Edentulism, otherwise known as complete tooth loss is an oral condition where the patient loses some of their teeth or all of their teeth. Missing teeth is a serious issue and is known to have detrimental impacts on overall health because it makes it hard for the patient to chew the food, which later hampers the process of digestion.
This condition is primarily found among people in the United States, among adults, and people who are 60 years or older. If we were to look at what the American College of Prosthodontics had to say about this condition, we know come to know that more than 36 million people struggle with this condition in America.
There are even some isolated cases of edentulism among younger children- especially among the ones who fail to maintain proper dental health or an oral hygiene regimen. Besides being the first step in the process of digestion, teeth also define and structure the facial appearance of a person.
Types of Edentulism
Edentulism can be further divided into two main categories that can affect a person- partial and complete.
This refers to a condition where individuals lose some of their natural teeth. the condition of partial tooth loss occurs comparatively more on the upper jaw than on the lower jaw.
People who struggle with complete edentulism happen to lose all of their natural teeth to the condition. This too can be further classified into four subcategories depending on the diagnostic findings, where Class 1 represents an uncomplicated clinical situation and Class IV signifies a complex clinical case.
Prevalence of Edentulism
In spite of witnessing a significant plunge in the past decade, edentulism is still pretty common. The Centre for Disease Control and Prevention observed that from 2011 to 2016, one out of 6 adults 60 years and older lost one or more teeth. Adults over the age of 65 are the ones who were mostly affected by tooth loss as compared to younger adults.
According to the surveillance report presented by the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention, it was found out that almost 17% of the older population struggles with edentulism. Among those younger than 65, the rate is 4 percent.
Tooth loss can be directly linked to the bacteria that enhance it by causing oral infections. However, there might be other factors responsible for this condition:
One of the primary causes of accidental tooth loss might occur when a person experiences a blunt force, perhaps during an injury caused in any possible situation. Such sudden force is sufficiently capable of causing dental dislodgement, and can even hurt the jaw bones sometimes. Dental trauma is one of the main reasons for tooth loss among children.
Dental decay or dental caries causes holes in your teeth. These holes when left unattended or untreated can lead you to cause irreversible dental damage, compelling your dental health expert to uproot them to save the other teeth from further damage.
Periodontitis, also known as gum disease, attacks the gums. This condition attacks the gums and the jaw bones hampering their natural function. Where long-term periodontitis goes untreated, it can lead up to edentulism.
Low educational level
People who don’t have access to basic education or don’t have any educational background often are not aware of the importance of maintaining a proper oral health regimen, which is important in preventing the loss of teeth.
Poor oral health
Not maintaining a proper dental care regimen is one of the major red flags and can cause tartar and plaque build-up or other oral health diseases, which might eventually lead to edentulism over time. It has also been scientifically proven that even coronary diseases can be directly linked to a bad oral health condition.
Frequent trips to the dentist’s chamber can be really expensive, especially if you are not covered under a dental insurance plan. People with a lower income often cannot afford to visit trips to the dentist as frequently as they need to, or often do not visit them on purpose to save some extra bucks. This can lead to dental disorders and eventual edentulism.
If your diet includes more sugary food items and beverages than clean fruits and vegetables, there are chances that you might have to struggle with gum disease, which might lead to loss of teeth when left untreated.
Osteoporosis is a condition that affects bone density, making them weak and leading to fractures. This condition affects the long and the short bones, including the one supporting your jaw structure. It leads your jaw bones to become less dense, resulting in eventual tooth loss.
These are some common factors that might heighten your chances of struggling with tooth loss. They are:
Your tooth enamel is likely to wear out with age. Besides that, the gums holding and supporting your teeth also begin to recede, making your teeth long more exposed and longer. You also happen to experience a reduction in the amount of saliva production in your mouth. All of these factors are like to increase your chances of suffering from edentulism at a later stage in your life.
The percentage of tooth loss among smokers is much higher than among non-smokers. Gum diseases can be directly linked to smoking, according to the CDC. If the disease goes untreated and is allowed to progress, it might also affect the jaw bones and their integrity to hold the teeth in place.
As weird as it might sound, women are more susceptible to tooth loss than men. It is because the hormonal changes that they undergo indirectly impact their oral health situations. During menopause, some of the hormones like estrogen decrease, leading to a loss of the jaw bone making women slightly more susceptible to osteoporosis.
Impact on Oral and General Health
Lack of adequate dentition or tooth loss can have detrimental and undesirable impacts on the general and overall health conditions of a person. It is known to impact the oral health of a person in the ways listed below:
As discussed earlier, a lack of the appropriate number of teeth can hamper the digestion process by making it difficult to chew or bite the food. This severely affects even your diet, because you are going to have to be picky and selective and choose the ones that are easy to break and gulp down.
Modifies the physiology of the mouth
Edentulism is also known to weaken the upper and lower jaw bones. It also leads to a condition that causes the breaking down of the jaw bone that remains after the teeth removal, also scientifically called residual ridge resorption. It leads to a reduction in the size of the jaw containing the sockets to hold the teeth in place.
Determinant of oral health
Saliva plays multiple functions inside the mouth, one of them being protective in nature. When the mouth starts to produce lesser amounts of saliva, the safety of the mouth and the body is compromised also possibly leading to tooth loss.
Other Issues with Tooth Loss
Just when you thought you knew all the problems that can follow tooth loss, we have some more for you:
- Reduction in the intake of healthy and clean foods such as fruits and vegetables.
- Increases the chances of pancreatic cancer and ulcers concerning the digestive system.
- It may lead to noninsulin-dependent diabetes.
- Causes sleep apnoea, a breathing disorder experienced during sleep, might also be fatal.
Furthermore, people with edentulism usually prefer eating fast foods that take much lesser effort to chew. These food items are known to contain high cholesterol levels, which can lead to obesity and coronary disease.
Preventing tooth loss might not always be possible. But there are obvious methods that can help you keep gum diseases and other oral health diseases at bay, which will delay the process of tooth loss before time:
- Brush your teeth at least twice a day.
- Floss your teeth at least once a day.
- Use dental sealants to prevent tooth decay.
- Avoid, and if possible, quit smoking as this leads to gum disease.
- Include calcium and vitamin D into your diet to form strong bones.
- Visit the dentist every six months
Dentists take to different pathways to treat edentulism, based on the severity of the tooth loss. With people with partial edentulism, dental health experts take to replace the lost teeth with new partial dentures. They also use implant-supported prosthetics or artificial tooth roots which are screwed down onto the jaw bones. This contains a single artificial tooth attached to them.
However, when it comes to people struggling with complete edentulism, dental health experts are likely to present the patient with two choices, dentures or a bridge.
These are a set of false teeth used to replace the old and the natural ones. You can either get it permanently attached or make them removable. In the case of complete edentulism, the dental health expert is most likely to use full dentures.
It is designed to be made with a metallic frame with artificial teeth attached to it. This dental health expert will fix the bridge to the mouth, where the original teeth used to previously exist.
Facial Support and Aesthetics
A set of teeth is multifunctional, one of which is to provide structural support to the face. The structural support provided by the teeth and jaw bones enhances the facial appearance of a person. The lips, for instance, are supported by the frontal teeth.
The cheeks of an edentulous patient appear sunken and affect the facial appearance of the patient. again, without the teeth present, the tongue muscles tend to broaden and fill the mouth, often hampering speech. The broadened tongue can also make it difficult for a person to use dentures. The good news is that you can get it corrected with aesthetic reconstruction. It requires the use of a facial scanner to visualize and predict the normal facial appearance of a person.