As we get older, we begin to deeply appreciate that maintaining our oral health is crucial to our enjoyment of everyday life. Tooth loss demoralise us in our efforts, no matter whether it is the result of tooth decay, gum disease or dental trauma. In severe cases, a tooth may require extraction if it can’t be repaired through dental fillings, crowns or other restorations. However, losing a tooth does not need to have a negative impact on life. What you do about it makes all the difference.
In this blog, we’ll discuss the effects of missing teeth and the common tooth replacement options for seniors.
Australian seniors are missing over 13 teeth on average
In 2017–2018, adults aged 65 and over had an average of 13.7 missing teeth. Additionally, the percentage of adults with complete tooth loss rose with age, from 8.1% in the 55–74 age group to 21% among those aged 75 and over. (National Study of Adult Oral Health 2017-2018)
What are the effects of missing teeth?
The impact of missing teeth goes beyond just the physical appearance of your smile. Here are some of the many adverse primary effects of missing teeth:
Chewing and digestion problems:
Missing teeth can make it difficult to properly chew food, resulting in improper digestion. Poorly chewed food can strain the digestive system and reduce nutrient absorption, potentially leading to nutritional deficiencies.
Teeth play a crucial role in the formation of speech sounds and words. The absence of teeth, particularly the front teeth, can alter speech patterns, resulting in difficulties with pronunciation and communication.
Altered facial appearance:
Your teeth provide facial structure. When teeth are missing, the jawbone may begin to deteriorate, causing facial shape changes and a sunken appearance.
The roots of your teeth stimulate the jawbone, preserving its strength and density. When teeth are missing, this stimulation decreases, resulting in gradual bone loss. This can affect your facial structure and make future dental implant placement more difficult.
Adjacent teeth shifting:
When a tooth is missing, the teeth next to it may start to shift or tilt into the empty space. This can lead to misalignment, bite problems and difficulty correctly cleaning the teeth.
Gum and periodontal issues:
Due to exposed areas where teeth are missing, the gums can become more susceptible to irritation and infection. These areas are particularly prone to developing gum disease and periodontal problems.
Self-esteem and confidence:
Missing teeth can result in self-consciousness, lowering your confidence and self-esteem. You may feel awkward when you smile or interact with others.
Joint and bite issues:
Missing teeth can change the proper alignment of your bite, causing problems like temporomandibular joint (TMJ) disorders, headaches and jaw pain.
Oral health complications:
Untreated missing teeth can result in a progression of oral health issues, including gum disease, tooth decay and additional tooth loss. It can lead to a deteriorating state of oral health.
Increased risk of tooth decay:
The presence of gaps between teeth may trap food particles and make cleaning more difficult. This increases the risk of tooth decay and cavities in neighbouring teeth.
Limited food choices:
Certain foods, especially those that require significant chewing, may be difficult to consume if you have missing teeth. This may result in a diet with less variety and possible nutritional deficiencies.
While this is generally the most visible effect, the appearance of missing teeth can have an impact on your self-image and how others view you.
It is essential to replace missing teeth to prevent future dental problems and preserve oral health, overall well-being and quality of life.
What are the solutions for missing teeth?
Traditional removable option
Dentures have been a popular option for seniors with missing teeth for decades. There are two types of removable replacements: full dentures for those with complete tooth loss and partial dentures for those missing only a few teeth. The advancements in dentistry have resulted in dentures that are more functional and aesthetically pleasing, as well as more comfortable and lifelike.
Bridging the gap
Seniors often utilise dental bridges as a fixed solution when they are missing one or more adjacent teeth. These artificial teeth are attached to the natural teeth on either side of the gap. Bridges restore proper chewing function and preserve the alignment of the surrounding teeth.
Implant-supported dentures are the optimal solution for seniors desiring the benefits of both dentures and dental implants. These dentures are attached securely to dental implants, ensuring their stability while eating and speaking. This option combines the convenience of dentures with the durability of implants.
Dental implants can provide permanent natural-looking replacements for missing teeth. These titanium posts are surgically implanted into the jawbone to serve as a stable foundation for prosthetic teeth. Dental implants restore chewing function and stimulate the jawbone to prevent bone loss over time, which increases in importance as we age.
Strengthening the foundation
Some seniors may experience bone loss in the jaw due to missing teeth over time. Bone augmentation, also known as bone grafting, is a procedure that enhances the density of the jawbone. This procedure creates a solid base for dental implants and ensures their long-term success.
Regular dental check-ups
Prevention and maintenance
Prevention is essential for maintaining oral health, particularly for seniors. Regular dental check-ups allow for early detection of potential problems and provide the opportunity to discuss tooth replacement options with your dentist. Your dentist can assist in customising a treatment plan to your specific requirements and desires.
Regain your smile, comfort and functionality
Small investments in oral health typically provide massive returns in quality of life. Modern solutions for missing teeth offer a range of options for restoring oral function, appearance and overall well-being. Whether you opt for dental implants, dentures, bridges or a combination of treatments, consulting your dentist is the first step in achieving a more confident smile that lasts throughout your senior years.