Permanent teeth can last a lifetime with good daily care, but dental disease and accidental injuries can cut that short. The more teeth you lose, the greater the impact can be on your appearance, oral health and general health.
If you have one or more teeth that feel loose or have come out altogether, make an appointment with your dentist as quickly as possible. The sooner a missing tooth can be treated, the lower the risk of other problems such as infections developing. You might even be able to save your tooth!
Why do teeth fall out?
Teeth can fall out for many reasons. Teeth that have been damaged or weakened over time can eventually loosen and fall out, but even a healthy tooth can be knocked out or badly damaged in an accident.
Common reasons for tooth loss include:
- Tooth decay and gum disease
- Poor nutrition
- Injury to the mouth
- Health conditions
Tooth decay and gum disease
Tooth decay and gum disease are the most common oral health problems and can eventually lead to tooth loss if they're not treated.
Teeth can decay when bacteria in plaque release acids onto their surface. This wears down the enamel, making teeth softer and more fragile.
Gum disease happens when bacteria infect or irritate the gums. Gingivitis is the early stage of gum disease that should be treated by a dentist or hygienist before it develops into periodontitis. This advanced form of gum disease can weaken the tissues supporting your teeth.
Healthy eating is important for your teeth. As well as avoiding too much sugar, a balanced diet rich in calcium, phosphorus, potassium and vitamins C and D can help to protect against decay and keep your teeth and bones strong.
Injury to the mouth
Sudden injuries to the mouth may result from sporting collisions, falls, motor vehicle accidents or even biting down on hard objects. These injuries can cause teeth to become dislodged, damaged beyond repair or knocked out altogether.
A range of medical conditions including autoimmune diseases, dementia, high blood pressure (hypertension), rheumatoid arthritis and type 2 diabetes are also associated with a higher risk of tooth loss.
Can a knocked out tooth be saved?
If a formerly healthy tooth is knocked clean out, there's a chance it could be reattached if you can see a dentist straight away. To improve your chances of saving a knocked out tooth, you should:
- Pick up the tooth by the crown (the biting surface), avoiding touching the roots
- Gently rub off any dirt, avoiding prolonged contact with water
- Try to slot the tooth back into your gum, then bite down on a clean cloth to hold it in place
- If the tooth doesn't fit in the socket, you can try holding it inside your cheek or placing it in a container with milk or saliva to keep it moist (not water)
- Call your dental clinic for more advice or to book an appointment with an emergency dentist
What happens at the dentist?
The sooner you can see a dentist, and the more intact your tooth is, the better the chance of successful reintegration. You should ideally see an emergency dentist in less than an hour since the tooth was knocked out.
Your dentist will check the condition of the tooth to see if reattaching it is an option. If so, they'll take an x-ray to make sure it's positioned correctly in the mouth and attach it to the teeth on either side for support.
They will then give you advice about caring for your tooth and arrange a follow-up appointment, usually after a couple of weeks, where they can check that the tooth is functioning normally and remove the splints.
Can baby teeth be reattached?
No. The steps above only apply to permanent (adult) teeth. Trying to put a baby tooth back in could affect the tooth growing beneath or cause other problems.
You should still make an appointment with your child's dentist if they lose a tooth unexpectedly.
Should I replace a missing tooth?
You don't have to replace a tooth if you don't mind a gap in your smile, but dentists recommend replacing missing teeth to avoid possible oral health and general health issues. These can include:
- Teeth around the gap becoming misaligned or crowded, which may require orthodontic treatment
- Less support for the jaw bone and face muscles, which could lead to deterioration
- Difficulty chewing, which could affect digestion or nutrition
- Impact on speech
These problems are more likely if you have multiple missing teeth.
Options for replacing teeth
If you've lost a tooth and it can't be reattached, your dentist can discuss the different treatments for replacing it. They'll make sure you have all the information about the procedures, what they cost and any possible risks that may be involved so you can make fully informed decisions.
The main options for replacing a tooth are:
- Dental implant
- Dental bridge
- Partial dentures
Dental implants are titanium posts that replace missing tooth roots in the jaw bone. The implant bonds with the jaw to create a strong foundation for a prosthetic tooth that can feel more natural.
A dental implant costs more than a bridge or dentures, but the implant can last a lifetime, as long as you maintain good oral health. As oral surgery is involved, it's important to choose a suitably qualified and experienced dentist to minimise the clinical risks.
Dental bridges are one or more prosthetic teeth that are supported by healthy teeth on each side of the gap. Depending on what teeth are being replaced, a bridge may be attached on one or two sides using either clasps or crowns placed over the teeth.
Placing a bridge does not involve surgery, but it may require permanently altering the neighbouring teeth if crowns are used. Bridges may be made from tooth-coloured porcelain, metal or a combination of the two.
A partial denture can replace one or more teeth. If you don't want a permanent tooth replacement, removable dentures may be worn only when needed. It's important to clean your dentures and to have them checked regularly by your dentist.
Fixing a damaged tooth
If a dental injury chips or cracks your tooth, but it's still partly intact, your dentist may be able to restore the tooth's former strength and appearance. Depending on the extent of the damage and how much of the tooth remains, restoration may involve:
- Dental bonding to fill in minor gaps
- Placing a white filling or inlay/onlay that matches your natural tooth colour
- Covering a damaged tooth with a dental crown that blends in with your other teeth
- Root canal therapy (endodontics) to treat an infected tooth or exposed dental pulp
If a tooth is too badly damaged to save, your dentist may have to extract it. They can discuss your options for replacing the tooth once your mouth has had time to heal.
How to prevent tooth loss
Accidents can't always be avoided, but there are several ways to lower the risk of you or your kids needing to see an emergency dentist for a broken or knocked-out tooth.
The best prevention against tooth loss includes:
- Good oral hygiene
- Healthy diet
- Avoiding bad habits
- Wearing a sports mouthguard
- Regular dental visits
Good oral hygiene
Taking better care of your teeth and gums every day can help you avoid tooth loss due to tooth decay and gum disease, along with the other undesirable symptoms of these dental diseases.
To reduce plaque build-up, it's recommended that you brush your teeth at least twice a day using fluoride toothpaste. You should also floss before brushing at least once a day.
Reducing sugar in your diet could also lower your dental risks, as sugar feeds the bacteria that cause tooth decay and gum disease. As well as cutting out snacks, most sugar is generally consumed in drinks such as soft drinks and fruit juices.
Avoiding bad habits
Biting hard objects such as pen lids, fingernails and ice cubes puts your teeth at risk of injury. Your teeth might also wear down faster if you have the habit of grinding or clenching them (bruxism), either during the day or in your sleep.
Wearing a sports mouthguard
If you or your kids play contact sports, or other activities that involve a risk of being hit in the mouth, it's important to wear a mouthguard to protect your teeth and jaws from serious injury. A custom mouthguard made by your dentist offers more protection than an over-the-counter mouthguard.
Regular dental visits
Keeping up with your scheduled dental check-ups can lower your risk of oral health problems as your dentist may be able to spot and treat any issues early. Professional teeth cleaning, scaling and fluoride treatments by a hygienist also reduce plaque and help to defend against tooth decay.
Emergency dentist Gold Coast
If you need to make an emergency appointment with a Gold Coast dentist, or you want to find out more about replacing a missing tooth, contact our team at Robina Town Dental today.
Better Health Channel. Dental injuries – tooth loss [Online] 2019 [Accessed March 2021] Available from: https://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/ConditionsAndTreatments/Dental-injuries-tooth-loss
NHS inform. Broken or knocked-out tooth [Online] 2020 [Accessed March 2021] Available from: https://www.nhsinform.scot/illnesses-and-conditions/injuries/dental-injuries/broken-or-knocked-out-tooth