The last thing a dentist wants to do is remove a diseased or injured tooth. The truth is, dentists are focused on saving teeth, and so removing teeth is somewhat counter. But when teeth are missing, there is always concern for the remaining teeth. The idea of not replacing a missing tooth, or teeth, is simply unsound. Whenever there is loss of a permanent tooth, there is potential for a variety of problems to ensue. And this is especially true if the missing tooth is not replaced in short order.
By nature, teeth are organized in the jaw in order to support each other, while enduring the forces of chewing. When a tooth is lost (and not replaced) the remaining teeth have lost support and begin moving out of position and natural alignment. This type of destabilization will occur over a longer period of time, and often the signs of damage are occurring slowly and silently. This is why patients sometimes disregard or postpone treatment options that are recommended by their dentist.
In a normal mouth, the biting surfaces of the teeth fit together so that contact will ensure effective chewing and equal biting force. When a tooth is missing, the natural contact with surrounding teeth is compromised and biting capacity is thrown out of whack. Here, it’s not uncommon for complaints like headaches, grinding, and even tooth breakage. Worse still, missing teeth will allow for food to be compacted in the open space, with the potential for damage to mouth tissue, as well as cavities.
A missing tooth can sometimes trigger a so-called domino effect on surrounding teeth. And while this does take some time, the negative effects are problematic. To begin with, the missing tooth has itself created a vacant space – but in addition, more spaces start to develop as adjacent teeth start to move around from their original position. In the end, teeth lose contact with surrounding teeth, and more spaces are created. The bad news is that over time, the spaces tend to grow in size.
Bone loss is another by-product of missing teeth. When teeth are being formed, bone will grow in and around the root of the tooth in order to support and nourish that tooth. But when a tooth has been removed, there’s no real need for bone, and it will actually shrink away. Therefore, the longer a patient waits for a fix, the more complex the restoration will be. This is particularly relevant when considering an implant to replace a missing tooth – without healthy, dense bone, it’s complex.
Patients who regularly visit the dentist, and who maintain a responsible oral health regime, are the most likely to address a missing tooth problem properly. This is where a good dentist will clearly express the potential for damaging after-effects, and the need for restorative work, sooner than later. Then, it’s simply up to the patient to consider the pros and cons and then make the most responsible decision.