At some point in the last year or two, you lost a tooth. It wasn’t a fun experience, losing a part of your body that’s been with you forever, but sometimes these things happen. At least you have 27 more teeth to chew your food with, right? Not a big deal. There’s no pressing need to replace the tooth, you may think.
Except, as every dentist will tell you, it is a big deal. Losing one tooth is more than losing the function of that tooth. The loss of “just one tooth” can upset your alignment and initiate a cascade of changes in the way all of your teeth fit together. Losing “just one tooth” can lead to dysfunction in your temporomandibular (TMJ) joint and cause chronic headaches and neck pain. Losing “just one tooth” can put you on a path to losing more teeth, and so on. Call our Mesa, AZ dental office at 480-838-4185 to learn more about the risks associated with tooth loss.
What Happens When You Lose a Tooth
Here’s how it works. When your tooth was removed it left an empty space in your arch. Since teeth are not entirely fixed in their positions, over time the teeth next to the gap will start to drift toward the open space. Pretty soon, those teeth are no longer standing straight up and down, but are tilted at angles. When you bite down, those teeth don’t line up with your other teeth. They may crack against other teeth when you chew and stress the enamel in places that are not as strong. As a result of your now-improper tooth alignment, several teeth may develop small cracks that compromise the structure of your teeth and open the door for bacteria to get in.
Another thing that happens–when you lose a molar, especially–is that you may begin to favor one side of the mouth when you chew. This may be minor at first, and you may not even notice it. In time, this can lead to muscle fatigue and an imbalance in the facial muscles. Soon, all the parts that work together to open and close the jaw don’t fit together right and one side of your jaw may begin popping or clicking when you chew. Any dysfunction in the jaw joints can lead to TMJ dysfunction. This can cause chronic pain in the face, head, and neck. Ask anyone who has ever sought treatment for TMJ disorder, and they’ll tell you: it’s not fun.
Overall, not replacing a lost tooth makes you more likely to lose more teeth in the future. Pretty scary, right? Replacing that tooth will help you maintain the balanced state of alignment that has served you so well up until this point in your life. The good news is that you have options when it comes to tooth replacement.
A Dental Bridge
The traditional way to replace a single lost tooth (or two consecutive teeth) is a dental bridge. A dental bridge is a one-piece prosthetic that connects to the two teeth around the gap, with a false tooth (pontic) between them. It looks like a row of three (or four) false teeth, but the two “teeth” on the ends are actually dental crowns. The crowns that form the ends of the bridge are permanently attached to your teeth and the pontic sits where your lost tooth once sat. A dental bridge gives you a functional replacement for your missing tooth, and–best of all–a way to stabilize your teeth so they don’t drift into the open space.
A Dental Implant and Crown
A more modern and comprehensive treatment is a single dental implant and crown. Dental implants replace your natural tooth root with a small titanium post, which attaches to a full dental crown. Implants are considered the better of the two choices, because they are a free-standing tooth replacement that does not affect the teeth around them. Once the implant heals, the crown is permanently attached and looks natural in your arch. Many patients attest that their single implant and crown are so life-like that in a few years they completely forget that they ever lost a tooth in the first place. Its function, appearance, and feeling are no different from their natural tooth.
Which Tooth Replacement is Right for You?
Visit Desert Family Dental to learn more about tooth replacement. Dr. Scott Lee can help you determine which option is right for you. Call our Mesa, AZ dental office for a tooth replacement consultation, and we’ll help you understand the unique benefits of bridges and implants. Call us at 480-838-4185 to make an appointment.