Tooth loss is a sensitive issue because it is an indicator of people’s general dental health as well as access to oral care services. According to the American College of Prosthodontists, the number of people in the United States who have lost all their teeth stands at 36 million. The same organization notes that approximately 120 million people in the United States have lost at least one tooth, and these numbers are expected to increase over the coming years.
You should be concerned about tooth loss because in addition to the grim statistics that have been presented above, the condition is associated with several adverse consequences. The consequences include obesity, notable nutritional changes, some types of cancer, and coronary artery disease.
Here are some facts about tooth loss, its leading causes, and the treatments that are available for the condition.
Meaning of tooth loss
Tooth loss is a process that involves a person’s teeth becoming loose and falling out. Tooth loss is a normal process in children around the age of six years as their deciduous teeth, also known as baby teeth, fall out and are replaced by adult teeth. Losing adult teeth due to any reason is undesirable given that once these teeth fall out, they do not have a natural replacement.
Tooth loss has several implications. For example, missing one or more teeth can affect the way you speak, bite, and do other activities using your mouth. Tooth loss can also lead to having a weak jawbone and many other consequences as noted above.
Leading causes of tooth Loss
Some of the leading causes of tooth loss include gum disease, cavities, and trauma or physical injury.
- Gum disease
Gum disease, also referred to as periodontitis, is a severe infection of the gum that destroys the soft tissues around teeth. If left untreated, it can damage the bone that holds teeth. Gum disease can cause teeth to become loose and eventually result in tooth loss.
Periodontitis starts as an inflammation of the gums. The condition is caused by plaque, a sticky deposit on the surface of teeth that provides a habitat for bacteria to accumulate and proliferate. If plaque is not removed while it is still soft, it becomes hard and thus difficult to remove.
The hard deposit (tartar) then starts to irritate and erode the healthy gum tissue. At this point, you are likely to experience gum inflammation because of the bacteria that are associated with plaque. When the condition is not treated, it will further erode the tissue that holds teeth firmly to the jawbone. When this happens, you may lose one or more teeth.
It is therefore important to have regular dental checkups to have plaque removed from your teeth. Regular dental visits also make it possible for the dentist to detect and treat any gum infection before it develops into periodontitis.
Tooth cavities are tiny holes caused by bacteria on the surface of teeth, resulting in tooth decay. A decaying tooth indicates that the tooth’s enamel has been damaged. If tooth decay is not treated, the cavities will become larger leading to severe pain and damage to the tooth’s pulp. When the tooth’s pulp is damaged, the tooth may need to be repaired using the root canal procedure or even to be extracted. Prevention and early treatment of cavities can help save your teeth.
- Trauma or physical injury
Accidents are a common cause of trauma or physical injury that leads to tooth loss. Falls, collisions in sports, and car accidents are some of the incidents that cause can tooth loss.
Smoking is associated with an increased risk of tooth decay, plaque buildup, gum damage, and reduction of the jawbone. All these conditions are interconnected and can lead to tooth loss. For example, tooth decay can damage a tooth’s pulp. Similarly, plaque buildup leads to gum damage and the occurrence of diseases such as gingivitis and periodontitis, which are linked with tooth loss.
- Other risk factors
There are also several risk factors that are associated with tooth loss. These include poor nutrition, arthritis, hypertension, and diabetes.
Treatment options for tooth loss
If you have lost a tooth or several teeth, there are a number of tooth replacement options that your dentist may recommend.
- Dentures: Dentures are removable structures that are used as replacements for missing teeth. Two types of dentures are available; partial and complete. Partial dentures are used if you still have some of your natural teeth. On the other hand, if all your natural teeth are missing, you can use complete dentures.
- Dental bridges: Bridges are frequently used as a replacement for one or more teeth that are missing. The structures are cemented on natural teeth on either side of the gap left by the missing tooth or teeth. Bridges help improve the appearance of the replacement teeth and also prevent the occurrence of bad bites in case the remaining natural teeth start to shift.
- Dental implants: Dental implants are prosthetic devices that are surgically placed into the jaw and fitted with dental crowns that look and function like natural teeth. Dental implants stand out as one of the best tooth replacement methods that are available today. The use of dental implants is a great option if you have one or more missing teeth. Dental implants are associated with benefits such as more comfort, easier eating, and improved speech.
Tooth loss is a notable problem in the United States considering that 36 million people in the country have lost all their teeth and approximately 120 million others have lost at least one tooth. The leading causes of tooth loss include gum disease, cavities, trauma or physical injury, and smoking. Other risk factors for tooth loss include poor nutrition, arthritis, hypertension, and diabetes. You should visit a dentist regularly for checkups so as to prevent tooth loss. In case you have lost one or more teeth, you can choose from any of the tooth replacement options including dentures, dental bridges, and dental implants.