Teeth play an important role. They help us chew and grind up food, speak clearly and show off our smile. They affect the structure of our face and have a strong impact on our appearance.
Each tooth plays a vital role, so leaving a gap if we lose a tooth can have serious consequences.
This article can help you understand the importance of each tooth, the consequences of not replacing it if you lose it and the replacement options that are available.
Permanent Teeth and Their Functions
Adult humans have 32 permanent teeth, 16 in the upper jaw and 16 in the lower jaw. Each jaw has 4 incisors, 2 canine teeth, 4 pre-molars and 6 molars.
Incisors are the teeth at the very front of your jaw. They are called incisors (from Latin “incidere”, to cut), because they are very sharp and help to bite off food.
Right next to the incisors, there is one sharp and pointy tooth on each side called canine tooth. Canine means in Latin “doglike”. Like incisors, canines are used to cut or bite off food and are important pressure points during the chewing process.
The canines are followed by two premolars on each side and two molars. Molars and pre-molars get their name from a Latin word “molaris” meaning millstone. These teeth have a large surface and are used for grinding food, to make it as small and digestible as possible before swallowing.
The last teeth are called “wisdom teeth” as they usually erupt last, when we are grown up and supposedly wise. Wisdom teeth are remnants of evolution. Like molars, they were meant to be grinding teeth. Nowadays, wisdom teeth don’t grow at all or have to be removed at some stage, because they no longer fulfil their original function.
What happens if one of the teeth is missing?
Teeth shifting:When you lose a tooth, the surrounding teeth begin drifting into the open gap, shifting your teeth out of alignment. Because gum and bone are no longer stimulated well enough due to the missing tooth, the jaw bone starts shrinking and your gum pulls back.
This can weaken neighbouring teeth until they collapse. Teeth in the opposite jaw can then start growing into the gap.When teeth shift out of alignment after tooth loss, bite problems usually develop.
TMJ Syndrome: When the upper and lower jaws don’t meet properly, it strains and damages the jaw joint (TMJ).
Gum Disease/Tooth Decay: Once teeth shift out of alignment, it is harder to reach some spots with your toothbrush or floss. When plaque and bacteria aren’t reached, tooth decay and periodontal disease develop, often causing further tooth loss.The more teeth are missing, the more challenging it can become to replace them.
Effects on your appearance
Missing teeth are not only as aesthetic problem. Missing teeth also lead to jaw bone loss. This can make your face look older and wrinkly, and for your cheeks to become hollow and saggy, because they can no longer fully stabilize your lips and cheeks from the inside.
The loss of the posterior teeth can cause a reduction in facial height that becomes increasingly noticeable over time.
So as we can see the loss of teeth can lead to a wide array of consequences, especially involving the remaining teeth, gums, jaw muscles, ligaments and joints:
- Decrease in chewing efficiency
- Tipping, migration and rotation of remaining adjacent teeth
- Eruption or extrusion of unopposed teeth
- Excessive wear or erosion of remaining teeth
- Loss of jaw bone
- Painful dysfunction of the temporomandibular joints (TMD) that unite the lower jaw with the skull
It is therefore important to replace your tooth as soon as you lose it. At present, you have three available options:
- Get a bridge (it can replace one or two missing teeth)
- Get a removable denture (an option if you have two or more teeth missing)
- Get an implant (replaces a single tooth)
If you have one or more missing teeth, talk to us. We can advise you what is the best option (long-term, short-term and fitting with your budget).