Humans have two sets of teeth in their lifetime: primary (baby) and secondary (permanent). The primary teeth typically begin to break through around the age of 6 months and usually have all fallen out by the age of 13 and are replaced with permanent teeth.
This set of teeth is exactly what it sounds like: permanent. They should last for the rest of your life. However, due to factors such as genetics, oral hygiene habits, lifestyle habits, gum disease, trauma, health conditions, and more.
Over the years, at Wolf Schwartz Dentistry in Boca Raton, we have encountered many patients who are missing one or more teeth. These patients come to us because they are looking for a solution to their tooth loss. Instead of simply treating the issue, we work with you to find the cause of your tooth loss.
In this article, we’ll explain some of the most common impacts of missing teeth, as well as the three most common treatment options.
Impacts of Missing Teeth
When you are missing teeth, obviously the appearance of your smile is impacted significantly. However, there are several other impacts that you need to be aware of.
Misalignment of Remaining Teeth
When you are missing teeth, your neighboring teeth will shift to fill in the gap. This shifting creates a misalignment, which makes it more difficult to brush and floss teeth. When you can’t brush and floss properly, plaque and bacteria begin to build up in the crevices, which leads to infection and gum disease.
When you are missing teeth, your oral health is compromised. The gaps left behind leave spaces for bacteria and plaque to collect. Additionally, the remaining teeth often shift to fill in the gap, which creates hard-to-reach places and makes it difficult to properly clean teeth. This bacteria and plaque build-up can cause infection.
Your teeth sit on top of your gums, protecting them from bacteria. Therefore, when you are missing teeth, your oral health is impacted. The gaps left behind expose your gums, allowing plaque and bacteria to build-up. This increases your risk of developing gum disease. If you have gum disease and you want dental implants, we will need to treat the gum disease first.
Root decay is a cavity that is on the root of your tooth. When you are missing teeth, plaque and bacteria can build-up in the space along the gumline and tooth roots. This can cause root decay, which can go under the gumline and deep into the tooth. One of the most common ways that we treat this type of tooth decay is with a root canal or extraction.
You have probably been told, “if you don’t use it, you lose it.” This can also be applied to jawbone density. The relationship between your teeth and your jawbone is mutually beneficial- they rely on each other to stay healthy. When you chew, the movement is exercising your jawbone.
However, when you lose a tooth, the jawbone in that spot is no longer getting the exercise it needs, so it begins to deteriorate. The body takes the calcium from that area and distributes it to other areas of your body.
This jawbone deterioration causes neighboring teeth to fall out too. In addition, your face begins to sink in and sag because it no longer has the support from your teeth and jawbone to hold it up. Therefore, you look much older than you really are.
Your teeth are involved in your pronunciation of words. When there are gaps between your teeth, it’s difficult to say certain words. You may whistle, spit, or slur when you speak. These problems with speaking can impact your confidence in starting conversations with strangers.
Your teeth break down the food that you eat, making it easier for the body to digest. Your incisors bite, while molars and premolars grind food. If you are missing one or more teeth, your chewing ability is impacted, making it difficult to eat.
When it’s hard to chew, most people choose foods that are easy to eat, which are usually excessively processed instead of healthy, fresh, nutritious foods. This results in compromised nutrition and may also cause digestive issues.
Treatment Options for Missing Teeth
The good news is you don’t have to live with your tooth loss. You have several options to choose from at Wolf Schwartz Dentistry. We will work with you to determine your current oral and overall health, your needs, and your goals for treatment. This information will be used to build a treatment plan around one of the following:
Dental implants are the most expensive tooth replacement option because they are the gold standard. This option offers the most natural look, feel, and function. This is especially appropriate for patients who are missing one tooth- but can be used to support a set of teeth.
The process of getting dental implants is a lengthy one. Most patients require several months to a year or more. This depends on how straightforward or complicated the tooth replacement process is.
We start by evaluating your condition and taking some images. This will help us determine if you are a good candidate for dental implant surgery.
If you require any additional extractions or if your jawbone needs to be improved, we will move forward with these procedures at this time. If you require extractions, the screws may be able to be placed right away. However, if you have augmentation surgery, such as a bone graft or sinus lift, you will need to take time to heal before the screws can be placed.
We will place a tiny screw made of titanium or zirconia, based on your needs and goals, into your jawbone. This will serve as an artificial tooth root, giving your jawbone the exercise it needs to stay healthy. We will place a cap on the screw to keep it protected while you heal, which typically takes up to 6 months. During this time, osseointegration will occur, which is the process of the bone healing around and fusing with the implant screw.
Once you are fully healed, we will remove the cap and place the abutment and the crown, or prosthetic tooth. This artificial tooth will match the colors and contours of neighboring teeth.
If you are missing most or all of your teeth on one or both arches, dentures may be a more budget-friendly option. At Wolf Schwartz Dentistry, we offer complete and partial dentures.
Complete dentures replace an entire arch of teeth (upper or lower)
Partial dentures are used to replace several missing teeth in a row
Dentures may be removable or permanent. Removable dentures are the most common and must be removed at night for cleaning and to allow gums to rest.
For patients who want a more secure option but can’t afford full-mouth dental implants, we offer implant-retained dentures, which are more secure than traditional dentures but still must be removed at night for cleaning.
On the other hand, for patients who are looking for a more permanent solution on a budget, we offer implant-supported dentures. These dentures are permanently secured in place with dental implants.
Dental Crowns and Bridges
A dental bridge is a tooth replacement solution for patients who are missing several teeth in a row. In this tooth replacement solution, the prosthetic teeth are attached to a bracket that is cemented to either neighboring natural teeth or to dental implants placed on each side of the gap.
This process starts with an exam, as well as impressions and imaging. This will help us make sure the bridge fits properly and your bite is natural.
Before the bridge can be placed, we will either place crowns on the teeth on either side of the gap or we will place implants. At this time, you’ll be given a temporary bridge.
Finally, the permanent bridge will be placed and cemented in place. We will schedule a few follow-up appointments to make sure that everything is working as it should.
Which One is Right for You?
If you are missing one or more teeth and are interested in pursuing tooth replacement options, schedule your consultation with Wolf Schwartz Dentistry today. We can help you determine the condition of your mouth and discuss your treatment goals to help you decide which one is right for you.
We are located on Southeast 5th Street in Boca Raton, Florida. Our office hours are Monday through Friday, from 9:00 AM to 5:00 PM. Dr. Schwartz is highly experienced in a variety of dental treatments. He is one of the two dentists in Boca Raton that have received certification from the American Board of Oral Implantology/Implant Dentistry.