Have to? No. Should? Yes, probably.
There are many considerations that go into the decision to replace a missing tooth. Because we never take a one-size-fits-all approach to dentistry, we cannot give a simple yes or no answer to that question. We will, however, explain the things you should consider and the most problematic consequences of not replacing a missing tooth.
How Old are You?
We love treating patients of all ages, and it is never too late to replace missing teeth. Your age only matters in this particular consideration because the younger you are, the longer you have to experience the consequences of missing teeth. Over time, these consequences get progressively worse. For this reason, we strongly recommend our younger patients, who potentially have decades of chewing left, to replace missing teeth. For this same reason, we may not urge our patients in their 70’s and 80’s to do the same.
Which Tooth Is It?
We rarely have to talk someone into replacing a missing tooth in the front of the mouth. For cosmetic reasons, most everyone wants to fill in missing teeth that are visible. It seems counter-intuitive, but it is true that it is more important to replace missing back teeth. This is because your back teeth provide more chewing force and contribute more to the digestion of your food. So from a health and nutrition standpoint, replacing a missing back tooth is more important than replacing a missing front tooth.
In general, the larger the original tooth was, the more essential it is to your ability to chew, and the more important it is to replace it.
Have You Lost Other Teeth, Too?
Chewing function is a vital aspect of overall health. The best chewing ability comes with a full complement of teeth. Some people begin to make the decision to extract teeth because they are already missing other teeth, thinking that by that point, it doesn’t really matter. It actually matters more!
With each tooth lost, you lose more and more chewing force. When you are missing teeth, you should do everything possible to preserve your remaining teeth so that you can also preserve your ability to chew. If you’re unable to preserve the teeth, you can restore your chewing ability by replacing the missing teeth.
What Could Happen If You Don’t Replace It?
When you lose a tooth or teeth, there are several consequences. These can all be avoided by replacing the extracted tooth as soon as possible.
Loss of Chewing Force
We’ve mentioned this one already, but it is so important, that it is worth repeating. Chewing is the first step in our body’s process of digesting food. When we cannot properly chew our food, we end up swallowing large particles of food and missing the important work of salivary enzymes on that food. Patients missing multiple teeth often suffer from nutritional deficiencies due to their inability to chew certain foods.
Increased Damage to Remaining Teeth
When you extract a tooth and do not replace it, the chewing force of your jaws doesn’t go away. The surrounding teeth have to absorb it, and they must withstand much heavier forces than they were made to withstand. This leads to greater wear and tear on your remaining teeth.
They become much more susceptible to cracking, gum recession, and broken dental work.
Basically, when you do not replace an extracted tooth, you shorten the lifespan of all of the rest of your teeth.
Shifting of Remaining Teeth
A missing tooth allows the other teeth around it to shift and move into the newly opened space. Over time, an upper tooth can drift downward into the space of a missing tooth below it so much that the upper tooth touches the lower gums. Obviously this creates bite problems, and can prevent you from even having the opportunity to replace the missing tooth in the future.
Collapse of Facial Structures
One important consequence of missing teeth is that it makes you look old! The teeth provide support the cheeks and lips, and when teeth are missing, the cheeks and lips collapse inward. This leads to shortening of the face and wrinkles.
More Questions about Replacing Extracted Teeth?
Call Prosper Family Dentistry at 972-347-1145 to schedule a consultation with Dr. Jill, Dr. Cara or Dr. Summer. We can answer all of your questions and assess your particular situation to help you make the decision that is best for you.