If you've had a tooth extracted or knocked out, you will need to decide whether or not to have the missing tooth replaced by a restorative dental device (such as a denture or a dental implant) or to simply leave the socket empty. Generally speaking, it is better to opt for the former. Read on to learn more about why you should consider replacing your missing tooth.
For cosmetic purposes
A full set of straight, clean teeth is generally considered to be a sign of good health and attractiveness. If the tooth that you have lost is visible when you speak or laugh (for example, if it's a central or lateral incisor), then its absence may have a negative impact on your smile. Over time, it may also affect your other facial features; it might, for instance, give your cheeks a sunken look.
Whilst some people do not mind the effect a missing tooth has on their appearance, others may feel slightly self-conscious about it. If this is the case for you, then it might be worth having the tooth replaced with an artificial one.
To prevent bone loss
If a missing tooth is not replaced, it may eventually result in partial deterioration of the jawbone. This is because a person's teeth are connected to the jawbone; the movements they make when a person chews food or talks helps to stimulate this bone and keep it intact. When a tooth is lost, the jawbone directly underneath it no longer receives this stimulation; as a result, your jaw can, over a period of several years, begin to deteriorate in a process known as resorption.
If you have lost a tooth recently and are concerned about the possibility of experiencing this issue, you should talk with your dentist about it during your next dental check up. They should be able to determine if this process has already begun. If it has, then they will probably recommend that you have a dental implant fitted. An implant is a narrow rod-like component which, when placed into an empty tooth socket, will eventually fuse with the jawbone underneath. This will help to prevent further bone loss. A connective device known as an abutment is then used to connect a dental crown to the implant. The crown serves as a replacement for the visible part of the missing tooth.
To correct bite and speech problems
A missing tooth can have a negative impact on your bite. Over the course of a few months, you may begin to notice that the teeth on either side of the empty socket begin to 'drift' towards this open space. This movement can affect the alignment of your bite. This misalignment may, in turn, negatively impact your ability to chew your food correctly.
Missing teeth can also affect your speech; depending on the location of the empty socket, you might find that you develop a slight lisp or that you accidentally make a faint whistling or hissing sound when pronouncing certain words. If you develop either (or both) of these problems, then it might be time to consider having a partial denture or an implant fitted, to correct any speech issues you're experiencing and to prevent further misalignment of your bite.