Missing teeth might seem like a problem of the past — something we only had to deal with when gaining our permanent teeth as children, or after taking a basketball ball to the mouth during a pickup game in college. 

However, missing teeth in adults are more common than most think. In fact, some studies estimate nearly 178 million Americans are missing at least one tooth! 

Living with missing teeth affects more than just how your smile looks — leaving gaps in your teeth can leave an impact on your oral and overall health, too. 

What are the common causes of missing teeth, and what can you do to restore your smile?

What causes missing teeth or gaps in teeth?

Gum disease

Also known as periodontal disease, gum disease is one of the most common diseases affecting adults today. In fact, nearly 50% of American adults over the age of 30 have some form of gum disease! It’s also the most common cause of tooth loss in adults. 

This very common but largely preventable condition occurs when bacteria on your teeth begin to form around and under your gums. When this bacteria hardens, it forms plaque and tartar, a hard and sticky buildup that is very difficult to remove from simple brushing and flossing. 

The build-up then causes decay, which prompts the gum tissue to loosen and recede. Down the road, this can lead to loose teeth that may fall out on their own or require extraction.  

Common signs of gum disease include: 

  • Red and swollen gums 
  • Gums that bleed easily
  • Chronic bad breath 
  • Gums that appear to be receding
  • Teeth that are sensitive to hot, cold, or sugary food and drink 
  • Teeth that feel loose 

If you are experiencing symptoms of gum disease, contact the team at Timberhill Dental right away. Although the effects of untreated gum disease become more serious over time, the disease is largely preventable, and in early stages, even reversible.


Tooth decay

We’ve all heard of cavities, right? A cavity is a hole that develops in the tooth following a build-up of sticky, hard to remove bacteria called plaque. If left untreated, over time plaque weakens the outer protective layer of the tooth, called the enamel, and burrows into the tooth’s softer, more sensitive layers. 

This can eventually lead to severe infection in the tooth, which may require extraction. 

Common signs of tooth decay include: 

  • Toothache or mild to moderate tooth pain 
  • Tooth sensitivity 
  • Pain when you chew or bite 
  • Brown, black, or white staining on a tooth 


Other conditions

Hypodontia, for example, is a developmental abnormality in which some permanent teeth never develop and grow (usually between 1-5 permanent teeth). This condition tends to run in families.

What happens if missing teeth are not replaced?

All of your teeth work together as a team to help you chew, speak, and even smile correctly. 

There are a few common consequences to not replacing missing teeth, or closing gaps in your teeth. 

  • Increased risk of developing tooth decay or gum disease — The open area left by a missing tooth can be an ideal place for bacteria to develop and place nearby teeth at a higher risk of developing tooth decay or gum disease. 
  • Bone loss — Many people are surprised to learn that missing one or more teeth can actually lead to bone loss in the jaw. The tooth and its roots actually stimulate bone growth in the jaw, and when the tooth is missing, the surrounding tissue no longer receives the growth-encouraging stimulant, eventually causing the bone to stop growing or shrink! 
  • Digestive issues — Our teeth help us break up food into easily digestible pieces. With one or more teeth missing, many people start to chew differently, and may not be able to break up their food as easily, causing stomach upset later. 
  • Shifting of surrounding teeth — When there’s a gap between teeth, the adjacent teeth will usually try to shift to close that gap, often leading to changes to your bite. This change can cause you to favor chewing on one side over the other and eventually lead to malocclusion, or misaligned bite. Side effects of a misaligned bite include pain or tension in the jaw, face, or neck. 
  • Loss of confidence — Whether we think so or not, the state of our smiles can have a big effect on our self esteem. Not only are they an easy way to connect to the people around us, they also help us express how we’re feeling. Studies have found that nearly 25% of people avoid smiling due to the condition of their mouth or teeth.

What is the best option for replacing missing teeth?

Thankfully, if you are missing teeth, you have multiple options available to you to restore your smile. However, the best treatment option is going to vary from person to person. That’s why it’s important to talk with Dr. Black or Dr. Hickson and the team at Timberhill Dental about your oral health goals and history before

Dental implants

When it comes to missing teeth, dental implants are a great, long-lasting option that look and feel just like natural teeth. 

A dental implant acts as a replacement for a tooth’s roots. We never see them, so it’s easy to forget about them, but the tooth’s roots are highly beneficial for a number of reasons, including: 

  • They anchor a tooth in place 
  • They provide strength and stability to the jaw bone 

The dental implant procedure consists of three main parts: 

  1. The dental implant is placed into your jaw (a dental implant is a screw-like piece usually made of titanium) 
  2. Once the implant has had time to heal, a connecting element called an abutment is placed on top of the implant 
  3. A custom crown is placed on top of the abutment, looking and feeling just like your natural teeth! 

Not only do dental implants allow you to speak and chew normally and eat all of your favorite foods — they actually help prevent bone loss in your jaw, allowing your smile to retain its natural shape for years to come! 

Are you considering getting a dental implant treatment in Corvallis, OR? Contact our team at Timberhill Dental today to learn more! 


Other options

A few other common treatments to replace or restore missing teeth include dentures and dental bridges

Full or partial dentures have been used for years to treat missing teeth. However, they come with a few downsides: 

  • They can slip out of place, making chewing or speaking difficult 
  • May require sticky adhesives to stay in place
  • Can be difficult to clean and require daily upkeep 
  • Do not help prevent bone loss in the jaw, possibly leading to a “sunken” appearance in the face

Dental bridges, on the other hand, are similar to implants in that that they help restore the natural function of the teeth. However, because they are a false tooth/teeth that are held in place by the adjacent teeth, they don’t help prevent bone loss in the jaw the way dental implants do.

Missing one or more teeth? Contact Timberhill Dental today

If you’re missing one or more teeth, don’t wait — contact our experienced and educated team at Timberhill Dental today! We’ll work with you to determine the best treatment option for you, and help restore the look and function of your smile.  

Request your appointment online or give our Corvallis office a call at (541) 754-0144.