Everybody knows the importance of keeping their teeth – Who wants to wear dentures? I’ve seen what happens when someone with no teeth tries to eat; one look at the floor after my twins have eaten with their combined four teeth and it’s a miracle they have put on any kind of weight since birth. What people don’t realize is that, when you see adults who are missing a large number of teeth, it probably didn’t happen quickly and certainly not by accident. In this sense, teeth are…a lot like Facebook.
We’ve all said those famous last words…. “let me check Facebook real quick” (Please feel free to insert Twitter, instapin, snapspace, etc.).
But that’s just the beginning of the end. Like having your first adult tooth removed, getting on Facebook “real quick” is the beginning of a long, hopeless journey toward nowhere good. At first, you just want to see if good old Beyoncé decided to grace us with any more pictures of her precious twins. But without fail, there’s always another little tidbit of info that will catch your eye and draw you in. In this case, it is……. wait, a Kardashian is pregnant?!?! How wonderful! Wait, TWO Kardashian’s are expecting!?!?! What have I done to live in such an exciting time!
Yes, those two seconds you meant to spend turned into your brain being teleported to a different place and was so rudely brought back by the person in the car behind you who didn’t want to sit at a green light any longer. You will have to contemplate if Kim & Kanye were going to name their next child South or East another time. Like that innocent first quick checking of facebook not replacing that first missing tooth can have equally dire unintended consequences.
Once you have a tooth missing a cascade of events will inevitably occur, you will chew your food on the opposite side of the missing tooth and therefore force those teeth and gums to work twice as hard as they are designed to do. Like anything else, whether it be an employee or a car engine, if forced to work twice as hard it will break down. I have seen it many many times. People lose a tooth on their left side, instinctively chew their food on their right side all the time and teeth begin to chip, break or fracture. When a tooth breaks the outer stronger enamel surface is lost and the inner, softer more cavity prone dentin is exposed. Decay will occur faster and then progress farther into the tooth leading to quicker infection and, you guessed it. That tooth is then removed. This process happens usually about 5-7 years after the first tooth is removed.
Now left with no good posterior teeth (posterior=back) to use to chew food the patient will now move on to the next available option. Chew on their front teeth. The front teeth are designed to cut and tear food while the back teeth are designed to grind the food. Now all of the tearing AND grinding is being done on the front teeth, they begin to break down in half the time, about 3-5 years. Modification of chewing habits is just ONE of the detrimental things that can happen when you lose that first tooth and don’t replace it.
Another unfavorable outcome of losing that first, and subsequently second and third tooth, is that your teeth begin to tip into the newly opened space. This happens because, when you lose a tooth, the remaining bone begins to break down, allowing the remaining teeth to drift downward as the surrounding bone disappears. This malalignment creates new spaces in-between the teeth, leading to food getting trapped, thereby increasing the likelihood of cavities.
It is not only the teeth in that arch that are affected the opposing teeth will also move as well. Whenever you lose a tooth, the tooth it used to bite against will “supra erupt”. Supra eruption is when a tooth continues to “grow” out of the gums and into the now available space. This will cause new spaces to open up on either side of that tooth near the root surface because the supra erupting tooth is in a position it is not designed to be in and therefore functions ineffectively and becomes more susceptible to decay.
In both cases of tooth tipping and tooth supra eruption time is of the essence. There is a minimal amount of space needed to replace the lost tooth and the longer a patient goes without a tooth in that space the more likely the necessary space will be lost thereby making it much more difficult to replace that tooth in the future without the help of expensive braces to reclaim that space.
While all these are good reasons to keep your teeth, the biggest one may be is that people who have missing teeth will quite often avoid smiling……
and who wants to walk around with a frown on their face all day?