Did you know that 69% of adults age 35-44 have lost at least one permanent tooth? And, by age 74, 26% of adults have lost all of their permanent teeth. That is approximately 20 million US citizens with no teeth, and more than 100 million people will some missing teeth. Every year, about 80 million teeth are removed, most of which could have been saved with early intervention and treatment of the underlying cause (decay or gum disease).
What happens when a tooth is lost? There are biological, emotional, and physical costs associated with losing teeth. Firstly, as soon as a tooth is lost, the body begins to break down the bone in the area, leading to a larger area of bone loss that can affect adjacent teeth. Your other teeth in the area will also begin to shift over to close the space. The area can potentially become somewhere food get trapped, possibly causing teeth next door to begin to decay as well. In addition, the additional bite force on the adjacent teeth can cause the bone around the teeth to break down and teeth themselves to loosen. There are also emotional costs – a smile is one of your most important assets both in your career and in your personal life. Physically, being unable to chew food properly can lead to decreased sensation of fullness, weight gain, and lack of appropriate nutrition leading to a host of other consequences.
Here at Old Town Dental, we offer 3 options for replacement of missing teeth: implants, bridges, and removable dentures.
Dental implants replace your tooth from crown to root, and are designed to last a lifetime
Fixed bridges are another option for replacement of one or a few teeth
Removable dentures are economical, but come with many disadvantages
Removable dentures (whether full or partial) are the most economical option for replacement of one or all teeth and the surrounding gums and bone, but they can be bulky and difficult to get used to. They are made of plastic in the case of full dentures, and plastic one a metal subtructure in the case of partials. They rest on the gums, causing the possibility of irritation or sores, and they require multiple appointments both for fabrication and adjustment. In addition, they do not preserve the bone in your mouth and will need to be refitted periodically as your bone resorbs (shrinks down) over time. They need to be taken out and cleaned every time you eat, as well as every night.
Partial dentures can possibly cause increased tooth mobility since they clasp onto adjacent teeth, and the metal clasps are occasionally visible when you smile. Full dentures depend on suction from the patient’s saliva as well as the anatomy of the bone, which can be unfavorable if you have been missing teeth for many years or if you are taking multiple medications. In addition, full dentures have been shown to recapture only about 10% of the chewing efficiency of natural teeth, which can affect your nutrition and quality of life long term.
There is an option to place implants with locator attachments to “snap in” the lower denture, which can greatly increase chewing efficiency and retention of the denture. This is a great “in between” option that is still economical but achieves an improved quality of life.