on our chewing efficiency.  Each tooth is opposed by another and they work as a pair to break down food between them. When one tooth is removed, the opposing tooth will no longer have one to bite against, so removing even one tooth takes two out of function.

As more teeth are removed, it gets increasingly difficult to eat hard or tough food such as nuts, vegetables, and meat.  Eventually, your diet and be reduced to soft food and can negatively impact your overall nutrition and health as well as your quality of life.

Additionally, that empty space will constantly collect food, causing gum disease, bad breathe and drive you crazy!

2)  Teeth move.

Teeth are held in place by strong, hard bone.  However, teeth can move if they are constantly pushed or not supported.  This is how braces are able to work to move our teeth great distances.  Each tooth works not only to support its neighbors and keep them upright but also to keep the opposing teeth from drifting up or down.

When a tooth is removed, your jaw and teeth may not fit together like they used to and your bite can feel different almost immediately.  The teeth next to the empty space will now take more of your biting force each time you close or chew.  With no neighboring tooth to keep them in place, the teeth in that area of your mouth will begin to tilt and drift into the empty spot. Over months and years, the teeth can severely tilt and move.  This will cause bone loss around the teeth, create spaces where food will get trapped, increase the risk of cavities and can lead to the need for further tooth removal.  Tilted teeth and teeth that have moved into the empty space will make future replacement much more difficult as well.

3)  Bone shrinks, just like a muscle.

When a muscle isn’t used, it will start to shrink.  Bones work very similarly.  Every time you bite down, the bone is stimulated.  When a tooth is removed, that part of the bone stops being used.  That area will begin to shrink and lose its density.  As time goes on and the bone continues to shrink, options for future tooth replacement become limited.

4)  Teeth affect the way you look.

Besides giving you a nice smile, your teeth help to hold the shape of your face.  Teeth are what support your lips and cheeks.  When even one tooth is removed, your cheeks or lips in that area will sag into the empty space.  If many teeth are removed, your face will begin to have a shortened, sunken appearance and make you look much older.  The cosmetic results of having missing teeth can have a great impact on self-esteem and mental health as well.

Luckily, there are many options that we have to replace single or multiple teeth.  Before a tooth is removed, be sure to speak with your dentist about what options you have to replace it in the future.