Don’t bite off more than you can chew

You have sought out the dentist due to a throbbing toothache, only to be told that you have one of two options – root canal or an extraction. Your budget can’t accommodate the cost of root canal treatment—what with school fees, rates, electricity & phone bills due—so, it seems the only option is a tooth extraction.

You have sought out the dentist due to a throbbing toothache, only to be told that you have one of two options – root canal or an extraction. Your budget can’t accommodate the cost of root canal treatment—what with school fees, rates, electricity & phone bills due—so, it seems the only option is a tooth extraction.

Great, now you can carry on without that constant pain and everyday life goes on… until the next time it happens. This time you have probably made up your mind before you even enter the dental clinic—“I just need a tooth extracted”, you say when booking your appointment. But have you considered the long term implications of missing teeth?

When there are no teeth there is no need for the bone, which gradually recedes, and weakens the adjacent teeth until they fall out or collapse into the gap. The reality is, the more teeth lost, the more bone lost. All facial muscles attach to the bone, so lost bone creates the loss of facial tone and, therefore, causes more wrinkles. Bone can be retained by replacing missing teeth shortly after they are lost.

Removed teeth typically cause the surrounding teeth to shift. The remaining teeth may not rest in the correct position or have adequate bone support to ensure a stable solution for the long term.

When you continue to chew your food without teeth or dentures, your gums and jaw will start to become irritated as they work harder to chew food. Even softer foods may start to irritate your gums and jaw. This can lead to infected gums and TMJ. The jawbone will slowly start to deteriorate since it will have to undertake an additional task that was initially done by the teeth. The deterioration process is also a result of lack of support and pressure that it used to get from the teeth. Without this pressure, the jawbone will become weak and may even fracture in the long run.

Chewing is the first process that signals to the rest of the digestive system that digestion can start. When the food is not chewed properly and you are forced to swallow large particles of food, you may experience incomplete digestion. Large particles of food will make it difficult for the colon to digest food and limits the body’s ability to absorb important nutrients. Additionally, such large particles of food can become fodder for bacteria because of incomplete digestion. This can lead to the growth of bacteria, flatulence and indigestion symptoms.

Chewing food with your gums can be abrasive and can easily lead to gum tissue damage. The pressure you put into your gums while eating may not only hurt your gums but may also allow bacteria to enter the tissue and result in infection. If you continue chewing food with your gums without teeth replacement, the infection might continue and eventually result in gum disease.

When missing multiple teeth in one specific area of the mouth, there are different procedures for replacement. Because it is the least expensive option, a partial denture is the most popular. Forty-percent of patients opt for a partial denture, with the other 60% finding them uncomfortable to wear. If there are teeth missing on both sides of one dental arch, a removable partial denture can hook onto the remaining teeth and stabilize the bite. If most back teeth are gone, removable partials only work when front teeth are healthy, strong, and stable,

When patients want the most predictable, long-term result, crowns, bridges and implants or a combination of both are used to strengthen damaged teeth or replace missing ones. A crown is used to entirely cover or “cap” a damaged tooth. Besides strengthening a damaged tooth, a crown can be used to improve its appearance, shape or alignment. Bridges are commonly used to replace one or more missing teeth. They span the space where the teeth are missing. Bridges are cemented to the natural teeth or implants surrounding the empty space.

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