This section contains a list of the most commonly asked questions about missing teeth. It includes queries about replacement teeth, e.g. dentures and why it is important to replace a lost tooth for health and aesthetic reasons.
1. What causes missing teeth?
2. Why do missing teeth cause a problem?
3. Do you have to replace missing teeth?
4. What are the most common causes of lost teeth in children?
5. What should you do if you have a tooth knocked out?
6. What treatment is available to me?
7. How much will it cost to replace a missing tooth?
8. Is it better to remove a cracked or chipped tooth?
9. Is it possible to lose teeth naturally?
10. Can I prevent tooth loss?
Q1. What causes missing teeth?
A1. There is more than one cause of missing teeth. The most common reason is tooth decay which is usually due to a failure to care for the teeth properly. But tooth decay can also develop due to poor lifestyle choices such as smoking or a diet high in sugars and saturated fat.
Other causes include injury particularly sports injuries such as those incurred by people who participate in contact sports, e.g. boxing and rugby. But a tooth can be knocked out during any sport.
Teeth are also lost as a result of an accident such as a fall or a congenital disorder such as a cleft palate. In these cases the person affected is born without their full complement of teeth or they have less than a normal set of adult teeth.
Find out more in our causes of missing teeth section.
Q2. Why do missing teeth cause a problem?
A2. There are people who loose a tooth but choose to do nothing about it. They are perfectly happy with this situation and continue as normal.
But this is not recommended as missing a tooth or several teeth can cause problems. What happens is that the gap left by the lost tooth puts a strain on the other teeth and even the jaw.
The teeth on either side of a gap gradually lean over towards this gap which then pulls them out of position. This affects your ability to bite and chew food as normal. It can also affect your speech as well.
If a tooth is missing as a result of tooth decay or gum disease then there is the risk of the decay spreading to the other teeth or other parts of the body where it can be much more serious.
One serious complication is heart disease.
Plus there is the fact that missing teeth affects your facial appearance. The muscles of the jaw become less flexible due to a lack of structure which causes them to sag inwards, resulting in a sunken cheeked look.
This also adds years to your appearance and affects both your confidence and self-esteem.
This is discussed in more detail in our problems of missing teeth section.
Q3. Do you have to replace missing teeth?
A3. The choice is entirely yours but dentists recommend that you replace a lost tooth or teeth for the reasons mentioned above.
There are several options open to you none of which are painful and mean a perfectly restored smile.
Q4. What are the most common causes of lost teeth in children?
A4. Accident or injury accounts for most of the missing teeth cases in children. Young children in particular are prone to falling over or bumping into things which can result in a tooth being knocked out.
Plus children are very active and engage in physical activities which include play fighting or wrestling which may cause them to lose a tooth pr two. This is especially the case for boys.
A very young child such as a toddler may lose a tooth whilst they are teething. Teething is a natural process in which the baby or milk teeth develop from the age of 6 months. These teeth are fragile compared to permanent teeth so easily become loose or fall out.
Find out more about tooth loss during teething in our milk teeth section.
Q5. What should you do if you have a tooth knocked out?
A5. In many cases the tooth can be replaced. If the tooth has been knocked out, e.g. as a result of an accident, then wrap it in soft material to protect it and visit a dentist as soon as possible.
The dentist may be able to reinsert it.
The sooner you do this the greater the chance of success.
This is discussed in further detail in our accident or injury section.
Q6. What treatment is available to me?
A6. If you lose a tooth then seek treatment as soon as you can. Your dentist will assess the damage and the condition of your teeth in general before discussing treatment options with you.
There are several options which include:
- Dental implants
- Dental bridge
Personal preference plays a part but your dentist will help you to decide on the best option for you.
These options are discussed individually in our replacing missing teeth section.
Q7. How much will it cost to replace a missing tooth?
A7. The cost will depend upon a variety of factors such as the treatment option, the extent of the treatment, the skill and experience of the dentist and the location of the practice.
The cost will be discussed with you during your initial consultation. Many practices have a finance plans which can help you to spread the cost of treatment.
Q8. Is it better to remove a cracked or chipped tooth?
A8. This depends upon the extent of the damage. It may be possible to repair the damage rather than extract (remove) the tooth as this is a better option in the long term.
This is usually done as a last resort. The dentist will recommend the fitting of a crown or root canal surgery beforehand but if this fails or is not advisable then the tooth will be removed.
Your dentist will discuss these options with you.
Q9. Is it possible to lose teeth naturally?
A9. Children lose their milk teeth from the age of 6 years until the start of puberty. These milk teeth fall out and are gradually replaced with adult (permanent) teeth over a period of time.
This is a natural process that affects all of us.
Q10. Can I prevent tooth loss?
A10. It is impossible to prevent tooth loss as a result of an accident or injury as that is part of life.
But if you play contact sports then consider wearing a protective gumshield to reduce the risk.
However, the majority of tooth loss is caused by tooth decay and/or gum disease. This is preventable if you care for your teeth. This includes cleaning them with a toothbrush and dental floss at least twice a day or after every meal.
Reduce your consumption of sugary foods and visit your dentist for a twice yearly check up.
If you have a medical condition or congenital disorder then your GP will advise you about minimising the risk of tooth loss as well as ways of dealing with this.