There can be many reasons for missing permanent teeth in children and adults including genetics and extraction. Missing teeth can cause problems if they are not replaced properly. For one, having a full complement of teeth allows the forces that occur from chewing to be evenly distributed. When you are missing teeth, the remaining teeth experience a greater force per tooth and this can weaken how strong your teeth are within your jawbone. Without replacing the missing teeth, adjacent teeth can drift into the space and the supporting bone where the tooth was will shrink.
The most commonly missing permanent teeth are wisdom teeth, occurring in about 20% of the population. This does not make you less wise! It may actually be beneficial in that it is less teeth to worry about extracting.
The next most common missing tooth is called a second premolar. It is located right in front of your molar teeth. And often times there is a baby tooth in that space that does not fall out. That baby tooth can serve as the second premolar’s replacement. How long the baby tooth will last as its replacement is unknown. If the baby tooth does fall out, the space can be replaced with a dental implant or bridge.
A dental implant is a metal screw that is anchored into the jawbone with a dental crown placed on top of it. A bridge is made up of two crowns with a “dummy” tooth connected in between them. The crowns fit over the teeth adjacent to the missing tooth and the “dummy” tooth hangs in between to replace the missing tooth.
The third most common missing teeth are the upper lateral incisors. They are located on either side of your two front teeth. As you can imagine, it is not fun to be missing teeth in the front of your mouth. An orthodontist can help you create adequate space for a future replacement of that missing tooth or sometimes even close the space by moving the next tooth into the lateral site and reshaping it to mimic the missing tooth.
Frequently, missing teeth require coordination of treatment with one or more of the following: an orthodontist, dentist, oral surgeon, and periodontist. Replacing your missing teeth will aid in the health of your current teeth, create a pleasing smile and help your ability to chew your food properly. The sooner you take care of your missing teeth, the less complicated and costly the replacement will be.