What Happens When a Missing Tooth isn’t Replaced? Our Chesterfield Dentist Explains

According to a recent study, it’s thought that 178 million Americans are missing at least one tooth. It’s understandable that some people choose to ignore a missing tooth and carry on regardless, especially when the gap isn’t in their immediate smile line. However, are they right to do so? In the short term, it’s true that simply doing nothing will save on dental costs. However, did you know that by having just one missing tooth, it can trigger off a whole host of events that can end up costing you heaps more in the long run? Let’s take a closer look at exactly what happens when a tooth is missing.

Problem #1 – Bone loss

When a tooth is in position, the tooth root is surrounded and supported by bone tissue. This is what gives the tooth strength. However, as soon as a tooth is missing, osteoclasts, naturally found on the surface of the bone mineral, start to break down the bone tissue. As they do so, they extract essential minerals such as calcium which are then reabsorbed back into the blood and redistributed to other key areas. Bone reabsorption (as it’s more commonly known) doesn’t stop at the missing tooth, however. In addition, it quickly spreads to other adjacent bone tissue which currently supports nearby healthy teeth, weakening the gums surrounding them too.

Problem #2 – Tooth movement

In addition to ongoing bone loss, your healthy adjacent teeth will start to gravitate towards the gap. But why is this? If you can imagine each tooth to be like a keystone. Together they fit perfectly side by side to provide both strength and support in numbers. Suddenly when a keystone (read tooth) is removed or no longer present, that initial stability and support becomes weaker. Likewise, when a tooth is missing, adjacent teeth will start to move and shift towards the gap causing teeth to become misaligned. When teeth are misaligned, it can cause problems cleaning them because pockets of food debris can become trapped in difficult-to-reach areas. If left, a significant buildup of plaque can cause gum disease, which may have a huge impact on your remaining healthy teeth.

Problem #3 Opposing teeth issues

Under normal circumstances when we bite down, the two opposing teeth come together and are stimulated by chewing/bite force. This keeps the tooth (and therefore) the supporting bone tissue active. But what happens when the opposing tooth is missing? In essence, because the opposing healthy tooth no longer has anything to bite against, it will start to grow (either upward or downward) into the vacant space. As it does so, it loses contact with the neighboring teeth and instead tries to interact with the remaining teeth in the opposing arch. As the bite is now thrown out of alignment, it can cause unnecessary pressure or force on the tooth and weaken it further, But equally, uneven bite distribution can also cause jaw tension, headaches, grinding, clenching, and unnecessary wear and tear.

Problem #4 – Unwanted aesthetic changes

Finally and perhaps the most noticeable factor about tooth loss leading to bone resorption is the aesthetic changes it brings. While initially, your missing tooth may be at the back of the mouth, bone loss (as much as 25% in many cases during the first year) now means that the shape of your face has changed. The jaw is smaller and thinner, making the skin on the face droop and sag. This, in turn, cases tell-tale wrinkles making you appear older than your years. So there you have it, the pitfalls of not replacing a missing tooth! if you want to take care of your dental health, then you really should look to getting a missing tooth replaced quickly, as it can trigger a whole lot more problems than you might think. With this in mind, why not talk to the team at Chesterfield Dentistry about dental implants. They’re a hassle-free, gold standard replacement for missing teeth that can halt bone loss and, restore both the form and function of your smile. Don’t let your tooth loss cause you unnecessary problems. To find out more about how we can help book a consultation with Dr Akinwande and the team today.