Is it really necessary to replace a missing tooth? The straight answer is no. However there are many reasons to consider doing do. Of course aesthetic considerations are often foremost in a patient’s mind, especially if the missing tooth is in a part of the mouth that is visible to others, most noticeable being the front teeth. However, if the lost tooth is in the very back of the mouth then dentists everywhere admit many people choose not to bother with the perceived hassle and expense of partial dentures to replace a missing tooth that will rarely ever be noticed by other people.
While not replacing a tooth that is either lost accidentally or extracted will not kill a patient, it could potentially impact both their dental and overall health. The removal of any tooth, especially if traumatic, will compromise the stability and health of the all the surrounding teeth, and over time, all of the teeth will move, even if just by a little bit, as a result of the loss of the tooth. The loss of a back tooth will result in more movement or “shifting” than a front tooth will cause. Those people with a tendency to “brux” or grind their teeth (often an unconscious habit) will experience a great deal of shifting around the areas where teeth are missing.
All of this movement can result in misaligned or extruded teeth, which can be both unattractive and painful. Sometimes the altered position of the remaining teeth can make them far more prone to cavities and infections. In some cases, especially in women, some dental studies suggest that the existence of gaps in the dental arch can lead to a patient developing TMJ, or Tempro Mandibular Jaw disorder, a painful condition affecting the lower jaw, which is considered a serious ailment and requires extensive treatment by a specialist. Simply stated the case for even single tooth replacement is fairly strong, and is not as costly as a patient might imagine.
As discussed in previous posts, there are now several good options available to those who are only missing one or two teeth. A partial denture, a bridge or single implant are all good choices and offer their own unique advantages and disadvantages. The choice is best discussed with a trusted dental professional who will outline all the specific options available and can help the patient decide upon the best course of treatment for their individual needs (and personal budget). Prevention can of course go a long way to try to ensure that you will not lose teeth. Twice daily brushing and flossing in combination with regular dental visits are recommended for everyone, from babyhood onwards. But unfortunately, even the most careful person may find themselves lacking a tooth or two at some point in their lives. Thanks to advances in modern dentistry it does not have to be as embarrassing or unsightly as it was in days past.