If you are missing teeth, it's a condition known as edentulism. Partial edentulism is the absence of one or more teeth. Total edentulism is the absence of all teeth. Over 120 million Americans are missing at least one tooth, and more than 36 million Americans are completely edentulous (no teeth). The majority of edentulous people are over the age of 65, and the number who are at least partly edentulous is expected to rise as the population ages. Even so, there are millions of Americans younger than 65 who have lost all of their teeth.1
Edentulism is a potentially serious condition that should be addressed as soon as possible. Failure to replace a missing tooth can impact your oral and overall health. The impact continues to increase with the more teeth you lose.
Congenitally missing teeth are missing from birth and include conditions such as hypodontia or anodontia . These conditions are considered a developmental form of edentulism and are not the result of tooth loss or removal.
The loss of a baby (primary) tooth is also not considered edentulism as a permanent tooth will normally replace it. However, the premature loss of primary teeth may result from tooth decay or other medical or dental conditions. Baby teeth that are lost before a permanent tooth is erupting should be addressed as soon as possible as they could contribute to changes in your child's bite and orthodontic issues in the future.
Teeth serve many functions, including:
Missing teeth should almost always be replaced. An exception is wisdom teeth (third molar) since they are normally not required to chew properly, may not be in the correct position, and can contribute to the development of periodontal disease (periodontitis) in the adjacent molars.
If a second molar (the ones farthest back if wisdom teeth have been removed) falls out or is removed, your dentist will not typically recommend replacing it. However, there are many factors that your dentist will consider before making their recommendation.
These are several reasons why you should replace a missing tooth:
There are many causes of tooth loss. It is important to be aware of these causes so you can take steps to reduce contributing factors before tooth loss occurs. Awareness of these factors will also help your dentist develop a tooth repair or tooth replacement plan that has the greatest likelihood of long-term success.
If you have a tooth knocked out from trauma, you should immediately contact a dentist. If you have a tooth fall out for any other reason, call a dentist to determine how soon to schedule an appointment to address the issue.
The loss of a permanent tooth is obvious, whether it occurs by disease, accident, or has been intentionally removed for other reasons. Your dentist will formally diagnose a lost tooth by evaluating where the tooth was located.
The goal of tooth replacement is to restore your mouth to the most natural state possible. Available treatment options depend on which tooth or teeth are missing and how many teeth are missing. Your dentist will also consider conditions such as tooth decay , periodontal disease (periodontitis), or grinding or clenching (bruxism). Options also depend on the quantity and density of the bone that remains. Your dentist will discuss the best options for your specific situation.