Nobody wants to lose teeth. But for many dental patients, the main concerns that they have about losing teeth have to do with appearance and pain. You may not think it's a big deal to lose a tooth or have a tooth extracted but not replaced when the tooth is in the back of your mouth, as long as there's no pain, because nobody will be able to see it. The truth is, missing teeth can have a long-term impact on your overall health and well-being. Find out about a few of the health conditions that become more likely when you lose teeth, and why you should explore tooth-replacement procedures like dental implants even when the missing teeth are not immediately visible.
When you eat, you do most of your chewing with the teeth in the back of your mouth. The fewer teeth you have, the harder it becomes to adequately chew your food. People who are missing teeth usually adapt to the loss by substituting soft foods for foods that are harder to chew, which limits your available food choices considerably. You may also chew food less thoroughly, which can be hard on your digestive system.
You may not realize that your ability to chew food also affects how your food is digested and what nutrients your body is able to absorb from your food. When you can't chew your food completely, you're not going to be able to absorb all of the nutrients that you should be getting from your food. This can lead to malnutrition, even in patients who are making an effort to maintain a healthy diet. Your healthiest option, if you can't save a tooth, is to replace the tooth with a dental implant so that you can get all the nutrition you need from your food.
TMJ (Temporomandibular Joint) Disorder is a painful condition that manifests symptoms like headaches, unexplained ear aches, neck and shoulder pain, dizziness, and jaw pain. It is usually treated with pain medications, dental appliances, and a variety of dental work. Dentists aren't sure what causes TMJ in every case, but they believe that missing teeth can be a factor in the development of the condition for some patients.
When you have all your teeth, and they're properly aligned, your bite is stable. Your teeth stay in the same place because of the other teeth around them. But when you lose a tooth and don't replace it, the loss destabilizes your bite, making it more difficult and more damaging to your remaining teeth to bite and chew your food. Your teeth may begin to drift into the open space left by the missing tooth, and become misaligned. The misalignment leads to the joint problems experienced by TMJ sufferers. This can be prevented by simply replacing the lost tooth before any drift occurs.
Recent studies have shown a link between tooth loss and earlier physical and cognitive decline. The more teeth test subjects were missing, the worse they performed on various tests, with people who had none of their own teeth left performing 10% worse on both walking speed and memory tests.
While the missing teeth might not be the direct cause of more rapid aging, they are an indicator for overall poor health that might contribute to physical and cognitive decline at a younger age. Your oral health has a profound effect on the overall health of your body. If you lose one tooth and don't take steps to replace it, you're at greater risk of losing more teeth than someone who replaces the lost tooth, and that means that your overall health is at risk. Replacing a single lost tooth may be the key to preventing further tooth loss, which may in turn prevent a decline in overall health that can lead to premature aging.
In short, a missing tooth is always a big deal, no matter where it's located, and extraction alone isn't an adequate solution for teeth that need to be removed due to infection. If you've lost a tooth or know that you need to have one removed due to infection, ask your dentist about the possibility of dental implants. It may protect you from serious health risks.