For many of us, dental care is something that gets put on the back burner for years. It’s just another priority competing for our attention, and, unfortunately, it loses out to other things for a long time.
But then you lose your first tooth. For many of us, that’s a wakeup call that can’t be ignored. We realize now that it’s mission critical, and our dental health needs to be a top priority. But is it already too late? Probably not. Here’s some advice for trying to save your remaining teeth.
Once you’ve lost a tooth, it’s likely that several other teeth are also in jeopardy–or soon will be. Acting quickly in response to the first lost tooth makes it more likely that you can protect your other teeth.
Replacing the lost tooth is a top priority. Once a tooth is lost, bite forces can cause other teeth to drift, which can put them in unhealthy positions. And your teeth will have fewer teeth to distribute force among, which can put individual teeth under strain.
We know we referenced being able to save all the rest of your teeth, but, frankly, that isn’t always the case. Although most teeth will be salvageable, some may not be, and these ones may actually be detrimental. Infected teeth can spread infection to your jawbone, other teeth, even your brain. In many cases, root canal therapy can quell the infection and save the tooth, but not always.
Strategic Use of Implants and Bridges
When we’re looking to preserve your other teeth, it’s important to avoid solutions today that turn into problems tomorrow. Partial dentures fall into this category. They can work reasonably well as a cosmetic replacement and even help hold the space in your smile. But over time, the wear that hooks and clasps can cause on neighboring teeth, and the way they trap bacteria and debris against your remaining teeth can be a source of problems.
Most of the time, we recommend dental implants to replace a lost tooth. But if one or both teeth are damaged next to a lost tooth, then a dental bridge can help protect them without significant damage, if their roots are good.
And, finally, you have to make an ongoing commitment to saving the rest of your teeth. This can’t be something you treat as an emergency–get care today and forget to brush tomorrow. It has to be a real change in your approach to oral health. You have to decide that you’re going to brush twice a day, floss every day, and make your regular dental checkups. You may also have to be prepared for procedures like gum disease treatment, and you may be asked to make more than two dental visits a year. If you can’t do that, then it’s unlikely we’ll really be able to save your smile.