If you’re missing teeth, your first concern is probably with the appearance of your smile. After all, people do tend to be judgy, and judginess around missing teeth is seldom kind, let alone positive. It can make you self-conscious, less confident – definitely less apt to smile, particularly if those teeth are missing from the front of your mouth.
Your next concern might be with function, such as changes to your speech (after all, teeth help us make certain sounds) or difficulty eating. Those are no minor quibbles.
But as important as those things are, there are some other very important reasons to replace missing teeth, whether they’re in the front of your mouth or further back – and not just with respect to your oral health, either. Here are the top three:
Your teeth are crucial for maintaining the height and strength of the supporting bone – a structure known as the alveolar ridge. The roots of your teeth stimulate this bone, sending a message to the brain: “Send nutrients to this area.” This helps keep the bone strong and vital.
Obviously, this can’t happen where a tooth is missing. No stimulation. No nutrients. The bone begins to deteriorate. This, in turn, can make other teeth in the mouth less stable, putting them at risk of eventual loss. More, where there are multiple missing teeth, it can lead to changes in your facial features, weakening of the facial muscles, and other unwanted effects.
This points to one reason why dental implants have become the treatment of choice for replacing missing teeth: The artificial roots help preserve your natural jawbone. But they’re only an option if there’s enough good, healthy bone to support them – naturally or with the help of bone grafts and PRF.
So if you’re considering implants, getting them sooner is usually better than later.
As mentioned, bone loss can make other teeth in your mouth less stable. But bone isn’t the only thing that keeps them in place. The surrounding teeth help, too. If they’re missing, your other teeth can start to drift, creating gaps while also moving your bite out of its proper alignment.
A bite that’s off can lead to additional problems, such as exaggerated pressure or wear on some teeth, chronic headaches, difficulty chewing or speaking, oral hygiene challenges, breathing troubles, and more. Such problems, of course, have their own consequences.
Some malocclusions – bad bites – can lead to dysfunction of the TM joints, which are the hinges that let you open and close your jaws. This, too, can mean chronic headaches and upper body pain (face, neck, shoulders, back), along with difficulty opening your mouth, popping or clicking sounds while opening and closing your jaws, and ringing in your ears (tinnitus). On the up side, we do have excellent therapies for treating TMJ problems, but the better option, of course, is to prevent them from arising at all – replacing missing teeth and ensuring your bite is properly aligned and balanced.