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Bridging the gap: All you need to know about missing teeth 

Bridging the gap: All you need to know about missing teeth 

It is important to replace any missing teeth to avoid difficulties in chewing food and other issues
replacing missing tooth
Representational Image | Shutterstock

Kishore P, 24, hailing from Coimbatore, Tamil Nadu, shares his experience from his teenage years. “I had pain in my left lower molar (last tooth) whenever I chewed my food,” says Kishore. His dentist advised him to remove the tooth as it had a cavity. After tooth removal, however, Kishore did not replace it with an artificial tooth.

This created gaps between the adjacent teeth and there were changes in the teeth positions too. “When I eat, the food gets stuck in the gaps between the teeth,” says Kishore. He consulted many experts but because there was no space between his teeth, fixing an artificial tooth was not an option for him.

While Kishore was not able to manage his condition, you can! Read on to know how.

Difficulties of missing tooth

Dr Gowthaman P R, oral and maxillofacial surgeon, Coimbatore, Tamil Nadu, says, “When the front tooth is missing in a child or adult, it can interfere with phonation and speech and cause lisping.” If the back tooth is missing, it can cause difficulties in chewing food.

When there is no molar (back tooth), the premolar (side tooth) may take the entire load while biting. This causes trauma to the premolar and damages the supporting ligaments and supporting bones of the tooth. Eventually, it leads to bone loss around the premolar and weakens it.

“If several teeth are missing, it changes the structure of the jaw bones and the shape of the muscles around the face,” says Dr Indrajit M, periodontist, Bengaluru.

According to the Journal of the American Dental Association, teeth support the structures of the mouth including the cheeks and lips. When the teeth are lost, these structures lack support, which can lead to sagging or drooping of the corners of the mouth.

Dr Indrajit adds that if the missing teeth are not replaced on time with artificial teeth, it results in alveolar bone resorption (gradual loss of supporting bone of the teeth). This leads to an increased risk of gum issues, the cheeks appear sunken, there are difficulties in placing dental implants, and drifting of adjacent teeth.

Missing wisdom tooth 

While there are problems associated with other missing teeth, wisdom teeth are a different game altogether. When a lower wisdom tooth is removed due to impaction (when the tooth is inside the gums), the upper wisdom tooth continues to grow downward as there is no opposing tooth.

The overgrowth of the upper wisdom tooth can hit the gums in the lower jaw and cause irritation and inflammation. This condition is referred to as pericoronitis. In addition, the food particles accumulate in the inflamed area and cause pain, discomfort and swelling.

In such cases, the dentist can remove the upper wisdom tooth. “To avoid such conditions, the removal of both upper and lower wisdom teeth at the same time is beneficial. This approach not only reduces the risk of complications and discomfort but also multiple courses of medications,” says Dr Gowthaman.

Read more about wisdom tooth troubles.

Jaw pain

The temporomandibular joint (a joint that connects the lower jaw with the skull) plays an important role in the movements of the mouth like chewing, speaking, opening or closing of the jaw.

If multiple teeth are missing on one side of the jaw, the individual tries to avoid chewing on that side, and instead chews from the opposite side. “This gives overload to the joint on one side and results in pain and discomfort near the jaw, ear and neck,” says Dr Gowthaman.

Management of missing teeth

When the missing teeth are replaced on time, it helps in maintaining oral health. The artificial teeth help in restoring the function and appearance of the natural teeth.

Dr Gowthaman and Dr Indrajit suggest the following management options for people with missing teeth.

Dental implants: These are suggested for individuals with good bone support in the jaw. It is not advised for individuals with diabetes, osteoporosis, and vitamin D deficiency. There are chances of implant failure in people with poor oral hygiene, gum issues, and bone loss in the jaw.

Dental bridge: It is a restoration method that replaces one or more missing teeth. It is named after its function – bridging the gap between two teeth. It consists of two or more dental crowns (commonly called tooth caps). These crowns are supported by the healthy teeth on either side of the gap.

Removable partial denture: It is an appliance that replaces one or more missing teeth. It is attached to the remaining teeth with a clasp (an attachment made of stainless-steel wire). It can be removed for cleaning and maintenance.

Temporary dental crowns: These are commonly used when the permanent crown cannot be placed immediately. Temporary dental crowns match the colour of the natural teeth and can be worn for two to three weeks.

Artificial tooth replacements not only reclaim functions such as chewing and speech but also contribute to improved facial aesthetics. Choosing an appropriate restoration can help individuals recover their overall wellness as they can chew their food more effectively, which in turn helps with proper digestion and nutrient absorption.

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