Edentulism is the condition defined by the loss of at least one functional tooth. It can be classified as partial edentulism (one or more lost teeth) to complete edentulism (when a patient has lost all teeth). Whether due to decay, periodontal disease or trauma, edentulism has a significant effect on a patient’s oral health.
While there are many solutions to replace a patient’s missing teeth, dental implants are the only potentially long-term solution to this lifelong problem.
Why Replace Missing Teeth
For many patients, the thought of missing one or more teeth is a cosmetic issue. Smiling with one or more missing teeth might be embarrassing, but edentulism poses much greater risks. Missing one or more teeth can lead to:
- Impaired chewing ability and bite strength, limiting food choices, which could lead to a lower intake of fruits, vegetables, fiber and carotene in favor of increased cholesterol and saturated fat.
- Bone loss that impacts the soft-tissue profile of the mouth and face.
- Exacerbated jaw joint and TMJ problems (in patients prone to joint issues) due to missing teeth – especially the back teeth.
- Increased rates of chronic inflammation causing changes in the lining of the stomach.
- Increased rates of peptic or duodenal ulcers.
- Increased risk of noninsulin-dependent diabetes.
- Increased risk of chronic kidney disease.
Edentulism also has an association with sleep-disordered breathing (such as obstructive sleep apnea).
Although bridges and dentures can be used to restore appearance and some functionality in patients with missing teeth, both will eventually need replacement and can damage the mouth. Fixed bridges can impact neighboring teeth, while dentures can lead to bone loss in the jaw. Dental implants have the following benefits:
- Safety and long-term solution – Dental implants are a safe way to replace missing teeth and can offer a permanent solution when properly placed and cared for.
- One or more teeth – A single dental implant can replace one or more teeth. Patients who have lost most or all their teeth can have them replaced via full-mouth dental implants.
- Natural-looking – The dental implant procedure involves placing a titanium implant in the jawbone that fuses with the bone to create a solid anchor. An abutment and a crown are placed on top to create the appearance of a natural tooth.
- Restore balance of teeth –Dental implants can help improve function and reduce unhealthy forces on the jaw joints (TMJs).
Patients suffering from edentulism should consult an oral and maxillofacial surgeon as soon as possible to minimize the risks detailed above. While temporary solutions may help an edentulous patient’s smile, dental implants offer a long-term solution to missing teeth.