The oral health scenario of the country is not something to be proud of with 178 million Americans missing at least one tooth and 40 million adults having none of their natural teeth. The most common reason for this is dental decay or cavities. Only 13.5% of adult Americans floss daily, and brushing twice daily for two minutes and flossing once every day has a huge effect in preventing cavities.
About 20% of adults have one or two teeth missing congenitally, and the lateral incisors and the second premolars are usually the missing ones. There may be cases where it is a harmless family trait, and these teeth may not erupt at all during one’s childhood. More rarely, it may be due to a more serious condition called ectodermal dysplasia. Another condition that can cause missing teeth is oral cleft palate and lip.
Effects of missing teeth
Missing teeth can affect one’s speech, and the neighboring teeth migrate toward the gap, affecting chewing. Also, bone is lost near the empty socket, leaving the jaw weak, and it may change the appearance of the face, which may also affect the person psychologically. The bone loss is time dependent and can be severe enough to preclude the possibility of implanting a tooth later. However, a variety of technologies are available to fill every empty spot and avoid complications, and it is only a matter of seeing a prosthodontist for missing teeth.
Ways to treat missing teeth
- Removable Partial denture or RPD has the great advantage of being the cheapest of all devices and can be removed to clean. It can be used to fit into the gap of a single tooth or multiple teeth. The denture for the upper row is made of the acrylic plate to fit the palate, and the edge has teeth wherever required. For the lower row, the teeth are on a grooved acrylic base, sitting over the gum, and the teeth clip on to the teeth at either end of the gap. These can, however, become loose and need periodic adjustments. Initially, they may need some fine adjustments to make them comfortable for the person, and they need to be cleaned and kept in water at night and when not in use.
- Bridges are anchored on the healthy teeth or implanted on either end of the gap, and these teeth are reduced to fit into the crowns at the ends of the bridge. There can be any number to teeth on a bridge and can be made of a variety of materials like porcelain, porcelain fused over metal, color matched composite material, or metals like stainless steel, silver, or gold. The disadvantages with these are that food lodges under them, and they need cleaning with special flossing strips.
- Implants are artificial teeth fitted into the metal post fitted into the jaw. The advantages they come with are that they are the closest to natural teeth and are very stable. Oral hygiene operations for these are the same as ordinary teeth, and they look natural.