Missing Teeth? We Know What You’re Going Through.
People are problem solvers; it’s what we do. One of the problems we have been trying to solve seemingly since the dawn of time is that of missing teeth. Going back about as far as we have records, people have used rocks, shells, sticks, and almost any other viable material they could find to replace missing teeth. There is even evidence of reasonably successful surgical implants dating back nearly 3,000 years.
This speaks to a very compelling human desire to replace teeth that are lost due to accident or decay, and it is driven by three fundamental motivating factors. Those factors are structural, functional, and aesthetic.
Aside from the obvious possibility of pain, the most pressing immediate concern is often with functionality. Chewing food can become more difficult. Furthermore, irregular chewing patterns can lead to excessive wear on remaining teeth, jaw discomfort or even TMJ. Some people find themselves biting their tongue or cheeks more frequently as well.
These chewing problems can lead to malocclusion, or a misalignment of the resting, closed bite. Missing teeth or the resulting malocclusion can also lead to difficulties with speech. Anyone familiar with the song, “All I Want for Christmas is My Two Front Teeth” has some sense of this concept. It’s cute in seven year olds and cartoon cats, but speech impediments caused by missing teeth are a serious daily frustration for many adults. In the same way that missing teeth affect one’s speech, people who play brass and wind instruments often find that missing teeth have a detrimental effect on their ability to play music.
As mentioned, the structural effects of missing teeth are a serious consideration with regard to missing teeth. The space left vacant by the missing teeth is an open invitation for the remaining teeth to drift out of alignment. This contributes to malocclusions that often require orthodontic treatment.
Beyond that, the jawbone around the empty socket begins to resorb right away, up to 25% within the first year following tooth loss. This loss of form and density is initially caused by a lack of stimulation from the tooth that used to extend above, but it can ultimately have a domino effect on surrounding bone structure. The subtle degenerations in multiple bones can have an accumulative effect which alters facial appearance in surprisingly significant ways.
The aesthetic concerns with regard to missing teeth are obvious. We are often taught to avoid vanity and superficial matters of appearance. There is value to that lesson, but the reality is that certain fundamentals of personal presentation have conscious and subconscious implications in the way we are perceived by others and the way we perceive ourselves, and this is true for virtually everyone.
Smiling frequently and sincerely has been shown to improve mental health and emotional wellness. This comes more naturally when one has their full smile in tact. Smiling readily has been shown to be beneficial in professional settings, as well as in all levels of interpersonal social relationships. It’s not all about quantity, however. In fact, some evidence suggests that forcing insincere smiles can actually add to personal stress and anxiety. The quality of a smile is paramount to its effectiveness, and that boils down to confidence, sincerity, and aesthetic qualities such as form and color.
The purpose of this article is not to convince you that missing teeth is less than ideal; you’re probably well aware of that fact already. The real point that many people don’t realize is that missing a tooth or teeth is not an issue that should be put off until a resolution is convenient. It is essentially a degenerative condition that begins worsening right away. But we are not ones to present a problem without offering a solution. Stay tuned for our next article which will provide a general overview of restorative options available to patients with missing teeth. Of course the best way to learn which options are best suited to your specific needs is to make an appointment for a consultation with Dr. Hutchison.