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How missing teeth can affect overall health

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Having missing teeth is a far more serious problem than many patients realise. At first, it may not seem a big deal when natural teeth are knocked out or fall out due to poor oral health conditions. However, it soon hits home when patients realise just what the consequences are – consequences that have a direct bearing on the quality of life they lead.

In the UK alone, about 75 per cent of adults do not enjoy the use of a complete set of natural teeth. While some look to missing teeth replacement options like dental implants Hertfordshire, many leave seeking treatment too late and not before experiencing numerous functional and aesthetic-related problems.

Health problems associated with missing teeth
man with missing tooth

Of first concern is the risk to physical health due to lack of proper nutrition. Missing teeth is a common dental issue experienced by the elderly, a population group that also experiences malnutrition to a greater degree.

Yes, there are many reasons why malnutrition may occur in this age group, but it is safe to say that not being able to eat properly (or without experiencing discomfort) is a big contributor to the problem.

Biting and chewing capabilities affect digestion and the efficient absorption of nutrients. Not meeting nutritional needs adequately opens up the threat of malnutrition and the body’s inability to perform daily functions or fight illness and disease.

The next threat of missing teeth is dental health. Not many patients know that having gaps in the dental arch has a direct impact on the integrity of the remaining teeth. These open sockets can become hotbeds for bad bacteria to flourish in. Bad bacteria first threaten gum health (on which remaining teeth sit) and then reach down below the gum line to invade existing tooth roots, amplifying the risk of further tooth loss.

A secondary dental concern is jawbone health. To maintain bone quality, the jawbone needs to receive stimulation provided by the roots of teeth. When these roots are absent because teeth are no longer there, this stimulation is absent and bone quality is lost. This is also the reason why patients with natural teeth missing, after some time, display a ‘sunken’ facial appearance as the face loses the support provided by the jawbone.

The impact on dental aesthetics should not be overlooked. While cosmetic concerns may not impinge on dental function, it does raise the problem of lack of confidence and its toll on mental and psychosocial wellbeing. The influence of appearance on confidence has been well-documented. Those who display poor confidence are less likely to ‘put themselves out there’ and maximise on professional and social networking opportunities. The more attractive a person is found to be, the higher degree of confidence he or she displays. Even the Oral Health Foundation acknowledges that a healthy smile can be considered a worthy personal asset.

Far from fixing just cosmetic challenges, it seems that there is much more to replacing lost teeth with suitable teeth replacement solutions. Patients who look to appropriate treatment plans can restore mouth function and their confidence in engaging with others.

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