Losing Teeth: Causes and Effects
Losing teeth can be a serious health and self esteem problem for many Americans. If we do not take proper care of our teeth eventually we will lose them. As a child, tooth loss is normal as the primary teeth give way to our adult or permanent teeth. The tooth fairy comes when we lose our baby teeth but not for our adult teeth that we lose through neglect, trauma or disease. There was a time when it was considered quite normal to lose your teeth as we got older. Losing teeth affects our lives by losing the ability to chew our food properly and stay healthy. With modern dentistry, we are able to care for and replace teeth so that we can maintain our health and hopefully live longer
Causes of Losing Teeth
A person can begin losing teeth by a variety of means. These can include trauma, disease or poor dental maintenance.
Poor dental hygiene. It is recommended that we brush our teeth at least twice a day and floss at least once a day to help prevent losing teeth. It is also recommended that we visit our dentist every six months for regular examinations and cleanings. If we do not follow these recommendations you are more likely to have cavities and periodontal disease. If untreated this will eventually lead to a person losing teeth.
Maintaining a diet of poor nutrition. Continuously digesting foods that contain high amounts of sugar, carbohydrates and acids can and will damage your teeth and gums. These types of diets will again lead to tooth decay as well as periodontal disease.
Poor habits. Tooth grinding (bruxism) can be a very tough habit on our teeth. People who aggressively grind their teeth will eventually wear away the outer enamel of teeth causing teeth to be come more sensitive and to crack, as well as more prone to tooth cavities. Chewing on ice and biting down on oral piercings are also far more likely to fracture teeth over time. Another major habit that directly affects teeth and gums is smoking. Smoking is a leading cause of adult periodontal disease. Advanced periodontal disease will lead to losing teeth as well.
Contact sports. Many people play contact sports on a regular basis. This includes children, teenagers and adults. The sports vary from football, hockey, basketball, snowboarding and even bike riding. A traumatic accident to the mouth can cause a loss of teeth, or an avulsed tooth. Wearing a mouth guard is very important to prevent fracture or injury to teeth from traumas. These can be the standard over the counter types or custom made ones.
Dental phobia. Some people are so afraid of the dentist that they refuse to see one. These people will not go even if they have a tooth ache. This is a recipe for losing teeth. There are ways to overcome your dental fears, finding a dentist who can work with your phobia is the first step. Seeing your dentist regularly or even at first signs of pain or trouble can lead you to saving the teeth in question versus losing teeth.
Cost. Most people assume that dental treatment is too costly so they just do not go until they have a major problem. It is actually far cheaper to go regularly for prevention than to just go when there is an emergency. Plus going regularly puts you at ease that you are maintaining your oral health as best as possible. Losing teeth should never happen because of cost.
Everybody is at risk of losing teeth. Although tooth loss is usually associated with the seniors of our population, research has shown that about 25-30 percent of people lose their first tooth between the ages of 21 and 30 years old. Children become far more active as they grow up and the chances of trauma to the teeth increases. Such tooth injuries can occur on baby teeth or adult teeth. If your kids play sports, make sure they wear a mouth guard for protection. Adults must pay special attention to brushing and flossing because poor oral hygiene is the main cause of periodontal disease.
The inevitable outcome of periodontal disease as it advances is tooth loss. Periodontal disease also affects your general health. This is especially true if you have diabetes or heart disease. Losing teeth usually affects seniors the most. As people grow older, they have more chances to develop certain diseases. These diseases can lower their immune system as well as require them to take medications that can have an affect on their oral health. Maintaining good dental hygiene is very important throughout life but especially as we age.
Consequences of Losing Teeth
General health problems may not be your only concern when it comes to losing teeth. A persons self esteem is directly affected by your smile. Losing teeth changes the way you smile and look as well as feel about yourself.
Some other consequences of losing teeth include:
- -Problems with speech. Depending on where you are losing teeth you can have definite problems with enunciation of words. This is especially the case as you move towards the front of your mouth.
- -Problems chewing and eating certain foods. If you are losing teeth towards the back of your mouth you will have major issues chewing and digesting meatier and healthy crunchy foods. The chewing process is the beginning of digestion. If you do not break your foods down properly it will throw off your entire digestion process.
- -Self esteem and self-consciousness issues.
- -Earlier breakdown of other teeth because there are less teeth to use when you eat. -Other teeth will begin to shift towards the open spaces
- -Bite closing, loss of teeth causes deeper closing of the mouth, and a change in your appearance.
- -Losing teeth as a child will create issues for the eruption of permanent teeth. The primary teeth serve as space holders for the permanent teeth to erupt into. With premature loss of primary teeth, the remaining teeth will shift forward into the space. The loss of space will cause crowding in the arch when the permanent teeth begin to come in.
Options for Replacing Lost Teeth
There are many options in modern dentistry to replace lost teeth.
If you have one or more missing teeth you have the following options for replacement:
- –Dental implants. Dental implants are an artificial tooth root that is placed into your jaw bone to support restorations that resemble a tooth or group of teeth. Dental implants can replace a single tooth, be a support for a bridge, or as support for a denture. It looks and feels like a real tooth and does not require any other teeth for anchoring or support. Implants are considered to be the best and most comfortable tooth replacement solution as well as the one that should last the longest with proper care. They are also have the highest cost as replacements go.
- –Dental bridge is a set of three or more crowns fused together as a group, where the one in the middle replaces the missing tooth. The crowns on the edge cover your own teeth which are used as anchors. A bridge is permanently cemented in, and can not be removed.It can be very cosmetic in nature, looking like your real teeth.
- -Partial and complete dentures. These are removable and replace several (partial) or all (complete denture) missing teeth. Since they are not fixed, they are not as natural feeling as implants or bridges, and do not help you chew foods as effectively. Depending upon where your missing teeth are, dentures can give your smile an aesthetic look. Partials also prevent your other teeth from shifting and moving. With the advent of dental implants, dentures have been given a whole new life. Implants can be used to anchor a complete denture giving it much more stability and esthetics than the traditional complete denture.
Marielaina Perrone DDS