For children, losing a tooth is an exciting transition to being a “big kid,” but for adults, tooth loss can be not only embarrassing, but detrimental to their overall health and quality of life.
What happens when an adult loses a tooth?
Losing one or two teeth may not seem like a big deal, but any gap in your smile can cause the adjacent remaining teeth to shift out of alignment. Since there is now no root to stimulate the jaw bone, that particular area of the jaw will begin to deteriorate in a process called resorption, resulting in bone density loss that is difficult to recover. Not only does this compromise the stability of the jaw, it also places uneven stress and strain on your remaining teeth as they try to compensate for the missing tooth. Moreover, the teeth in the opposing jaw may even begin to “grow” up or down, trying to make contact with neighboring teeth.
The more teeth you lose, the more tooth loss starts to affect what and how you eat as well as the health and stability of your facial structure and jaw bones.
What are the most common reasons for tooth loss?
The CDC defines severe tooth loss as having 8 or fewer natural teeth. People with chronic diseases like asthma, diabetes, heart disease, rheumatoid arthritis, and liver conditions are 50% more likely to experience severe tooth loss, and it’s most common among active cigarette smokers and low-income older adults. More than a quarter of adults over the age of 65 will experience tooth loss, and nearly 1 in 6 will eventually lose all their teeth.
However, tooth loss is preventable, and the best ways to preserve your natural teeth are to practice good oral hygiene, follow a healthy diet, and know your risk factors.
Gum disease (periodontitis). Gum disease is among the leading causes of tooth loss, especially in older adults. Advanced stages of gum disease cause the gums to start separating from the teeth weakening the bone structures in your mouth and jaw. As it progresses, gum disease will eventually cause teeth to become loose in their sockets and deteriorate the supporting bone, causing the teeth to fall out.
Decay. Another common reason for tooth loss in adults is severe tooth decay, such as from an untreated cavity or abscessed tooth. While early decay can usually be treated with a filling, cavities that aren’t taken care of can cause an infection in the dental pulp, which requires a root canal. If the infection is allowed to progress, it will eventually damage the tooth beyond repair or salvage.
Injury or dental trauma. Sometimes teeth get knocked out as a result of injury. Other times, a tooth—or several teeth—can sustain damage as a result of facial trauma or teeth grinding. Even if they don’t fall out right away, the damage caused could compromise the strength and integrity of the teeth and supporting bone structures, setting the stage for tooth loss down the road.
Lifestyle or disease. Certain habits—like smoking, poor nutrition, and chewing tobacco—as well as chronic illnesses like osteoporosis, high blood pressure, and diabetes can all put your teeth at risk of falling out. Your physical and oral health are closely linked, so conditions that have an adverse effect on your body will likely also affect your teeth.
What are the best tooth replacement solutions for different situations?
No matter how many teeth you’ve lost or how you lost them, it’s imperative that you replace them. Your teeth do more than help you chew—they help preserve the shape of your face as well as the health of your jaw and mouth, and they ensure that you can smile, speak, and eat properly, actions critical to physical, emotional, and social wellbeing.
Tooth replacement options are unique to each patient and his or her circumstances. Here is a general guide to tooth replacement options for different scenarios.
If you are missing one tooth, you may benefit most from a:
Dental crown. A dental crown is essentially an artificial tooth. Dental crowns can be used to cover a broken or severely damaged tooth and to replace an entire tooth that has been lost. When used with dental implants (tiny titanium screws placed in the jaw bone), crowns can mimic an entire natural tooth, including the roots. Dental crowns are customized to blend in seamlessly with remaining natural teeth and can help the jaw maintain proper bite and alignment.
Dental crowns are best for:
- Broken, damaged, or severely decayed teeth
If you are missing multiple teeth, you may need:
A dental bridge. A dental bridge is a set of two or more crowns designed to fill the gap created by several missing teeth. Dental bridges can be secured via dental implants or to adjacent natural teeth using a crown. Traditional bridges require neighboring healthy teeth to be shaved down to accommodate the crowns, while implant-supported bridges can be attached to the abutments of dental implants.
Dental bridges are best for:
- Replacing several teeth in a row
- Filling gaps with healthy natural teeth on one or both sides of the gap
Dentures. Dentures are removable dental prostheses usually made of acrylic. They are artificial teeth and gums that are formed to fit your mouth like natural teeth. Conventional dentures rest on top of the gumline and are available as either partial—for a group of missing teeth—or full (complete)—to replace all of your natural teeth. Implant-supported dentures (or overdentures) are connected to dental implants secured in the jaw. Implant-supported dentures can be fixed or removable.
Dentures are best for:
- Replacing several adjacent teeth
- Replacing all of the teeth in the upper or lower arch
- Replacing all of the teeth in your mouth
Conventional dentures may be ideal for:
- People who do not have the bone density or overall health to support implants
- People who do not want to undergo the process of dental implants
- People who want a removable option for tooth replacement
Dental implants. Dental implants are tiny titanium screws that are placed in the jawbone under the gumline. They protrude from the gumline and serve as a base for securing crowns and dentures via an abutment, which protrudes from the gum. In most tooth replacement cases, dental implants are the best, most effective, and longest lasting solution, whether you are missing one tooth, many teeth, or all your teeth. They have a 95% success rate and look, feel, and function just like natural teeth.
Dental implants are best for:
- Replicating the natural tooth root and stimulating the jaw bone
- Almost any tooth loss scenario where the patient has adequate bone density in the jaw
Dental implants can also be used to:
- Stabilize dentures and dental bridges
- Support dental crowns
Tooth Replacement Options at Norman Smile Center
At Norman Smile Center, we believe everyone deserves a healthy, beautiful smile. No matter what your oral health situation is, our dentists and staff treat all of our patients with respect, compassion, and empathy. We know losing teeth as an adult can be embarrassing and scary, but we also know life is long and things happen; you should never be ashamed to seek restorative treatment for your missing teeth. In addition to conventional prostheses, Norman Smile Center offers implant placement for supported partials, dentures, crowns, and bridges. We also provide all the routine and preventative care you need to keep your replacement teeth clean and healthy.
Don’t wait another day to enjoy the smile of your dreams; schedule your consultation or appointment with Norman Smile Center today. We’re accepting new patients, and we take most dental insurance plans. Don’t have dental insurance? We offer a membership plan as well as a variety of payment and financing options for our affordable services. Call our office at 405-329-6603 to find out how we can help you smile brighter.