Gone but not forgotten

Missing teeth cause social anxieties, poor performance on job interviews, health issues


People with missing teeth used to be a rarity across the country — limited to the very old or the very poor.

Those demographics are rapidly changing. According to the American Dental Association, more than 36 million Americans do not have any teeth, and 120 million people in the U.S. are missing at least one tooth. These numbers are expected to grow in the next two decades.

While fear and economics can be weighty factors in not addressing the problem, many people are choosing to leave gaps in their smile. Some are even opting to remain toothless, unaware of significant advances in the world of dentistry.

“If a tooth is removed and nothing is done to replace it, the adjacent teeth will start to tip in the space due to the bone deterioration,” said Lacy, a surgical assistant with Lakeside Oral Surgery in Coeur d'Alene. “This poses a few problems such as food and bacteria getting trapped under the tipping teeth causing cavities and likely causing the need for more teeth to be removed.”

After a tooth goes missing, substantial bone loss in the jaw begins. Losing teeth and bone creates a domino effect and the other remaining healthy teeth less stable and could come tumbling out of the mouth in short order. Still, many people mistakenly believe if a missing tooth is not visible, there's no need to replace it.

“Long term health consequences of extreme bone loss can result in the change or distortion of facial features, losing full chewing ability and possible infection,” said Lacy.

Infection can eat away existing bone that is healthy and thriving. This can create a hole near your sinuses or damage the nerves in your lower jaw.

But why are our teeth falling out as we age?

Tooth loss can happen for a number of reasons, including decay and gum/bone disease, and as a result of injury, cancer, or simply wear and tear.

The psychological impact on missing teeth can be profound.

A recent oral health study from the American Dental Association found that 33 percent of millennials (ages 18-34) are hesitant to smile because of bad or missing teeth. About one in five young people have cut back on their social activities as a result of poor oral health. And 28 percent believe the appearance of their teeth and mouth has hurt them in job interviews.

Taking action when the tooth first falls out is key to stopping further problems, such as infection, from happening.

“Any tooth missing ideally should be replaced with a dental implant to protect the bone in the jaw and restore full function,” Lacy said.  “With the tooth missing, the bone in that site will shrink because it's not being used. Placing an implant will utilize the bone in that space and keep the jaw bone thick and strong.”

Advances in dentistry can fill the void or voids left by missing teeth with individual implants or the implant supported dentures. These implanted teeth can be treated and cleaned just like normal teeth.

The Implant Supported Denture uses titanium posts surgically placed into the jaw. These posts then anchor the dentures or teeth, which are permanently screwed into place. They would look and function like real teeth.

Patients are made comfortable and completely asleep during the surgery for dentures or an individual implant.

“When they leave they have an amazing new smile and that is really exciting,” said Lacy.  “Dental implants really make a difference in people's lives.”

For more information, www.lakesideomfs.com

--Written by Marc Stewart, Director of Sponsored Content



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