When an adult loses a front tooth, replacement is almost a no-brainer. That’s because missing front teeth in adults isn’t considered socially acceptable or aesthetically pleasing. But what about when tooth loss occurs in the back of the mouth? Because posterior teeth are largely hidden from public view, many people don’t consider replacement of back teeth a priority. While aesthetics aren’t necessarily a concern when it comes to posterior tooth loss, let’s consider some compelling reasons why tooth replacement is still necessary.
Consequences of posterior tooth loss
Posterior tooth loss has some long-term consequences that go beyond simply having an empty space in the back of the mouth. Some of the most common consequences of rear tooth loss include:
- Decreased chewing efficiency. It should come as no surprise that the posterior teeth play an important role in chewing food– and particularly in chewing tough food. When posterior tooth loss occurs, overall chewing efficiency is decreased. Over time, this can lead to nutritional deficits, as food options become more limited.
- Shifting of remaining teeth. Any time tooth loss occurs, the remaining teeth shift in an attempt to fill in the vacated space. While some shifting of the teeth is natural, the shifting that occurs after tooth loss is greatly accelerated, which can ultimately reduce the effectiveness of the remaining teeth.
- Loss of facial height. While posterior tooth loss might not initially change a person’s appearance as dramatically as anterior tooth loss, make no mistake: changes will occur over time. That’s because the back teeth support the vertical height of a person’s face. When posterior tooth loss occurs, some facial height is also lost. While loss of facial height might not be noticeable initially, it becomes more apparent as time passes. People who suffer from tooth loss often appear older, as the face develops a “sunken in” appearance.
- Excessive stress on remaining teeth. Posterior teeth play an important role in a person’s overall bite. When they’re lost, excessive stress is placed on the front teeth. This can ultimately result in accelerated wear of the anterior teeth, eventually leading to their loss as well.
What are my replacement options?
Now that the importance of replacing posterior teeth has been established, what are the best options for replacement? Fortunately, cosmetic dentistry has come a long way in the last several years. Today’s tooth replacement options include:
- Dental implant. A dental implant– which is an artificial tooth root surgically implanted into the gums– is often the most desirable option for posterior tooth replacement. Replacement teeth are mounted to the implant, restoring the patient’s bite and smile. Implants are non-removable and low maintenance; when cared for properly, they can potentially last a lifetime.
- Partial bridge. Bridges are made to bridge the gap between missing teeth. Crowns are placed over the teeth surrounding the gap; these serve as anchor teeth. A replacement tooth is then placed in the middle of the anchor teeth. With proper care, dental bridges can last 5 to 15 years.
- Removable partial denture. Another option to consider for posterior tooth loss is a removable partial denture. Typically, a partial denture consists of replacement teeth that are attached to a plastic base. This base is designed to match the color of the patient’s gums. Sometimes, partial dentures connect to the teeth with clasps; other types of partial dentures use connectors that are more natural. Often, dentures have to be adjusted over time as the patient’s mouth changes. Additionally, dentures must be removed for cleaning. On average, they need to be replaced every 5 years.
Are you currently suffering from posterior tooth loss? It’s time to reclaim your smile! Contact us today to discuss restoration options available that best fit your unique needs.