Friday, January 24, 2014

What Happens If I Don't Replace Missing Teeth?

          Despite the best efforts of you and your dentist, teeth can reach the point where they are no longer restorable and must be extracted. Soon after losing the tooth, you must begin to decide how, when or if you will replace the tooth you recently lost. If you look back at a previous blog entry, we detail the pros and cons of replacing missing teeth with implants or bridges. But what happens if you delay the decision or decide not to replace at all? Below we will talk about what can happen to the surrounding teeth, bone, and gums.

            After a tooth is extracted, it can take between 2-4 months for the gums and bone to heal completely. Without proper intervention, the bone and gums will not return to their original height and can affect the cosmetic appeal of the adjacent teeth. Without the presence of a tooth or dental implant, the bone will continue to resorb over time in both the vertical and horizontal direction. If too much time has passed and too much bone is lost, your replacement options become limited. Some cases could then require a bone graft, a sinus lift, or even lead to the inability to restore with a dental implant.

            If you lose a tooth, the positioning of the surrounding teeth may be affected as well. Teeth tend to move into the space where there is no resistance. So if an adjacent tooth is lost, the tooth may tip or tilt into the open area. If there is tipping, it can lead to spacing between other teeth and more foot traps. These food traps can lead to gum disease and tooth decay. The only way to return the tipped teeth to their original position is through orthodontics (braces or clear aligners).

            The opposing teeth can also erupt into the open space and limit your ability to replace the missing tooth. Not only does it then become difficult to restore the missing tooth, but the erupting tooth can then be at risk of gum disease as the area between its adjacent teeth becomes larger and more difficult to clean.

            If or when the day comes that you lose a tooth, it is good to remember how losing one tooth can affect the overall harmony of other teeth. Before losing or shortly after losing a tooth, be sure to discuss different strategies to replace that tooth. Too much delay can turn one problem into several problems.

For more information about tooth replacement options, visit us at

Lee T. Brown, DDS

Brown and Kupper, DDS Inc.

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