Adult Tooth Loss: What Are My Options?


Losing a tooth is a magical experience for children. They place their missing molars under their pillows and wait for the tooth fairy to come and exchange them for some well-earned quarters. However, losing a permanent tooth can be a nightmare for adults. If your tooth becomes cracked, decayed, or infected, it might fall out or need to be extracted. In this unfortunate circumstance, replacing the missing tooth is important for both medical and cosmetic reasons. Dr. Cindy Flanagan and our team strive to help patients enjoy their best dental health in every situation. This week, we explain your options in the event of adult tooth loss to help you understand what you can do if this happens to you.

It’s More Common Than You Think

The mere notion of losing one of your permanent teeth might seem silly or even impossible to you. Ideally, your teeth would last a lifetime, but, in practice, this is often not the case. The American College of Prosthodontists reports: “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 we will certainly do our best to help you maintain each and every one of your pearly whites, it is a very real possibility that you could lose one or more teeth at some point.

Who is At Risk for Adult Tooth Loss?

The short answer is that virtually anyone could be at risk for adult tooth loss. However, you may be especially vulnerable to this issue if:

·      You use tobacco products. According to a 2015 study in the Journal of Clinical Periodontology, “The main patient-related factors associated with [tooth loss included] heavy smoking.” Using tobacco products has a negative effect on your overall oral health and can make you more likely to lose a tooth.

·      You grind your teeth. The report published in the Journal of Clinical Periodontology also cites “bruxism” as associated with adult tooth loss. Clenching your teeth together can wear them down, damaging your enamel and putting you at greater risk for other dental health issues such as decay and infection.

·      You are a man. Male patients are more likely to suffer from adult tooth loss.

·      You are over 35 years old. As you age, your teeth wear down and your risk for many oral health conditions increases, which also raises your chances of adult tooth loss.

·      You do not attend your biannual professional cleaning and examination appointments. You should come in for these visits at least twice a year. While you’re here, Dr. Flanagan will thoroughly examine your mouth for signs of disease, answer any questions you may have regarding your oral health, make suggestions for improving your dental hygiene, and recommend any required treatment.

No matter what your individual risk factors for adult tooth loss may be, Dr. Flanagan and our team can take your particular circumstances into account and help you preserve your smile.

What Causes This Condition?

Essentially, anything that irreversibly damages your tooth structure could lead to adult tooth loss. Some of the most common reasons patients end up losing their teeth or requiring extraction include:

·      Poor periodontal care. If bacteria collect under your gum line, they could grow and separate your tooth from your gums, potentially destabilizing your tooth so that it falls out or must be removed to prevent further damage. This is why it is vitally important that you floss your teeth at least once per day, since flossing is the only way to clean and remove plaque from certain areas of your gum tissue. According to the National Institute for Dental and Craniofacial Research, “periodontal disease is the most common cause of tooth loss among adults.”

·      Extensive decay. Dr. Flanagan can repair smaller cavities with tooth-colored fillings or even dental crowns, but more widespread decay may damage your tooth structure to such a degree that it no longer functions properly. If you suffer from a toothache, notice dark spots on your teeth, or experience any other early symptoms of cavities, you should contact our Houston dental practice immediately. Left untreated, caries can become so severe that they destroy the entire tooth. Catching a cavity early on could save you time, hassle, discomfort, and, ultimately, your tooth.

·      Trauma. Dr. Flanagan and our team can repair smaller chips and damage without removing the tooth, but if your tooth becomes severely cracked or fractured in an injury, this could be irreparable. More serious trauma could also knock a tooth out entirely. If you fall on your face, bite into something very hard, or suffer from any other critical oral injury, do not hesitate to contact our team for emergency dental care.

·      Oral cancer or other diseases. Certain illnesses could disrupt your tooth or bone structure such that your tooth could be lost.

These are just a few of the most prevalent sources of adult tooth loss. As always, if you notice any changes in your mouth or suffer from any discomfort, contact our Houston office for an appointment. Left untreated, oral health conditions tend to worsen, so it is best to be proactive.

The Importance of Restoration

Replacing your missing tooth is vital. In addition to restoring the appearance of your smile, installing a prosthetic replacement could preserve your dental health. Leaving a gap in your smile could compromise your surrounding tooth and gums by making them more vulnerable to caries and gum disease. It could also raise your risk for bone loss due to inactivity and prompt your teeth to begin crowding to fill the space. On a practical level, replacing your missing tooth can also help you chew, speak, and smile more comfortably. As a study published in the journal Health and Quality of Life Outcomes found, “tooth loss is associated with impairment of [oral health-related quality of life].” To maintain your quality of life and wellbeing, it is important to restore lost teeth.

Your Options

For many years, the only option to restore a missing tooth was with a dental bridge. This is a prosthesis consisting of two dental crowns, which slip over healthy teeth on either side of the gap, and an artificial tooth held in between to replace the lost tooth. More extensive cases would require a partial denture, a set of artificial teeth that rest atop the gums. Traditional dentures and bridges can shift around in your mouth, making you self-conscious and even requiring the use of foul-tasting adhesive to hold them on.

Fortunately, within the last two decades, dentists have begun using a different technique to replace single or multiple missing teeth: dental implants. Rather than simply sitting on top of the gums like traditional restorations, a dental implant replaces the tooth’s root with a titanium post. Since it is a biocompatible material, the titanium actually fuses to your jawbone, creating a very stable foundation for an artificial tooth in the form of a crown or implant-supported dental bridge. Dr. Flanagan performs the entire dental implant procedure in our offices for your convenience, comfort, and excellent results. Since they integrate with the jaw, dental implants look and feel very realistic. They also help prevent bone loss by stimulating the tissue every time you use the restoration. Due to these benefits, Dr. Flanagan and our team typically recommend dental implants as the preferred option for our patients.

Reclaim Your Smile

If you suffer from adult tooth loss, dental implants can help you feel more confident in your teeth so you can get your beautiful, healthy smile back. To learn more about this treatment or get suggestions on how to reduce your risk for tooth loss, contact Cindy Flanagan, D.D.S.

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