Understanding the truth behind how tooth loss can improve your oral health.
Did you know you make use of the earth’s hardest known biological material every day? In fact, you see it every day too, right on your teeth! The enamel that protects your teeth from bacteria and daily wear and tear is the hardest known biological material on earth; it’s even stronger than steel. This is how your teeth are able to withstand a lifetime of wear and tear—under ideal circumstances, anyway. Tooth enamel is strong, but it isn’t indestructible.
Over time, a number of factors can cause you to lose your teeth. Knowing the best way to care for them and understanding the ins and outs of tooth loss can help you regain and maintain your oral health, even if you’ve already lost multiple teeth. Unfortunately, there are a lot of myths surrounding tooth loss that can make it hard for you to take the best possible care of your oral health. To help you make more informed decisions about your oral health, we’ve debunked 5 common myths about tooth loss.
Myth 1: Poor oral hygiene is the only cause of tooth loss.
Poor oral hygiene is certainly a major factor in developing tooth decay or gum disease that’s serious enough to lead to tooth loss, but it isn’t the only cause of it. Certain health conditions, like diabetes or autoimmune conditions, can cause your body to have a harder time fighting bacteria, recovering from infections, and healing. This makes you more susceptible to periodontitis and can make it harder to get rid of gum disease once it sets in, so you may need to take extra steps to protect your oral health. Dry mouth is also a common side effect of several medications and health conditions that can increase your chances of suffering from oral health conditions that lead to tooth loss.
Additionally, you can lose teeth due to an injury even if the tooth doesn’t fall out right away. This is because there is sometimes nerve damage underneath the surface that causes the tooth to die slowly if it goes untreated. As a result, it’s always wise to get an X-ray at the dentist to check your teeth if you’ve taken a hard hit to your mouth or jaw.
Myth 2: Tooth loss is an inevitable part of getting older.
As you age, your enamel generally grows thinner and certain risk factors for developing tooth decay or gum disease increases. While it’s true that this does increase your risk of tooth loss as you age, you don’t have to resign yourself to losing teeth! Tooth loss is absolutely not an inevitable part of getting older. The key to avoiding tooth loss is prevention and early treatment. Knowing you have one or more risk factors for periodontitis or tooth decay is actually a good thing because it allows you to keep a closer eye on your oral health and take extra steps to protect it.
You should brush your teeth for two minutes with a soft-bristled toothbrush at least twice a day and floss and use mouthwash at least once a day. Using specialized toothpaste or mouthwash that’s formulated to prevent cavities or gum disease can give your oral hygiene routine a little extra boost. You should also visit Dr. Tyler at least twice a year and follow any advice he gives you closely. This puts you in the best possible position to prevent oral health issues and allows Dr. Tyler to catch and treat any potential issues early, before they can become big enough to threaten your teeth.
Myth 3: It’s not going to hurt anything to have a missing tooth or two.
Losing one or more teeth doesn’t just carry the potential to hurt your self-confidence or make eating awkward, it has a very real impact on your oral and overall health. When you lose a tooth, your remaining teeth begin to shift into the gap, causing them to spread out. This makes it harder to clean your teeth and can actually lead to a TMJ disorder by causing your bite to become misaligned. You’re more likely to lose more of your remaining teeth to decay or gum disease if you can’t clean them properly, and periodontitis is linked to a number of increased risks to your overall health. Similarly, while TMJ disorders can cause major pain in your jaw that makes it hard to eat or speak, they affect more than just your jaw. They can cause pain in your neck, shoulders, and back, as well as frequent headaches, dizziness, hearing loss, and more.
Additionally, the roots of your teeth give the jawbone constant stimulation that tells it to keep growing. When you lose a tooth, the section of bone where the root used to be stops receiving those signals. Your jaw responds by reabsorbing the bone there, leading to a loss in bone density. Over time, this bone loss can change your face shape, giving it the sunken-in appearance that’s often associated with denture-wearers. All of these factors make tooth loss a serious problem, so it’s vital to take steps to prevent it or restore missing teeth whenever possible.
Myth 4: Once you lose a few teeth, your only option is partial dentures.
Thankfully, restorative dentistry offers several tooth replacement options, even once you’ve lost multiple teeth. Partial dentures are certainly one of these options, but so are dental implants. Implants are often fitted with porcelain crowns, but they can also support a bridge, partial dentures, or full dentures. Bridges supported by dental implants can actually replace three or four missing teeth, which is more teeth than traditional bridges can support, because they’re supported by sturdy, titanium implants. As a result, you’re not stuck with partial dentures if you’ve lost multiple teeth; dental implants have the versatility to meet your unique treatment needs and wants, regardless of how many teeth you’ve lost.
Myth 5: If you’ve already suffered bone loss, you can’t get implant-supported dentures.
Since implants are rooted directly into your jawbone like natural teeth, you need a certain amount of healthy bone in your jaw before you can get them. If you have already suffered bone loss, however, there are a few ways you can still get implant-supported dentures. One way is to get bone grafts first to help improve your bone density in the spots the implants will be placed. This works best if there are only one or two problem spots that need bone grafts.
The second is to use All-on-4 dental implants, which is a system that places a full set of dentures in your mouth with only four dental implants. This system feels just as natural and stable as other implant-supported dentures, and the fact that it involves fewer dental implants has a few notable benefits. Even if you’ve been told you’ve suffered too much bone loss for implant-supported dentures, All-on-4 dental implants can often still work for you. Plus, All-on-4 allows you to get your implants and your dentures during a single appointment, all at a lower cost than other implant-supported dentures. This is because of the price of dental implants themselves; getting fewer saves you money. On the other hand, having fewer dental implants means this system doesn’t protect against bone loss in your jaw. They’re still a great option, however, if you have already suffered bone loss.
Tooth loss does not have to be a part of your dental journey.
Thankfully, there are steps you can take to maintain your oral health so your teeth and gums can continue doing their jobs for the rest of your life. If you do lose a tooth, though, restorative dentistry is a vital part of reclaiming your oral health and protecting it for the future. If you have any questions about tooth loss or which treatments might be right for you, feel free to call our Duvall office to schedule a consultation with Dr. Tyler at any time.