Why Replace Missing Teeth?
A great many people are of the opinion that nothing needs to be done after they lose(or extract) a tooth.
We all remember Ed Helms from the Hangover with his missing front tooth. Of course most people don't ignore a missing front tooth but if it is a back tooth which does not show in their smile line - they tend to ignore it completely - sometimes for years together.
So does it really matter if you don't replace a missing tooth?
The answer is yes. It does. You know how you throw a stone in the water and it causes a ripple? That ripple propagates and causes another one and another one - till the water all around is disturbed. Removing a tooth and then not replacing it is like setting off a similar chain reaction.
The human body hates empty space. If there is one - it will most times try to fill it up with something. In the case of a space caused by a missing tooth - the remaining teeth will move to fill it up.
So what can be the sequelae to an unreplaced missing tooth?
1. Change in teeth position: Teeth drift, tilt and extrude. Upper teeth come down, lower teeth come up, and back teeth tilt/move forward. This causes a significant change in the bite.
2. Food lodgment: Also due to uneven contacts, open spaces and tilted teeth - food lodgment increases which leads to secondary conditions like cavities and gum disease.
3. Loss of chewing ability: When you lose one tooth and don't replace it - you effectively lose TWO teeth. Because the tooth opposing the space has no tooth to bite down on - therefore it too is now rendered useless.
4. Unfair loading: Imagine a well built man carrying a sack of potatoes and all of a sudden he dumps the sack on a five year old. Aren't his knees going to buckle under the load? (that’s a different matter that school children these days carry the equivalent of a sack of potatoes - but we will leave that for a separate discussion:)) Many patients lose several back teeth and for years manage with their front teeth. However front teeth are not meant for chewing. They cannot handle that kind of load. This leads to loosening or wear of these teeth and their ultimate loss.
5. Uneven loading: Think about a Horse carriage that is supposed to be drawn by two horses. If one horse is removed - all the load falls on the other in a very awkward way. If this same horse is positioned in the centre it might be able to draw the carriage better. But it is not. It is to the side and the forces on it - are off centre. It is bound to be fatigued earlier. With loss of teeth on one side - patients tend to be partial to the other leading to undue load on those teeth due to unilateral chewing.
All of the above sequelae occur over a few months to years. Most patients are not even aware that any change is occurring. And every passing year makes the situation a wee bit more difficult to correct.
With so many predictable techniques of tooth replacement available like dental implants or bridges - there is no reason why anyone should be without teeth.
Invest in your smile. Invest a little money and a little time. Like L'oreal says - "Because you are worth it" :)