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For many people, a missing tooth is solely a cosmetic consideration. In other words, if a patient loses a tooth in the so-called “smile zone,” then he or she rushes to get it replaced as quickly as possible. But if a patient loses a tooth that’s not generally visible (such as a molar), then that tooth may never be replaced.

Choosing not to replace a missing tooth is a big mistake. A missing tooth is a very serious problem.

Each individual tooth in your mouth plays an important role in your overall dental health. The loss of a back tooth can hinder one’s ability to chew, but that missing tooth’s absence can cause even greater problems.

Shifting Teeth
A missing tooth allows the other teeth to shift out of place. So, ironically, those who assume that a missing back tooth won’t affect their smile can be sadly mistaken.

Poorer Oral Hygiene
Surprisingly, a missing tooth also results in more difficulty brushing and flossing around that area of the mouth. And when this toothless part of the mouth isn’t properly cleaned, gum disease sets in, leading to tooth decay and additional tooth loss. Perhaps this is one reason why there seems to be a momentum to tooth loss. Once a person loses one tooth, more losses tend to follow, unless the initial missing tooth is replaced.

Bone Loss
The most crucial reason a missing tooth should be replaced is bone loss. The bone structure that lies beneath the gums holds the teeth in place. Once a tooth is gone, the bone that was supporting that particular tooth begins to wear away. Bone needs stimulation to maintain its form and density, so without a tooth in that area, the bone begins to break down. This wearing away of bone can cause the teeth surrounding the gap to move inward toward the empty space. Consequently, as mentioned above, one missing tooth can result in several crooked teeth.

If multiple teeth are missing, the bone loss is more significant, and this condition can even lead to an alteration of the facial structure and a change in physical appearance. Worse yet, your ability to chew and even speak could be impaired.

Dental Implants: An Excellent Option
Obviously, the best tooth is a healthy, natural tooth. It’s like your grandmother’s old adage about “an ounce of prevention…” It behooves us all to brush our teeth twice a day, floss once daily, eat a balanced diet and attend regular dental exams and cleanings.

But if you find yourself in a situation where you have one or more missing teeth, Dr. Nicholas encourages you to explore the option of dental implants, which are substitute or replacement tooth roots that provide a stable foundation for a replacement crown.

Many people believe that dental implants are the second-best option (next to your natural teeth, of course), because implants are the treatment that comes closest to imitating the function and stability of your natural teeth.

So, if you’re self-conscious about some spaces in your smile — or perhaps your dentures make you nervous because they don’t feel secure — then dental implants are a strong and stable solution for replacing missing teeth.

For more information about tooth loss or dental implants, contact Dr. Anne Nicholas at the Palm Desert Center for Advanced Periodontics, Cosmetic, Sedation and Implant Dentistry. She can be reached by phone at 760-851-0314 or at her office in Palm Desert, California.