Edentulous

In humans, tooth loss is usually due to disease, accident, the process of aging, or dental decay.

Humans may lose their teeth for different reasons, most often as a result of poor dental hygiene. Other common causes may include periodontitis (gum disease), dental caries (tooth decay), and trauma to the mouth. Routine access to dental care is the key to preventing tooth loss: the rate of edentulism increases with the lower socioeconomic status, lower income, and lower education level. This is likely correlated to the inability of many impoverished people to afford dental insurance, which in turn does not allow those people to have regular dental visits or practice proper dental hygiene. Other risk factors for becoming edentulous include advancing age, smoking, poor health, chewing tobacco, and poor diet.

Becoming edentulous can pose several challenges, functionally and cosmetically. Teeth are central for pronunciation of speech. In the English language, the tongue and teeth to make contact to form sounds as “s” or “t.” People missing teeth may also have trouble pronouncing letters such as “f” or “v,” which require the lips to touch the teeth.

Tooth loss not only inhibits the ability to chew, but also perform the central role of maintaining the structural integrity of the face. The vertical dimension of occlusion or the height of the bite formed by the contact of upper and lower rows of teeth determines the shape and the length of the cheeks. When a patient becomes edentulous, the mouth can over-close, meaning there is no separating of the jaws, thus contributing to a sunken-in appearance of the cheeks. These changed features, in conjunction with the aesthetic challenges of displaying tooth loss when smiling, talking, or chewing, can also lead to emotional insecurities.

Treatment for edentulous patients may vary depending on how long the patient has been missing his teeth and whether the patient is partially or completely toothless. Traditionally, edentulous patients are fitted with dentures. Dentures, however, can exacerbate the weakening and flattening out of the alveolar ridge (the bone). In modern dentistry, the solution should be dental implants to restore missing teeth, as these restorations have the advantage of preventing further bone loss and emotional insecurities.
(see Implants)

Back to Glossary