Tooth loss, or edentulism, can affect your ability to eat and speak clearly. Dentists use the term “edentulism” to describe total tooth loss and “partial edentulism” to describe the loss of one or more teeth.
What Causes Edentulism?
Tooth decay is one of the most common causes of edentulism. Fillings can help repair teeth, but if you do not see a dentist promptly, decay can spread. Although root canals can often help save badly decayed teeth, sometimes the damage is so extensive that removal of the tooth is the only option.
Periodontal, or gum, disease is another common cause of edentulism. Gum disease occurs when plaque forms on your teeth at the gum line and turns into a hard deposit called tartar, which can only be removed in your dentist’s office. When your gums are exposed to the bacteria in plaque and tartar, an infection can occur. The infection starts to break down the tissue and bone supporting your teeth and can cause tooth loss.
Tooth loss can also occur if you experience a blow to your mouth. If you seek prompt treatment, your dentist may be able to save the tooth. Unfortunately, in some cases, the tooth cannot be saved, even with emergency treatment.
Risk Factors for Edentulism
Smoking is not only bad for your overall health, but it can also lead to tooth loss. Smokers tend to have weakened immune systems, which makes it harder to fight off bacterial gum infections. Once gum disease occurs, healing takes longer if you smoke. Several other factors can increase your risk of developing complete or partial edentulism, including:
- Dry mouth (Saliva helps wash away food particles and sugar.)
- Poor oral hygiene
- Failure to receive regular dental care
- Drug use
- Chewing tobacco
- Chronic diseases, such as diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease or HIV
- Chemotherapy or radiation treatment
- Some medications, including drugs that suppress the immune system
- Fear of visiting the dentist
Why Is Edentulism a Problem?
Dentures were once an unavoidable fact of life for older people. However, thanks to fluoride in water and toothpastes, increased awareness about the importance of good oral hygiene and innovative dental treatments, losing all of your teeth is no longer considered a normal part of aging. In fact, dentists know that the loss of even one tooth can lead to serious problems.
After you lose a tooth, the bone underneath the gap begins to recede and shrink, which can eventually threaten the health of your remaining teeth. Those remaining teeth try to fill the gap left by the missing tooth or teeth. As they drift toward the opening, they may overlap adjacent teeth, making it difficult to remove plaque from every surface of those teeth.
Tooth loss can also affect your bite and make it difficult to eat a balanced diet. Without teeth to tear and chew food, many foods are off limits. Fortunately, tooth replacement options provide a simple solution to the problem.
Concerned about a missing tooth or teeth? Call us today to find out how we can help you find a replacement option that works for you.
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3 Reconstructive Treatment Options for Edentulism
Unfortunately, natural teeth do not grow back, but tooth replacement options will improve your smile and restore your ability to chew and speak normally. Consider one of the following treatment options if you have lost one or more teeth:
- Dental Bridge. Bridges are a good choice if you only need to replace one or two teeth. A bridge consists of two crowns attached to teeth on either side of the gap. In between the two crowns are artificial teeth called pontics. Bridges are custom-made to fit your mouth and are bonded to your anchor teeth.
- Dentures. Full dentures consist of an entire row of artificial teeth that is attached to a gum-colored base that rests on your gums. If you only have a few missing teeth, partial dentures may be a good solution. These removable dentures hook over your existing teeth and provide a stable surface for chewing.
- Dental Implants. Dental implants permanently replace lost teeth. Tiny titanium screws replace your teeth roots. The implant is placed in a small hole made in your jawbone. Over a few months, your jawbone grows around the screw, making it just as strong as your natural roots. A crown is added to the implant in the final stage of the process. Once healed, dental implants look and function like natural teeth.
When you choose a dental implant, you do not have to worry about bone loss because the implant will continue to stimulate the jaw bone just as your natural root did. You will also be able to eat anything you want without worry. You should care for dental implants and other dental reconstruction devices as you would your natural teeth: Brush them twice daily; floss once a day; and see your dentist for routine checkups and cleanings.