As a dental office, we are just as dissapointed as you are when we are faced with a situation where a tooth must be removed. We are in the business of saving teeth, so when the time comes when we have to extract one, we begin to worry about the remaining teeth and the effect it will have on them. Not everyone understands that losing a tooth effects the other teeth left in the mouth, and it really does! Overtime, missing teeth can result in serious complications if left untreated.
With the human mouth containing 28 teeth (32 if wisdom teeth have not been removed), you can see how some people may believe that it is not essential to replace missing teeth when there are plenty left to do the job. The loss of permanent teeth leads to a whole bunch of other problems if not replaced in a timely manner.
Above is a typical scenario of what happens when even just ONE tooth is extracted and not replaced.
Teeth are arraged in the jaw bone in such a way that they support eachother and help each one take the pressure of chewing. Kind of like a team! When a person loses a tooth, and it isn't replaced, a situation will arise where teeth begin to move out of their recommended position or alignment. Unlike the pain of an absess or a decayed tooth, the damage that is done in the mouth when a tooth is removed is slow, and often painless, so it is easy to understand why a patient might put off treatment for this, or ignore it completely.
Below is a list of things that can happen to the dentition when a missing tooth is not replaced:
- Supraeruption (Over eruption) - When an tooth is lost, say a lower tooth for example, its upper partner will not have no opposing tooth to bite against, and will begin to love this extra room it has and move downward. When it does this, it will lost contact with its neighboring teeth on either side.
- Loss of Contact - You know the place between your teeth where your floss "snaps"? That is called the contact point. That point helps food and debris from getting stuck between your teeth and staying there. When teeth are in alignment with eachother this action works efficiently, but if there is no contact point, you have a much more likely chance of having food and debris hangout between the teeth longer.
- Tipping - When a tooth is lost and not replaced, the tooth behind it now has a vacant area which to tip and move into. While tipping forward, teeth lose contact with their other teeth. As i said above, teeth are designed to touch eachother to prevent food impaction, that can cause tissue damage, gum disease and cavities. If enough of this space is occupied by the tipping tooth then the space will become too small to replace in the future without modifying other teeth
- Bone Loss - Simple as this. Teeth hold bone in your jaw. If a tooth has nothing to hold bone for, it will shrink away quickly. Healthy dense bone is important when considering the placement of implants to replace missing teeth.
So next time instead of choosing the "Just Yank the thing out" option, remember there will be consiquences. Sometimes we don't have a choice when losing a tooth, but sometimes we do. Often when a root canal is needed, the only other option is to extract the tooth. Root canals aren't as bad as they used to be, it's a wonderful way of saving a tooth that has decayed into the nerve. Go for that option next time :)