Many people don’t realise the negative impacts that losing a tooth can have on the rest of your mouth and on your overall oral health. That is why it is quite common to see smiles with gaps in them where teeth used to be! Aside from the obvious aesthetic implications, a missing tooth can lead to bone deterioration, teeth misalignment, and can impact on bite and speech.
Whether the tooth has been lost through trauma like a sports injury (though we always recommend using a dentist-made mouthguard) or has decayed and been removed, it is imperative that measures are taken to replace the tooth and restore optimal health to the mouth.
Should I keep a tooth that has fallen out?
Sometimes, accidents happen and you might find yourself in a situation where you have unexpectedly had a tooth knocked out. In this situation, it is important that the tooth is located as soon as possible and is checked for signs of damage. If the tooth appears intact, handle it with care, and, if possible, rinse it under water and sanitise it in a saline solution. Gently placing the tooth back into the socket can improve the chances of having it re-implanted. It may seem difficult, but applying a gentle pressure to the tooth (such as gently biting on cloth) can increase its chances.
It is always recommended that you call your dentist in a situation like this. They can give you on-the-spot advice and schedule you in for an emergency appointment promptly.
How can I replace a missing tooth?
Dental implants are an effective and efficient way to replace a missing tooth and are often recommended by dentists. This is because they not only look like a tooth, they also function like one too. Many patients actually forget that the tooth was ever missing! A dental implant is a small titanium rod that acts as the root of the tooth. This rod is inserted into the jaw and capped by a custom-made, colour-matched dental crown.
Other solutions include dental bridges or dentures. Your dentist will recommend the best course of action for your unique smile.
Do I need to replace a missing tooth?
Your teeth can move to compensate for the gap.
When you leave a gap without treatment, your teeth may begin to move into it. Your teeth largely rely on each other to maintain their form, and a missing tooth can throw off this balance. This can also affect your bite, and cause pain and discomfort.
Your jaw can atrophy.
Your jaw is just like any other part of the body; it is stimulated by the regular movement of the joints and muscles. When the chewing and grinding pressures on a certain area stop (like where there is a missing tooth), the area ceases to be stimulated and can begin to deteriorate. This is what you see when someone missing multiple teeth appears to have a sunken, inward facial appearance.
You may favour certain areas to compensate for the missing tooth
Just as when you have a sore foot, the rest of your teeth compensate when a tooth is missing. This can cause excessive or uneven wear.
Your speech may be affected.
Many sounds that we use to communicate are dependent on our teeth (as well as our tongue!). Missing teeth may make some sounds difficult and affect your speech.
You may be susceptible to gum disease.
If your teeth have shifted to compensate for the gap, it is likely that they are not in an ideal position and may consequently trap more food and debris. This can lead to a number of issues, including plaque build-up and even gum disease.