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Missing Teeth - Causes, Complications & Treatments

Updated on June 24, 2022
Khushbu Gopalakrishnan Headshot
Written by Jennifer Huizen
Medically Reviewed by Khushbu Gopalakrishnan

What Causes Missing Teeth?

Many people have a missing tooth or teeth. According to a 2015 survey by the CDC, only 48% of adults living in the U.S. between the ages of 20 and 64 have a full set of permanent teeth.1 And nearly 19% of adults living in the US aged 65 or older don’t have any teeth at all.

The most common causes of tooth loss are tooth decay, gum disease, medical problems, and trauma.2

Risks of Having Missing Teeth

According to the American Academy of Periodontology (AAP), missing teeth can cause several negative side effects.3

Risks of having missing teeth include:

  • Changes in your smile, which may impact confidence
  • Skin sagging due to a loss of support to the skin around the mouth
  • Trouble chewing or talking
  • Reduced stability of the surrounding teeth and gums
  • Bone loss as the jawbone shrinks near the missing teeth

3 Ways to Replace Missing Teeth

There are several ways to replace missing teeth. The type of tooth replacement option that is best for you depends on several factors, like your overall health and how much healthy jawbone you have.

Dental Implant

A dental implant is an artificial tooth root that’s inserted into the jaw. The implant is a small titanium post that is surgically placed into the jaw bone. After integration, a crown is placed on top of the implant.4 

Not everyone is a good candidate for a dental implant. But you may qualify to get one if you:

  • Are in good health and don’t have certain health conditions 
  • Have enough intact jaw bone to hold the implant
  • Have healthy gums free from periodontal disease

If you don’t meet these criteria, your dentist or surgeon will likely recommend alternatives.

There are two primary types of implants:

Endosteal implants

These implants have screws, blades, or cylinders that are surgically inserted into the jaw bone. Every implant can hold one or several replacement teeth. 

Endosteal implants are best suited for people currently wearing bridges or removable dentures. You may not be a good candidate for endosteal implants if you don’t have enough jaw bone intact.

Subperiosteal implants

These implants sit on top of the jaw bone. They use a metal framework to hold the implant in place on the gum tissue. 

Most people get subperiosteal implants if they can’t wear normal dentures. You may also get this type of implant if you don’t have enough bone to hold an endosteal implant.

Pros and cons of dental implants

Like any dental procedure, getting an implant has pros and cons.5 

Dental implants can be beneficial because they:

  • Feel, work, and look more like a natural tooth than dentures or bridges
  • Are more secure than dentures
  • Won’t crack or slip while talking or eating 
  • Do not involve or compromise the surrounding teeth if placed correctly

The major drawback of dental implants is that they require at least one surgery. As a result, the risks of dental implants include all of those associated with surgery: infection, pain, and bleeding, among others. 

Dental implants may also be more expensive than dentures or bridges. You’ll also have to keep artificial implanted teeth extremely clean and visit the dentist regularly to make sure they stay healthy.

Dentures

Dentures are removable prostheses to replace missing teeth. If someone is missing all their teeth, they’ll need to wear complete dentures. You may be able to wear partial dentures if you’re not missing all your teeth.6

Most complete dentures consist of pink, gum-colored plastic with artificial white teeth. Some partial dentures also have a metal framework that helps hold the partial in place by clasping onto the natural teeth. You normally don’t wear complete dentures or partial dentures while you’re sleeping.

Pros and cons of dentures

Pros of dentures include:

  • Improved self-esteem and appearance
  • Reduced problems with speech 
  • Ease of chewing 

Cons of dentures include:

  • Trapped food between the plastic and gums
  • Requiredt of daily maintenance 
  • Slipping or sliding talking, laughing, or chewing
  • Unnatural appearance and feel 
  • Wear, fracture, or loosening over time 
  • Possible discomfort when eating, talking, or laughing
  • Possible sore spots or pressure points

Bridges

Dental bridges are false teeth joined to crowns on the existing teeth on either side of the missing tooth. They are cemented or bonded in place.

Unlike with dentures, you cannot remove bridges, and you’ll need to use special products to keep them clean. They are less natural in appearance and feel than dental implants, but you may need to get a bridge or bridges if you don’t have enough intact jawbone to place implants.

Pros and cons of bridges

Having dental bridges has pros and cons.

Pros of bridges include:

  • They are more secure than dentures
  • They feel and look more like real teeth than dentures
  • You don’t need to take out or insert bridges like you do with dentures
  • They are cheaper than dental implants and do not require surgery

Cons of bridges include:

  • May look and feel less like natural teeth
  • Require shaping the neighboring teeth around the missing tooth or teeth.8

Tips for Keeping Your Teeth Healthy

The best way to keep your teeth healthy is to practice good dental hygiene. For healthy teeth and gums, the ADA recommends:

  • Brushing after each meal and before going to sleep
  • Flossing at least once a day
  • Getting dental check-ups at least twice a year

Summary

Having a missing tooth or missing teeth can make you feel less confident about your smile. Missing teeth can also cause the face to sag and the jawbone to shrink over time. Chewing and talking can also be difficult with missing teeth.

The best way to replace missing teeth is to get a dental implant. But if you’re not a good candidate to receive dental implants, you could consider getting a bridge or dentures.

With proper at-home and in-office dental care, most dental implants, bridges, and dentures will last for years, even decades. Your dentist or surgeon will determine which treatment option for missing teeth will work best for you.

Last updated on June 24, 2022
8 Sources Cited
Last updated on June 24, 2022
All NewMouth content is medically reviewed and fact-checked by a licensed dentist or orthodontist to ensure the information is factual, current, and relevant.

We have strict sourcing guidelines and only cite from current scientific research, such as scholarly articles, dentistry textbooks, government agencies, and medical journals. This also includes information provided by the American Dental Association (ADA), the American Association of Orthodontics (AAO), and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP).
  1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Dental Caries and Tooth Loss in Adults in the United States, 2011–2012.
  2. American College of Prostheodontists. Missing Teeth.
  3. American Academy of Periodontology. FAQs.
  4. American Academy of Periodontology. Dental Implant Procedures.
  5. American Academy of Implant Dentistry. Frequently Asked Questions. 
  6. American College of Prosethodontists. Dentures.  
  7. American College of Prosethodontists. Bridges. 
  8. American Dental Association Patient Smart Patient Education Center. Tooth Replacement Options.
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