Today, as we live longer and place greater importance on issues affecting our health, welfare, and appearance, you can’t afford not to have a strong, vibrant smile. While we are living longer lives, adult tooth loss remains a common occurrence. The fact is the protective enamel encapsulating our teeth is subject to age, acidic foods and health disorders. Studies indicate that 69% of adults have lost at least one tooth, and 50 million Americans have lost all of their teeth. What’s to account for such a high rate of endentulism (the medical word to describe the condition of missing teeth)?
The most common causes prosthodontist, Dr. David Zelby of Aesthetic & Implant Dentistry of Atlanta has seen in his three-decade career include age or wearing down of tooth enamel periodontal disease (caused by a patient’s neglect and/or genetic factors), tooth fracture caused by large cavities, excessive bruxism (teeth grinding), teeth with large fillings that have been improperly restored and teeth with such extensive decay that restoration is impossible.
You may think that one or two missing molars isn’t cause for alarm. After all, others can’t see the gap in your smile if you don’t open your mouth too widely, right? The fact is, the loss of a tooth goes beyond aesthetics. A missing tooth can affect your chewing and digestive processes and in some cases, losing a tooth will affect the health of the surrounding teeth. Simply put, you double the loss of tooth function for every one tooth that is lost.
How does this happen? Your teeth rely on each other. They’re held in place by contact with other teeth in front, behind, above, and below. When you lose a tooth, the adjoining teeth are no longer held in place causing shifting and misalignment. That movement can alter the bite in a way that it collapses, leading to further complications, such as TMD (temporal mandibular disorder), wearing down of surrounding teeth caused by bite problems or periodontal problems.
Genetics can play a part in tooth loss as well, making those problems more difficult if not treated early. The more common factors that contribute to tooth loss can be prevented with proper mouth appliances when participating in contact sports, effective brushing and flossing at home and regular visits to the dentist. However, if you’re past that point, don’t despair. Modern tooth restoration and replacement techniques are light-years ahead of where they used to be.
To restore a smile a dentist considers the age and health of the patient and the general condition of the remaining teeth. The treatment he or she recommends could be as simple as a composite bonding or a porcelain veneer, or a more complex restoration, such as a porcelain crown, a bridge, or a dental implant. With the advances in tooth replacement alternatives, a solution exists for every patient. A restorative specialist, or prosthodontist has advanced training which focuses on restoration and reconstructive dental procedures. Prosthodontics is one of nine dental specialities recognized by the American Dental Association (ADA). Prosthodontists have completed two to three years of additional, advanced dental training at an accredited dental school providing them with the higher level of training required for tooth restoration. They are the recommended dental specialists in dealing with solutions to tooth loss and the proper restorative technique to use for each case. With advances in dental anesthesia and conscious sedation the treatment procedures can be almost pain and anxiety free.
As we continue to experience a longer, healthier life, rest easy knowing that modern restorative and prosthetic dentistry can enable you and your smile to enjoy many happy years together.