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Missing teeth
Dr Mariam Chung Reviewed by Dr Mariam Chung, Dentist

A gap in your teeth might affect neighbouring teeth and even your health. Find out reasons for tooth loss and potential solutions.

Missing teeth can change the look of your smile if you lose teeth that are visible when you smile or speak. They also have the potential to affect your dental health and wellbeing. 

According to oral health surveys, Australians aged 15 and over have an average of 4.5 missing teeth due to tooth decay and gum disease. You are more likely to have missing teeth as you get older, with more than a third of Australians over 75 having complete tooth loss.1

There can be health-related incentives for addressing missing teeth. We will walk you through possible causes and solutions but search for a local dentist if you already know you want to speak with someone about your options.

Reasons for missing teeth

Permanent teeth can last a lifetime, however it is possible to damage or lose them. Oral health surveys indicate that the most common reasons for tooth loss in Australia are decay and trauma.2

Advanced tooth decay, gum disease and oral infections can damage teeth beyond repair. The tooth might fall out on its own, or your dentist might recommend pulling out the tooth. Trauma is another common reason for tooth loss: teeth can get knocked out or damaged beyond repair if you experience a hard impact.

For some people, certain permanent teeth may not grow in at all, potentially creating a gap if they lose the baby tooth.

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Do you always need to replace missing teeth?

You might not always need to replace a missing tooth, but this depends on which tooth you’re missing and other oral health circumstances. Sometimes the decision simply comes down to your preferences and priorities. 

But there are important factors to weigh, since missing teeth might impact your health or cause other dental problems.

  • Missing teeth may affect your chewing ability, nutrition and your quality of life.3, 4 Depending on which type of tooth you’re missing and where the gap is, it might be more difficult to chew food or speak. And your ability to speak and eat certain foods can be big factors in your quality of life.

  • Many of your teeth rely on one another for support and might shift if there’s a gap. If one is missing, the teeth on both sides of a gap might start to shift and go crooked. Misaligned teeth can be harder to clean and be at higher risk of decay or trauma.

  • Teeth are important for supporting your face and jaw. Tooth loss can affect your bone volume, and some research indicates a change in bone volume within one year of having a tooth pulled.5 

Options for replacing missing teeth

If you want to fill a gap, a dentist should be able to explain your options after examining your mouth. Their Dental Care Network listing will also tell you which services they offer. 

These treatments use artificial teeth that a dentist will match to the shade of your other teeth or other natural shades. They might even recommend combining certain treatments or refer you to a dental specialist like a prosthodontist.

A dental professional can explain the pros and cons of each treatment and what they cost so you can make an informed decision.

Dentures

Dentures can replace several teeth in a row (partial dentures) or all the teeth in your upper or lower jaw (full dentures). Dentures are removable and need to be cleaned every day. 

Dentures tend to be a cheaper option for missing teeth, however, not all denture types will be a solution for potential missing teeth problems like bone loss. Learn more about different types of dentures.

Dental bridge

A dental bridge can replace one or more teeth in a row to fill a gap in the teeth. Bridges are normally made from porcelain, porcelain fused to metal (PFM) or metal. The bridge is supported by the healthy teeth on both sides of the gap. These may need to be covered with custom crowns.

Dental implant*

Dental implants are titanium posts surgically implanted in the jaw through a series of surgeries. Once bonded with your jaw, an implant can support a bridge or denture.

Implants can be expensive, but they support the jaw and can feel more like real teeth than other options.

How to lower your risk of losing teeth

It’s not always possible to avoid missing teeth, but there are a few things you can do to lower your risk:

Questions about tooth loss or missing teeth solutions? 

A general dentist or a dental specialist will be able to answer your questions. Find a dental clinic near you.

 

*Any surgical or invasive procedure carries risks. Before proceeding, you should seek a second opinion from an appropriately qualified health practitioner.

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1 Slade GD, Spencer AJ, Roberts-Thomson KF (Editors) 2007. Australia’s dental generations: the National Survey of Adult Oral Health 2004–06. Dental statistics and research series no. 34. AIHW cat. no. DEN 165. Canberra: AIHW.

2 Harford JE, Islam S. Adult oral health and dental visiting in Australia: results from the National Dental Telephone Interview Survey 2010. Dental Statistics and Research Series. Canberra: Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. 2013.

3 Brennan DS, Roberts-Thomson KF, Spencer AJ. Tooth loss, chewing ability and quality of life. Quality of Life Research. 2008; vol. 17(2): 227-235.

4 Allen PF, Bronkhorst EM, Creugers NH, Gerritsen AE, Witter DJ. Tooth loss and oral health-related quality of life: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Health and Quality of Life Outcomes. 2010.

5 Karring T, Kostopoulos L, Schropp L, Wenzel A. Bone healing and soft tissue contour changes following single-tooth extraction: a clinical and radiographic 12-month prospective study. Int J Periodontics Restorative Dent. 2003; vol. 23(4): 313-323.

The purpose of this article is to promote better understanding of dental health topics. It’s not meant to replace professional advice or diagnosis. Always talk to a dentist, doctor or other qualified healthcare professional if you have a question about dental or medical conditions.

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