Losing a tooth can affect your smile and may hurt your psychosocial well-being. Tooth loss also affects other functions such as chewing and speaking. Can the lost tooth be replaced? Is it possible to get a bright smile again?
In 2020, the National Center for Health Statistics reported that tooth loss increases with age, and approximately 17% of Americans experience tooth loss by age 75. Although there are no gender differences, education showed a positive effect, i.e., people with high school or more education had a lesser prevalence of tooth loss.
How does tooth loss affect the quality of life?
Researchers have consistently reported that loss of teeth hurts the quality of life. When the number of teeth drops to less than 17, the quality of life deteriorates significantly. Furthermore, the loss of front teeth has a higher impact than the molars.
Individuals with tooth loss report negative feelings due to the loss of function. For instance, instead of chewing food, patients had to swallow it. The appearance of their faces had changed, and their smiles were different. It was difficult to socialize as they experienced drooling, had difficulty talking, and had to select soft foods.
Can tooth loss be prevented?
It is possible to minimize tooth loss due to systemic or oral diseases. Tooth loss is associated with malnutrition which may need to be corrected. Tooth decay and gum diseases are the most common causes of tooth loss. Maintaining oral hygiene can help in reducing the occurrence of tooth decay and gum disease.
A few simple steps to maintain oral hygiene can prevent tooth loss. Regular brushing with fluoride toothpaste helps remove food debris and restore dental enamel. Although a powered toothbrush is better than a manual brush, two-minute manual brushing has good results too.
Tooth loss can also be due to injuries. To minimize tooth loss during sports, protective equipment may be necessary. Eat a balanced diet to prevent tooth loss due to malnutrition.
Tooth loss solutions
Modern dentistry offers several tooth loss solutions to patients. Depending on the patient’s overall health and cause of tooth loss, a dentist may recommend tooth restoration/ replacement options. A CT scan and dental impressions may be necessary before starting the treatment.
Three common solutions for tooth replacement are:
Dental implants are well suited to replace a single tooth or multiple teeth in different mouth areas. A dentist replaces dental roots with a metal screw in the bone, and then a false tooth (porcelain crown) is applied on the top.
Although a dental implant can be expensive, the replaced tooth appears natural, so many patients opt for a dental implant. Since this is an invasive procedure, after a dental implant patient may take some time to heal. However, since most implants last a lifetime, this is a preferred treatment option.
Dental bridges may be a treatment option if a patient has lost several teeth in one area. These dental bridges can be of two types - a fixed bridge or a resin-retained bridge.
In a fixed bridge, a lost tooth is replaced with an artificial tooth or a similar prosthetic, and then it is glued to adjacent teeth.
In a resin-retained bridge, a metal framework is cemented using a resin composite. Usually, a porcelain tooth is used on the top, and the entire structure is cemented to adjacent teeth. Maryland bridge and Rochette bridge are examples of resin-retained bridges.
Resin-retained bridges are a cheaper alternative to dental implants. They require regular cleaning of the mouth and can last up to ten years.
Dentures can be of two types- removable partial or complete dentures.
A dentist may suggest removable partial dentures when a patient does not have adjacent teeth to support dental bridges. Unlike fixed prostheses, the patient can remove these dentures at home for cleaning, etc.
When no more teeth are left in the mouth, removable complete dentures are a good option to help to chew and restore facial appearance. Transitioning to complete dentures may be difficult for some patients; however, eating and socializing becomes easier once adjusted.
Tooth loss due to trauma
If the tooth loss is due to trauma, then take measures to stop the bleeding. Next, if the (broken) tooth is intact, store it in milk or saline and take the patient to a dental clinic. If saline is unavailable, cling wrap prevents the tooth from drying. A dentist can then decide if the tooth can be replanted and splinted.
With these prevention and treatment measures, tooth loss is on the decline. The National Center for Health Statistics report also mentioned that, over the last decade, the prevalence of complete tooth loss decreased from 29.9% to 13.1%.
Visit your dentist regularly to discuss tooth loss prevention. If you have experienced tooth loss, talk to your dentist about the treatment options.
Two options that may be able to help the elderly regain their oral health and enhance their quality of life are dentures and dental implants. To determine which approach works best for each person, the first step is to enlist the assistance of a dentist. If you want to stop additional tooth loss and the issues that come with it, you must act soon.
As an adult, losing a tooth can be a traumatic ordeal. To keep your teeth strong and healthy for many years to come, be sure to practice basic oral hygiene and visit the dentist frequently. In the worst-case situation, if you do end up losing your teeth, be sure to visit the dentist right away to get treated and protect your smile.
Tooth loss is common as age advances, but tooth loss can be prevented with good oral hygiene.
Brushing, flossing, and professional cleaning help in maintaining oral hygiene
If you have lost a tooth due to trauma, store the tooth in saline and go to a dental clinic immediately.
Several treatment options, such as dental bridges and implants, are available for tooth loss. Your dentist can recommend options right for you.
Anneloes E. Gerritsen, P. Finbarr Allen, Dick J. Witter, Ewald M. Bronkhorst, and Nico H. J. Creugers, 'Tooth Loss and Oral Health-Related Quality of Life: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis', Health and Quality of Life Outcomes, 8 (2010), 126.
Lara Melina Leite Lima de Paula, Aline Araujo Sampaio, Josué Gomes Costa, Viviane Elisângela Gomes, Efigênia Ferreira e Ferreira, and Raquel Conceição Ferreira, 'The Course from Tooth Loss to Successful Rehabilitation with Denture: Feelings Influenced by Socioeconomic Status', SAGE Open Medicine, 7 (2019), 2050312119874232.
Anita M. Mark, 'Preventing Tooth Loss,' The Journal of the American Dental Association, 151 (2020), 712.