Posts for tag: tooth loss
Tooth loss is a problem that affects many seniors—and since May is Older Americans Month, this is a good time to talk about it. Did you know that more than a quarter of adults over age 75 have lost all of their natural teeth? This not only affects their quality of life, but poses a significant health risk.
According to a study in The Journal of Prosthodontics, significant tooth loss is associated with increased risk for malnutrition—and also for obesity. If this seems like a contradiction, consider that when you have few or no teeth, it’s much easier to eat soft, starchy foods of little nutritional value than it is to eat nutritious fresh fruits and vegetables.
That’s just one reason why it’s important to replace missing teeth as soon as possible. There are several ways to replace a full set of missing teeth including removable dentures, overdentures, and fixed dentures.
Removable dentures are the classic “false teeth” that you put in during the day and take out at night. Dentures have come a long way in terms of how convincing they look as replacement teeth, but they still have some disadvantages: For one thing, they take some getting used to—particularly while eating. Also, wearing removable dentures can slowly wear away the bone that they rest on. As that bone gradually shrinks over time, the dentures cease to fit well and require periodic adjustment (re-lining).
Overdentures are removable dentures that hook onto a few strategically placed dental implants, which are small titanium posts placed in the bone beneath your gums. Strong and secure, implants prevent the denture from slipping when you wear it. Implants also slow the rate of bone loss mentioned above, which should allow the denture to fit better over a longer period of time. But overdentures, too, are not meant to be worn all of the time.
Fixed dentures are designed to stay in your mouth all the time, and are the closest thing to having your natural teeth back. An entire row of fixed (non-removable) replacement teeth can usually be held in place by 4-6 dental implants. Dental implant surgery is an in-office procedure performed with the type of anesthesia that’s right for you. After implants have been placed and have integrated with your jaw bone—generally a period of a few months—you can enjoy all of your favorite foods again without worry or embarrassment.
Although your teeth feel as if they’re rigidly set in the jawbone, they’re actually capable of movement. In fact, dynamic tooth movement is an essential mechanism in good dental function — it allows your teeth to adapt to changes brought on by age and other factors.
The periodontal ligament is a key component in this mechanism. This elastic tissue actually holds the teeth to the bone through tiny fibers that attach to the tooth root on one side of the ligament and to the jawbone on the other. The teeth move within the ligament to maintain contact with both adjacent and opposing teeth in response to changes like the normal wear that occurs due to aging.
This is a primary reason why a missing tooth should be replaced by an artificial one as soon as possible. Because of the tendency just described, teeth next to the space left by the missing tooth will begin to move (or drift) into the space at an accelerated rate. The end result is teeth out of their normal position and range, which could seriously disrupt their normal function as well as adversely affect your appearance.
This is especially important for back teeth. Because they’re not easily visible to others when we open our mouths, many people will forgo replacement when they’re lost. But missing back teeth can set off a chain reaction of movement that could eventually hinder jaw function.
The best option for a tooth replacement is a dental implant. Life-like and durable, dental implants encourage bone growth at the implant site and adjacent teeth will respond to it as they would a natural tooth. If an implant isn’t feasible, then a fixed bridge is also a viable replacement option that will prevent drift. As a result, tooth movement should continue normally with no adverse effects on function.
If you’ve lost teeth or are about to undergo tooth extraction, it’s in your other teeth’s best interest to consider a permanent replacement. A new implant or bridge will vastly improve your smile and prevent more serious problems in the future.
If you would like more information on the importance of teeth replacement, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more about this topic by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “Replacing Back Teeth.”