Use it or Lose it

toothwomanOnly a generation ago, gradually losing teeth and replacing them with either a fixed bridge, a removable partial or full denture was a fact of life for most Americans.

Unfortunately each option led to either grinding healthy teeth down or exerting too much force on the remaining teeth. Ultimately both options led to early loss of remaining healthy teeth. As a result, a large segment of our population entered their golden age with false teeth, long span bridges, or no teeth at all. The most damaging effect of tooth loss was not even being discussed much those days. Few people knew about the localized osteoporosis that developed due to loss of the tooth. People noticed that their gums shrunk gradually once the tooth was lost, even when they replaced the gap with a conventional method. But they assumed that it was normal.

That perception has changed substantially during the last two decades. The likelihood of our generation going through the same oral degradation is steadily decreasing. There are several reasons for this change: availability of more information, better access to dental care, and last but not least, the introduction of titanium dental implants.

When teeth are lost, the underlying jaw bone shrinks due to lack of stimulation. Aside from the cosmetic effects on our smile and facial appearance, people with missing teeth develop other equally significant complications. Here are a few examples:

1. People with missing teeth are unable to chew their food as efficiently.

One of the most important phases in digestion is called “The Cephalic phase.” This phase of gastric secretion occurs while the food is being eaten. It results from the pleasure associated with sight, smell, thought, or taste of food. Inability to chew the food with comfort and ease makes eating a chore as opposed to a pleasant experience. People with missing teeth also have a tendency to swallow their food prematurely.  Nutritionists agree that the more we chew – the less we eat – and the better we digest our food. People with lost back teeth are also more likely to avoid harder food.  Soft foods are also usually high in carbohydrates and fat but often very low in protein, raw vegetable, vitamins, and minerals. Consequently, people who eat mainly soft foods may become undernourished and eat a larger volume of food. That often leads to weight gain and obesity which over time leads to numerous disorders, including cardiovascular disease and diabetes.

2. The traditional replacement methods only address replacement of missing teeth not their roots.

The most significant effect of tooth loss is the loss of localized jaw bone that is no longer needed to hold the root of the tooth in place. The science of biophysics has proven that the concept of “use it or lose it” applies to the human body as well. Through chewing we apply modest pressure on the jawbone. That pressure stimulates the bone (similar to exercise) and keeps it dense and strong. Many people who have lost one or more teeth believe the personal impact is strictly cosmetic. They don’t realize that missing teeth can lead to significant bone loss over time that can alter the jaw structure, cause other teeth to shift, and change the shape of your face while weakening your jaw bone.

3. Although partial or full dentures are a less expensive alternative to dental implants they require a lot of care.

They must be kept clean with cleaning tablets. They should be removed every night before going to sleep, cleaned carefully, and kept in a moist place (usually in a glass of water on the bed stand). As the jawbone shrinks over time due to bone loss, the dentures that fit fine not too long ago get loose. They have to be either glued in with denture cream or remade every few years. Dentures can also cause discomfort and interfere with tasting and feeling our food. Some people find dentures embarrassing. If dentures do not fit well, they can interfere with chewing and swallowing. They may also cause burning sensations and sores in the mouth.

Fortunately, America’s tooth loss and jaw bone loss crisis can be eliminated with advent of dental implants, now considered the best option for replacing missing teeth.  Dental implants have been highly successful, according to a recent research published in the Journal of Oral Implantology.  There is a growing body of compelling clinical evidence supporting dental implants as the most successful method for replacing missing or compromised teeth.

If you are suffering from or embarrassed by loss of one, several, or all of your teeth, dental implants may be the answer you are looking for.  I have been placing dental implants (while patients are comfortably asleep under IV sedation) in our community for over a decade with a success ratio of over 99 percent. If you are considering getting a dental implant, feel free to contact my office at 281-332-4700 for a complimentary consultation.

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