Are you missing a tooth — or maybe even more than one? You’re not alone. Millions of people in America don’t have all their teeth. In fact, some estimates say that more than 50% of adults are missing one or more teeth. What should be done when a tooth is lost? What’s the best way to replace lost teeth? Are dentures better than implants? We’ll answer these questions and many more to help you make the right choice for your dental health.

Why do people lose their teeth?

1. Gum disease – Your gums are the foundation that holds your teeth in place. Gum disease is the #1 cause of tooth loss in adults. When gums become inflamed and diseased, the teeth they support are more at risk for damage and decay.

2. Cavities and decay – When a tooth suffers from advanced decay, the only option might be to extract it.

3. Accident and injury – Car crashes, sports injuries, work accidents, or even something as innocuous as biting down hard on a walnut shell, can all lead to cracked, broken, and lost teeth. 

4. Misalignment and crowding – Sometimes to relieve crowding or to help achieve a properly aligned bite, a tooth (or teeth) must be extracted.

How to reduce your risk of tooth loss

1. Brush 2x a day for 2 minutes – With proper technique and attention to detail, this is the best way to preserve the health of your natural teeth.

2. Floss daily – Find a floss or dental tape that works for you and be particularly careful to floss near the gum line.

3. See a dentist you trust – Regular exams and checkups help catch small cavities and other problems early before they explode into a full-on dental disaster.

4. Don’t smoke – There is no way to safely use tobacco products. In addition to cancer and other diseases, smoking, chewing tobacco, and other tobacco products can greatly increase your risk of tooth decay and tooth loss.

What happens when a tooth is lost?

Losing a tooth sets off a chain reaction of negative health effects.

Speaking and eating

Obviously, you use your teeth to eat, so a lost tooth can make chewing and eating more difficult. But many people don’t realize how big a role your teeth play in speaking. When a tooth is lost, forming fricative sounds can become more difficult, leading to problems speaking clearly and confidently.

Difficulty eating and speaking naturally can drastically affect how you feel about yourself. Don’t let lost teeth affect your quality of life!

Appearance

Many people who have lost teeth feel self-conscious about their appearance, especially if the missing tooth shows when they smile. A lost tooth can add years to your appearance and affect your self-confidence, personal relationships, and even job opportunities!

Bone health

Your teeth are like little icebergs. The crown of the tooth (the part you can see) is dwarfed by the root of the tooth that’s below the gumline. Your tooth’s root serves a dual purpose. Not only does it secure the tooth into the jaw, it also helps to maintain the integrity of the jaw bone itself.

When a tooth is lost, a gaping hole is left in your jaw bone where the root once was. Over time with nothing to fill this gap, the jaw bone will begin to degrade and dissolve, a process known as resorption.

What should be done about a lost tooth?

To avoid the problems discussed above, it’s important to repair and replace any tooth that is lost. For decades, the only option available came in the form of dentures, also known as false teeth. Now, however, there’s another option: dental implants!

Let’s look at the advantages and drawbacks of dentures and dental implants when it comes to replacing lost teeth.

Dentures

Advantages:

  • Lower initial out-of-pocket cost
  • Don’t require additional procedures and healing time

Drawbacks:

  • Can lead to a “sunken” facial appearance due to bone loss in the jaw
  • Prone to slipping and sliding
  • High-maintenance and difficult to clean
  • Can make eating, speaking, chewing difficult

Dental implants

Advantages:

  • Actually makes your jaw bone stronger, preserving your facial appearance
  • Solid and secure fit making it easy to eat, drink, smile, and live with confidence
  • Can restore as few as 1 missing tooth or as many as all the teeth in your upper or lower jaw
  • Easy to brush just like natural teeth
  • With proper care can last a lifetime

Drawbacks:

  • Higher initial cost
  • Longer healing time
  • May require a bone graft prior to the implant procedure

How do dental implants work? Am I a good candidate?

Dental implants are a good choice for most people. However, in some cases, a bone graft may be needed to strengthen the jaw bone before the implant procedure can be completed. Implants are 3-step process:

1. An implant is placed in your jaw to act as the “root” of your replacement tooth.

2. The implant is allowed to fully heal.

3. The final restoration is crafted and installed to complete the implant.

If you’re missing a single tooth, a crown can be placed on the implant. If you’re missing multiple teeth, an implant-supported denture might be a better choice. Using as few as 4-implants it’s possible to replace all the teeth in your upper or lower jaw.

How do I care for my dental implants?

You can brush an implant just like it’s one of your natural teeth. However, it’s especially important to be aware of the risk that gum disease poses to the durability of your dental implant. 

Gum disease is the leading cause of implant failure.

Regular dental exams and checkups help reduce your risk of gum disease and in cases when gum disease is present, it can be treated quickly. Ask your dentist to learn more about the risks of peri-implantitis, the most common form of gum disease affecting implants.

Schedule your appointment at First Impressions Dentistry

Are you missing one or more teeth? Schedule an appointment at First Impressions Dentistry today to learn more about our restorative treatment options, including implant-supported dentures.