The real consequences of tooth loss – Phillip Silver

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  Posted by: Dental Design      2nd August 2018



Everyday dental professionals work tirelessly to promote good oral health, prevent dental disease and help patients to avoid tooth loss. There have been significant advancements in preventative dentistry and patients are generally better informed than previous generations. Nevertheless, motivating patients to value their natural teeth and to look after them properly remains an on-going dental health challenge.


Regrettably, there are still a significant number of people that only visit the dentist if they have a problem[1]with some even preferring to treat dental issues by themselves at home! Dental professionals also encounter patients that would rather have a tooth pulled out than go to the trouble or expense of saving it. Certainly, there is a common belief that tooth loss is part of the ageing process and that replacing natural teeth with dentures or implants marks the end of all dental problems. It could be argued that losing a few teeth at the back of the mouth is fairly inconsequential to some individuals, yet research suggests that 45% of patients feel unprepared for the consequences of tooth loss[2]and it is essential that patients fully comprehend the real impact.


For obvious reasons, patients probably understand that unsightly gaps at the front of the mouth are definitely going to affect their wellbeing. Indeed, teeth have a tremendous influence on appearance as well as the perceptions and assumptions that others draw. Similarly, if an individual feels embarrassed to speak or smile in front of others it can have a negative impact on their ability to socialise and communicate. Lack of self-confidence, concerns about appearance and ageing can also lead to behavioural changes and in some cases isolation, sadness, loneliness and depression.[3]


What some patients may not realise is that gaps anywhere in the mouth can affect the health and stability of the remaining teeth. The teeth surrounding the empty spaces have a tendency to drift and are at a greater risk of becoming loose. This mobility also has the potential to change the bite and can cause problems with chewing and/or discomfort. The other aspect that patients also may not be aware of is that when a tooth is lost so too is the stimulation of the alveolar bone surrounding it. This influences its height, width and density and eventually causes the jawbone to resorb, along with the structure and height of the face.


Another detail, which could be somewhat of a surprise to patients, is that a lack of teeth may cause the tongue to enlarge. The tongue may accommodate the available space, expanding laterally and without the teeth to make contact with, speech may become altered and it could also affect swallowing function.[4]As clinicians are aware, this is not the only functional limitation that can occur. In fact, less than 20 or 9 to 10 pairs of contacting teeth is associated with impaired masticatory efficiency and correspondingly, it has been consistently demonstrated that tooth loss can have a negative effect on food selection and nutrition.[5]


As well as enlightening patients about the potential implications of tooth loss, dental practitioners must also carefully explain the options for replacing them. Fortunately, with the advancements that have been made in modern dentistry it is possible to restore normal oral function, comfort and aesthetics and to preserve the health and wellbeing of patients that have missing teeth. In a great many cases, practitioners prefer to recommend dental implants to replace the teeth and prevent bone loss. Yet, it is important to remember that this treatment pathway is not suitable in all clinical cases and in addition, some patients may not wish to undergo a major oral operation and the cost of dental implants can also be a considerable issue.


For some, a less costly but still effective removable partial denture (RPD) is the most favourable option and furthermore, there is now a new biocompatible material called Ultaire™ AKP, which offers patients a viable alternative to the traditional metal RPD frames. Custom developed by Solvay Dental 360™exclusively for the fabrication of RPD frames, Ultaire™ AKP is a high performance polymer that is thin and lightweight but also has the elasticity and flexural strength to resist deformation and provide a strong, stable and retentive framework. This new generation material is extremely versatile and due to the accuracy and the design possibilities that can be achieved, Ultaire™ AKP offers patients a comfortable and superior overall fit, which may also help to limit future bone loss.


The primary objective of providing quality dental care is of course, to help preserve natural dentition. However, when teeth are lost, it is the role of the dental practitioner to prepare patients for the physical as well as the psychological implications and to offer the most suitable solutions to restore oral function, health and wellbeing.


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[1]Mintel Press Office. Mintel Oral Care UK 2017 Report.[Accessed 19th March 2018]

[2]D. M Davis, J. Fiske, B. Scott & D. R. Radford. Prosthetics: The emotional effects of tooth loss: a preliminary quantitative study. British Dental Journal. May 2000. 188 (9) 503-506.[Accessed 19thMarch 2018]

[3]Suely Maria Rodrigues, Ana Cristina Oliveira, Andréa Maria Duarte Vargas,Allyson Nogueira Moreira &Efigênia Ferreira e Ferreira. Implications of Edentulism on Quality of Life among Elderly. Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2012, 9(1), 100-109;[Accessed 19th March 2018]

[4]National Organisation of Rare Diseases. Macroglossia [Accessed 19th March 2018]

[5]Elham Emami, Raphael Freitas de Souza, Maria Kabawat, Jocelyne S Feine.The impact of edentulism on oral and general health. Int J Dent. 2013; 498305. doi:  10.1155/2013/498305.[Accessed 19thMarch 2018]




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