I have opted for my dentist to pull teeth for the last ten years instead of doing root canals and caps. Now I am missing four upper back teeth. All my wisdom teeth are gone, so the two teeth in front of them on both sides of my upper jaw are missing. You cannot tell the teeth are missing unless I hold my head back and laugh. Now that I moved to Massachusetts, I have a new dentist suggesting that I replace my teeth with dental implants. She says I will regret it as I get older if I do not get the implants when my teeth start shifting around. She can already tell from my x-rays that my teeth are moving, and she showed me the x-ray comparison. I’ve had this dentist for three years, and I trust her. But a second opinion is always good. I am not considering dental implants yet. Why not get a dental bridge? What will happen if I don’t replace my missing teeth? Thank you. William from Springfield, MA
Thank you for your question. Your dentist may be persistent, but she seems to be genuinely concerned about your long-term oral health if you do not replace your missing second and third molars.
What Happens If You Don’t Replace Missing Teeth?
If you do not replace missing teeth, it can affect your long-term oral health in these ways:
- Tooth misalignment – Teeth are placeholders for proper alignment. Gaps in your smile cause teeth to lean against each other and crowd your smile. When teeth are missing, other teeth will begin to drift toward the spaces.
- Jawbone shrinkage – In areas of missing teeth, the jawbone shrinks 25 percent within the first three months and up to 50 percent within six months. Multiple missing teeth can accelerate facial wrinkles and sagging.
- Challenge with oral hygiene – It is challenging to brush and floss between teeth that lean on each other. Crowded teeth increase the risk of plaque and tartar buildup, tooth decay, and gum disease.
Why Get Dental Implants?
A complete dental implant replaces a tooth’s root and crown. The artificial tooth roots fuse with your jawbone and look and feel natural. A dental bridge requires shaving down the tooth on either side of the missing one. But you are missing second and third molar teeth with no teeth behind them to support a bridge. Although a dentist may offer alternative bridge treatment, other teeth will need to support it. The option will be less healthy than individual implants.
We suggest that you discuss your concerns with your dentist and ask for more information on dental implants and what you can expect with or without them in the long term.
Dr. Steven Brooksher, Baton Rouge accredited cosmetic dentist and Fellow, International Congress of Oral Implantologists, sponsors this post.