Too many adults in our nation assume that losing a natural tooth is normal. Yes, accidents contribute to some tooth loss but the number one reason for losing adult teeth is periodontal (gum) disease. And, gum disease, although too prevalent among adults, is anything but ‘normal.’
Unfortunately, gum disease exists in an estimated 47 percent of American adults. This is an astronomical figure considering the level of advanced healthcare in this country. Although an adult mouth is designed to contain 32 teeth (wisdom teeth excluded), adults ages 20 to 64 have about 25 remaining teeth. (www.nidcr.nih.gov/DataStatistics/FindDataByTopic/ToothLoss/ToothLossAdults20to64.htm)
By the age of 50, an American adult has lost 12 teeth, on average. For adults 65 to 74, 26 percent have lost all their teeth.
The need to replace missing teeth is great. Even a tooth that’s not visible in a smile should be replaced promptly at the time of removal or loss. Why?
Each tooth is designed to serve as a part of a whole. Tooth roots not only provide stimulation and nourishment to the jaw bones that hold them, they help to keep neighboring teeth in proper alignment.
For example, a missing lower tooth allows the teeth on both sides to tilt out of their proper positions. The tooth above will grow longer since it doesn’t have a match below to keep it in place. This leads to misalignment.
When misalignment occurs, a number of problems can occur, including teeth that chip, crack or break. Additionally, bite misalignment can lead to night-time clenching or grinding and jaw joint (TMJ) disorder. TMJ disorder can result in frequent headaches, migraines, sore jaw joints, difficulty opening the mouth fully, dizziness, ear ringing and jaw popping.
The best time to replace a tooth is at the time of removal. We advise dental implants since they restore a dependable foundation for biting and chewing. Implants also help to preserve the bone that supports them and gum tissues surrounding them.
The options for tooth replacement are below. The one best for your needs and preferences can be discussed during a private, no cost consultation.
Dental Implants – As mentioned above, dental implants provide a sturdy, stable option for replacing teeth since they are held by the jaw bone. And, since they recreate stimulation to the jaw bone, they halt the rate of bone loss that occurs when natural tooth roots are no longer present in the bone. Dental implants are designed to last a lifetime as well, making them an excellent investment.
Crown & Bridge – Crown and bridge combinations work when one, two or several teeth are missing in one area (as long as a natural tooth borders it on each side). This tooth replacement option involves the crowning of natural teeth on each side. A ‘bridge’ of one or several replacement teeth is placed, which includes the two crowns.
Partials – A partial denture is designed to replace several teeth when natural teeth are still remaining. The partial attaches to existing natural teeth using clasps that are generally undetectable in a smile. Partials help to restore the look of real teeth and preserve the ability to chew and speak.
Full Dentures – When an individual loses all upper or lower teeth, some prefer the option of a full denture. This is a gum-colored base that holds an entire ‘arch’ of replacement teeth. When dentures are first made, they are typically comfortable (once the individual becomes accustomed to eating and speaking with it in place). However, the pressure of a denture on the ridge that supports it contributes to bone loss. This is why a denture can begin to slip or cause uncomfortable rubbing after several years.
When we discuss tooth replacement options with our patients, we want them to understand the advantages and challenges associated with each. For dental implants, the only ‘challenge,’ for some, is the higher expense since implant costs are all ‘up front.’
However, in the long-term, implants provide a much wiser investment. In addition to their ‘for a lifetime’ longevity, they help to protect the health of other teeth along with the bone structures that support teeth.
Dental implants also allow you to eat a healthy diet of foods you love. By eating a nutritious diet and chewing foods properly, you support your overall health. And, people who have no worries about embarrassing slips or clicks are more socially active. Staying involved with others has proven to be a bonus to our overall health. (www.cfah.org/hbns/2011/socially-active-older-adults-have-slower-rates-of-health-declines)
We respect the choices our patients make when it comes to replacing teeth and want you to fully understand each option to help you determine which is best for you.
Call 910-254-4555 to schedule your free consultation.