Most people react with more alarm when a front rather than back tooth is lost. That’s understandable since the front tooth will be far more visible – it’s also generally easier to get along when a back tooth is missing. This leads many people to assume that filling the gap left by a missing back tooth isn’t necessary.
Here are just a few important reasons why it is.
Few understand the relationship between the teeth and the jawbone. When a tooth is present, the jawbone is preserved through the pressure transmitted down through the teeth when you chew. When a tooth is lost, that pressure isn’t present. As time goes by the underlying jaw bone starts to get reabsorbed into the body. This is why people who have lost their teeth take on a slightly pinched look around the mouth. Bone loss is serious – it can affect speaking and chewing. Once the bone is gone, it’s gone for good. The best solution is to have a dental implant fitted. The implant will create the same pressure, so bone loss won’t be an issue.
Plenty of people assume their teeth stay in the same position as soon as they come through, but this is not the case – if it were, orthodontic equipment would have no impact on adults. The point is that teeth do continue to move as you age. If you lose a tooth at the back, the teeth surrounding it can start to move into the gap. Even a small degree of movement can throw off your bite and cause crookedness, so it’s best to have that space filled.
It’s perfectly possible to chew food when one of your back teeth is missing, but it isn’t as effective. The larger, flatter surfaces of the back teeth are designed to grind down food as much as possible, and this doesn’t just help you swallow. What happens in the mouth is the first step of the digestion process, so poor chewing can lead to indigestion. Even worse, you can place excess pressure on the surrounding teeth, which can lead to further issues in the future.