Dr. David Brusky urges his patients to act quickly whenever they find themselves missing one or more teeth.
“Some patients have teeth knocked out,” said Dr. Brusky. “Accidents happen. But other patients need to have teeth extracted when those teeth are no longer able to be saved. The thing is, we need to discuss treatment for gaps now before things get out of hand.”
Dr. Brusky is referring to the changes that can take place when you lose a tooth.
“When there’s no tooth to keep all the other teeth in place, movement can occur,” said Dr. Brusky. He adds that the shifting can happen with opposing teeth or adjacent teeth. It all depends on the person’s mouth and oral habits.
“But the biggest problem patients typically face when they ignore a missing tooth is a resorption.”
What is Resorption?
“Resorption is when the bone recedes back into the jawbone,” said Dr. Brusky. “When a patient loses a tooth, the jawbone no longer has to support that tooth and keep it alive, so it essentially deteriorates.”
When teeth are lost or removed from the mouth, the jaw bone is no longer stimulated and will begin to reabsorb into the body.
By not replacing the teeth with implants or other treatments, the bone can shrink significantly, which can lead to a weakening of the facial muscles, thinning of the lips, increased wrinkling around the mouth and advanced appearance of age.
Neighboring teeth, as well as opposing teeth, may also begin to drift into the empty space, which can lead to misalignment and decreased efficiency to chew food. These issues may also lead to more advanced dental problems the longer you go without treatment.
Furthermore, bone loss on adjacent teeth causes accelerated recession of gums, causing roots of teeth to become exposed.
And patients who have experienced extreme resorption and recession find that keeping the sides of the teeth facing the space clean almost impossible because there isn’t enough room for the toothbrush to fit.
The receding gums, exposed roots and lack of proper cleaning increases the risk for cavities on those surfaces.
To make matters worse, the longer you wait to replace missing teeth, the more limited your treatment options become.
Treatments for Missing Teeth
Dr. Brusky says that the ideal time to begin treating a missing tooth is within the first couple of months. “Beyond that, treating the area becomes very difficult.”
The treatments for missing teeth include dental bridges, partial dentures, and implants. Or, as Dr. Brusky puts it, “The patient could also choose to do nothing at all.”
The doctor points to several patient examples where the individuals failed to act quickly when their teeth were extracted and ended up paying the price.
“The quicker you take action, the more diverse treatment options will be available to you,” said Dr. Brusky. “But wait too long, and we become limited with what we can do.
He adds, “In some cases, the treatments you are left with are so complex they end up overshadowing your budget. That’s why I tell my patients to replace their teeth quickly. It’s worth it in the long run.”
Complex Procedures After Delayed Treatment
If the bone has reabsorbed back into the jaw, the only options may be a removable denture or a tissue graft.
Dr. Brusky adds, “A removable partial denture is always possible, even with tremendous resorption.” But he also warns “If no teeth exist, it can make wearing a full denture almost impossible for some patients if the resorption is bad enough.”
A graft is where tissue is added to the area to support the placement of a bridge, partial denture or implant.
“Some patients have left the site of their missing tooth unrestored for so long that even a graft becomes challenging,” Dr. Brusky said. “There simply isn’t enough bone to add onto, and that’s what we don’t want to happen.”
The dentist adds that patients should be striving for dental aesthetics and functionality, and both can be helped within a particular time frame.
“By grafting tissue, we can add to the contour of the jaw, making things appear more congruent and aesthetically pleasing. With implants and other dental treatments, the missing tooth will look good as new.”
Dr. Brusky stresses that waiting too long almost always affects a patient’s pocketbook. Bone grafting can cost thousands of dollars, more than the expense of a single implant or crown.
When grafting and implants or crowns are combined due to resorption, patients are typically alarmed at the price of treatment.
Sadly, too many patients want to avoid spending money, so they delay treatment, sometimes for years after the tooth went missing.
“That’s when treatments become severely limited and cost increase,” Dr. Brusky said. “If we can help it, I’d rather never get to that point.”
That is why the doctor strives to give his patients all of the information they need to make an informed decision, preferably before or as soon as a tooth or teeth are lost, whether by accident, decay or extraction.
Dr. Brusky added, “Act fast and you’ll have more treatment options, and you’ll save money while keeping your smile intact.”
If you have a missing tooth and have been putting it off for some time, the time to act may be now. Schedule an appointment with your dentist to determine your options. Together, you can plan to get your smile back to pre-tooth-loss conditions.