Broken or lost teeth can be a serious problem affecting patients’ functional, social, and psychological well-being. Broken or lost teeth can occur due to several reasons such as tooth decay, trauma, periodontal diseases, or infection. Whatever the reason may be, fixing or replacing them is essential since the consequences of broken or lost teeth are detrimental. These include bacterial infection, gum disease, altered speech, ineffective chewing, and even hurting your self-confidence because it can affect your smile and appearance. In this article, you will find out all there is to know about broken or lost teeth – what causes them, how it will affect your dental health if you do not get them fixed or replaced, and what treatment options are available.
Common reasons for broken or lost teeth
Tooth decay or dental caries is one of the main reasons for lost teeth. It occurs due to poor oral hygiene habits when bacteria build up in the plaque of your teeth. The bacteria break down food particles and sugar and convert them into acids, which slowly destroys your tooth. If tooth decay is not treated, cavities or holes form on the tooth, eventually leading to tooth loss. 1
Broken or lost teeth can occur from accident or sports injury. Trauma mostly results in chipped teeth; however, dislodged teeth and complete knocked-out teeth can also occur. 2
Periodontal diseases first present themselves as gingivitis or inflammation of the gums. It occurs due to poor oral health habits and can develop into periodontitis, a serious gum infection if left untreated. During gingivitis, food gets trapped in the space where your gum attaches to your teeth. Plaque and bacteria build up in this space and cause the gums to become inflamed and easy to bleed during tooth brushing. If the inflammation is not treated, your gums recede and cause pockets of bacteria to form between your gums and teeth, which can get deeper and cause your teeth to lose bone support and become loose, eventually leading to lost teeth. 3
Smoking increases one’s risk of losing teeth primarily because it weakens your immune system to fight bacteria in plaque, leading to periodontal disease. Moreover, smoking also masks the symptoms of periodontal diseases, such as bleeding gums. Therefore, a smoker’s gums might appear healthy and decrease their chances of seeking dental treatment. 4
Lost teeth can also occur due to other diseases such as diabetes and hypertension. Poor oral health is usually observed in patients with diabetes, which increases the chances of gum disease and tooth loss.
What will happen if I don’t fix or replace my broken or lost teeth?
Replacing or fixing broken or lost teeth are essential for maintaining your dental health and a fully functioning bite. Moreover, not replacing lost teeth resulting from periodontal diseases can have detrimental effects on your health. The following are the consequences of not fixing or replacing broken or lost teeth.
Teeth function as a unit, and all of them play a role in your biting and chewing ability. The loss of posterior teeth can cause chewing problems, and it can be difficult to bite down and eat hard, chewy, or crunchy food. Chewing is also the first step of the digestive process, so broken or lost teeth can affect digestion.5
With broken or lost teeth, you will have to avoid certain food primarily due to reduced chewing ability. Reaching for food that is mainly soft and easy to eat can affect nutrition because of dietary restrictions since your body requires all sorts of food for nutrients.
Gum disease is a major cause of lost teeth. However, if you don’t replace the lost teeth, gum deterioration can worsen. The empty dental socket of missing teeth can cause food particles to get trapped, allowing bacteria to proliferate. Moreover, an empty dental socket leaves the roots and sides of adjacent teeth exposed, allowing plaque buildup and causing bacteria to attack them.
Bone density loss
Lost teeth can result in bone density loss and is a major consequence of lost teeth. The alveolar bone that surrounds your tooth is part of the upper jaw and serves to hold the tooth in place, so when a tooth permanently falls out and is not replaced, the bone has no purpose, so it deteriorates. As a result, your jaw can weaken, causing further tooth loss, and over time it can also affect the shape of your face causing your lips to become thinner and your cheeks to appear hollow.
When you lose your teeth, your sinus expands. Since only a thin bone separates your sinus cavity from your mouth, tooth loss can cause this bone to deteriorate, making it difficult to replace the lost teeth with dental implants.
After you lose a tooth and don’t get it replaced, the remaining teeth in your mouth will start to shift to fill the gap from the lost tooth. This puts extra stress on your teeth and weakens them. It also causes your teeth to become crooked and changes how they feel in your mouth.
Cracks and chips
Lost teeth can also cause cracks and chips in your remaining teeth due to the extra stress put on them. For example, losing your back teeth affects your chewing ability and places extra stress on your front teeth.
Lost teeth can cause altered speech making it difficult to correctly pronounce words by causing a lisp or your words to slur.
Loss of self-confidence
Broken or lost teeth can affect your appearance and cause a loss of self-confidence. Broken/Lost teeth prevent you from smiling or opening your mouth when talking to people because it can be embarrassing. Therefore, broken or lost teeth can significantly affect your social life and emotional health.
Other health problems
The accumulation of bacteria in an empty dental socket poses a significant risk of bacteria entering the bloodstream. Once bacteria enter the bloodstream, they can spread to other organs and cause significant health problems such as cardiovascular diseases and lung disease. 6
What are the different options available for fixing or replacing broken or lost teeth?
Even though broken/lost teeth have significant effects on dental health, the good thing is that there are many options available for fixing or replacing broken or lost teeth. However, you must go to your dentist right away to avoid the problem from worsening, which can become harder and more expensive to treat.
The different options available for repairing or replacing broken or lost teeth include the following:
- Filling – Chipped or broken teeth can be repaired with a filling. Several materials can be used for dental fillings, such as gold, silver amalgam, porcelain, or composite resin.
- Polishing – If the tooth is only slightly broken, your dentist may polish the tooth’s surface to smooth out the broken edges.
- Bonding – If your front teeth chips or cracks, your dentist may choose to use a tooth-colored composite resin to bond it with the teeth. Bonding can also be used to fill broken gaps in between teeth.
- Dental Implants – A dental implant is a metal screw-like fixture, usually made of titanium, which is surgically placed in your jaw bone and serves as the roots of missing teeth. The artificial root is used to anchor an artificial replacement tooth in place. It is the standard prosthetic dental procedure for replacing missing teeth and also helps prevent jaw bone deterioration because the implant fuses with the jaw bone. Dental implants can replace a single tooth and serve as a base for dentures, crowns, and bridges.
- Bridges – Dental bridges are false teeth made of either porcelain or plastic that help close the gap of your lost teeth. Dental bridges are held in place by the teeth around your missing tooth or can even be mounted on a dental implant. A dental bridge is usually a series of crowns attached as a single unit, so it is perfect for replacing a series of several lost teeth. Dental bridges require the supporting teeth to be strong enough on either side of the gap for them to be successful.
- Dentures – Dentures are removable false teeth used to replace lost teeth. They sit across the gums and fit snugly to the wearer’s jaw. Dentures restore the ability to chew well, speak well, and smile. There are two types of dentures:
- Partial Dentures – Partial dentures are used to replace one or a few loose teeth if you still have some healthy natural teeth remaining. They consist of replacement teeth attached to a gum-colored plastic base or are connected by a metal framework to anchor themselves in your mouth.
- Complete Dentures – Complete dentures replace all the upper and lower teeth of your mouth.
What should I do after I break or lose a tooth?
Losing a tooth is a dental emergency and requires immediate attention by a dental professional. Although losing teeth due to tooth decay or periodontal disease cannot be fitted back, broken or lost teeth from dental trauma can often be reimplanted. Therefore, you must do the following after losing a tooth from dental trauma:
- Visit your dentist as soon as possible because permanent tooth loss reimplanted within 30 minutes has the highest chances of success.
- Collect any teeth fragments and handle them with care to prevent any further damage.
- Hold the teeth by their crown and not their roots.
- Gently rinse the teeth with water to remove any dirt on them.
- Rinse your mouth with water and apply pressure with gauze if there is any bleeding.
- Place the teeth in milk and head to the dentist right away.
About the author
Dr. Greg Grillo
Dr. Greg Grillo DDS studied at the University of Washington where he received a bachelors degree with Honors and later attended dental school on the same campus. Following school Dr. Greg served in the United States Navy as a dental officer. During this time he received advanced training in specialty areas of dentistry while also treating families of members of the military.
As well as sharing valuable information on dentistry and oral health, Dr. Greg remains a practicing dentist to this day. He works with families in the Okanogan Valley where he lives with his wife and three children.
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