If you're about to lose a tooth that's beyond repair, replacing it is the best thing for you to do -- but that option costs money. If the tooth is a back tooth that you never see when you smile or open your mouth, you might think that you can leave the space empty and save some money. However, there are five very good reasons to fill in that gap, even if it isn't making a difference cosmetically and you feel fine.
As an adult, you tend not to see the fast tooth movement that teenagers and children see, but your teeth still move. If a tooth is removed and the space left over isn't filled, the teeth around it can start to migrate into the space. That can throw your bite off, as the teeth on one jaw move into positions that don't correspond to the teeth on the other jaw when you bite down. For example, if you remove a tooth on your upper jaw, and the teeth around that space move in, then those teeth won't correspond bite-wise with the teeth on the lower jaw. That can damage teeth and make chewing uncomfortable.
Even if the teeth next to the space don't move in, the tooth on the other jaw can extend into the space left by the removed tooth. Your teeth don't always stop growing in once you get your adult teeth; just as they can still move side to side, your teeth can also continue growing into your mouth if there are no obstacles to stop them. This is called supraeruption. Normally, the corresponding tooth on the opposite jaw stops a tooth from supraerupting, but if that opposite-jaw tooth is removed, then the remaining tooth can continue to grow. Supraeruption doesn't happen to everyone, but if it does happen, it can lead to injury as the tooth starts hitting your gums as well as possible infection.
Not only can a supraerupting tooth damage your gum, but the food you eat can, too. If you bite down on something hard or something that has edges that are sharp, like popcorn with all those kernel fragments, you can injure your gum in the space where the tooth used to be.
Bone that used to support a tooth that is now missing can erode and weaken your jaw. This is a problem even if you get dentures, so to avoid bone loss, getting an implant may be the best route.
Your teeth actually help hold up your cheeks, and if you remove teeth, your cheeks can look sunken. One missing tooth might not do much in this regard, but if you start to lose other teeth in that area, you could see an effect on how your face looks.
If you'd like to find out more about implants and ways to protect your mouth after losing a tooth, talk to your dentist and see if implants will work for you. The procedure can take some time because it's done in two parts (an anchor or screw is implanted in your jaw first, and that takes some time to heal before you can go back and have the tooth portion of the implant installed), so the sooner you start, the better.
For more information, contact Peak Family Dentistry & Orthodontics or a similar location.