Despite improvements in oral healthcare, most people will lose at least one adult, permanent tooth in their lifetime. It’s tempting to think that all of your problems are over after having a tooth pulled. You may even think that losing a tooth is only a cosmetic issue, but failing to replace a missing tooth can cause many different issues.
It’s obvious our teeth help us chew and eat food. Many times, when you lose one tooth, you are really losing the function of two teeth because the opposing tooth no longer has anything to chew or hit against. It’s like trying to clap with one hand. After a tooth is pulled, the remaining teeth must take on the load of the missing tooth and are put at a higher risk of fracturing as well.
Beyond helping us eat and speak, our teeth serve other roles. Most noticeably, the roots of our teeth extend deep into our jaw and skull and help stimulate bone formation. When a tooth is no longer there, the bone in that area is no longer stimulated and the body resorbs that area of bone away. If there is enough bone loss, you could start to notice facial deformities.
In many situations, a dental implant can be your best long-term replacement option for a missing tooth. First, a titanium post is placed into the jaw or skull in the position of the missing tooth. Then the post is usually left alone for a few months to allow the bone to attach itself or integrate to the post. Once the post has integrated, a crown is attached to the post to complete the procedure and leaves the patient with an almost natural feeling and looking tooth. With good oral hygiene, the post should last the patient’s entire life while the crown portion may last for 15 years or longer.
If a patient is missing all of their teeth, implants can also be used to hold loose dentures in place using no glue or adhesive. Usually two to four implants are placed in the jaw or the skull and after the implant has integrated, the denture can be screwed or clipped on to the implants.
Thanks to the advancement of dental implants, patients are able to smile with confidence and eat all of their favorite foods again.
Mark Scallon, DDS