As anyone who has experienced tooth loss can tell you, there are a variety of long-term consequences that come with it. You might have difficulty chewing certain foods, become hesitant to smile or share an intimate moment with a partner or even develop difficulty speaking. And those are more than just minor inconveniences. They can also have a serious effect on your self-confidence.
But those aren’t the only problems that come with tooth loss. Although most people aren’t aware, tooth loss can also lead to some less-than-obvious health problems. And the longer those missing teeth are left untreated, the harder it becomes to correct the situation.
Fortunately, the field of modern dentistry offers multiple solutions for tooth loss. And here at Atlantic Dental Group, we specialize in procedures that can restore normal function and replace your missing teeth – and we’re one of the leading providers of dental implants near Los Angeles. Here’s an overview of the hidden effects of tooth loss and how implants could be the key to stopping those effects in their tracks.
For obvious reasons, people are most familiar with the visible effects of tooth loss. But losing one or more of your teeth can be the beginning of an oral health decline that leaves lasting effects. The most profound of those effects is bone loss.
This happens because our teeth play a role in maintaining the health of the underlying bone in the human jaw. The roots of each tooth are surrounded by blood vessels, nerves, and connective fibers that nourish our teeth and keep them healthy. But as the teeth do their work (chewing, making contact with one another), they also transmit those vibrations and stimulate the underlying bone – called the alveolar bone – causing it to regenerate and maintain its mass.
In other words, losing a tooth sets off a chain reaction that leads to permanent bone loss in the jaw. And it happens rather quickly. In the first year after losing a tooth, the alveolar bone will decrease in width by 25%. And by the fourth year, the height of the bone will decrease by up to 4 millimeters. And although that may not seem like much, it’s enough to begin altering the shape of your smile and jawline.
If left untreated, the bone loss will continue until it reaches below the alveolar bone and into the rest of the jaw. At that point, the remaining bone will begin to be reabsorbed by your body. If you’ve ever seen how someone with a full set of dentures looks when they remove them, you’ve seen this effect in action. It shortens the distance from your nose to your chin and leaves you with hollowed cheeks and an upturned chin.
Losing teeth is a common problem in the United States. According to recent epidemiological estimates, as many as 178 million Americans are missing at least one tooth. About 40 million are missing all of them. There are a variety of reasons it happens.
One of them is the early onset of tooth decay. It’s a problem that often leads to the need for root canals and crowns, especially in our molars. Over time, compromised teeth can continue to deteriorate, eventually fracturing or falling out. And even under the best of circumstances, crowns offer only a temporary reprieve from an inevitable second intervention – lasting for an average of only 10.3 years.
More often than not, that second intervention ends up being an extraction. The complications from root canals and crowns are the leading cause of posterior tooth loss in adults. And that means you will need a more permanent solution at some point.
Until very recently, the go-to solution for missing teeth was the placement of a dental bridge. The procedure is simple and effective – at least in the short term. To replace a missing tooth, the two teeth on either side of the missing tooth are crowned and support an affixed false tooth between them. But the procedure means weakening the surrounding teeth, making them susceptible to additional loss.
At least 30% of the time, the teeth used to support a bridge will end up needing extraction within 14 years. And at the same time, replacing a missing tooth with a bridge won’t prevent the bone loss that inevitably follows. But the good news is that bridges aren’t the only available treatment for a missing tooth.
These days, advances in the field of dental implantology mean that it’s now possible to replace a missing tooth without sacrificing any of the teeth around it. An implant relies on an anchor which attaches it to the underlying bone, much like the tooth it replaces. And that comes with several advantages.
One of the biggest dental implant benefits is that they not only restore the form and function of your teeth but also help to prevent the bone loss that would otherwise occur. In many cases, implants offer a twenty-fold decrease in bone loss compared with removable dentures. And because they’re anchored into the bone, it’s often possible to replace multiple teeth with a single implant, rather than having to sacrifice the surrounding healthy teeth.
Those are critical advantages when you consider that as many as 30 million Americans are missing an entire arch of teeth. Using implants, it’s possible to attach a fixed bridge or partial denture that’s more stable than previous methods. For that reason, they restore more normal function than dentures. As many as 29% of denture wearers report only being able to eat soft or mashed foods, with a full 50% reporting that they avoid many foods altogether. With implants, none of that is an issue.
At the end of the day, losing a tooth can have far-reaching consequences. And even though traditional solutions to tooth loss worked, they come with a host of problems of their own. But dental implants have changed all of that. Now, you can replace a missing tooth – or even all of your teeth – with dental implants that look, feel, and function just like the real thing. So if you’ve lost a tooth, or have existing crowns and bridges in need of replacement, come down to Atlantic Dental Group. We’re the leading provider of dental implants in Whittier, and we’ll make sure that you’ll leave with a dental implant solution you’ll be sure to smile about.