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Edentulism is a condition in which a person has complete tooth loss. Sometimes, if a person has only a few natural teeth remaining, it is referred to as partial edentulism. Total tooth loss is a preventable condition, however if it does occur, patients have a few treatment options available.
The total loss of teeth may occur gradually over years. One of the leading causes of tooth loss is periodontal disease, or gum disease. This typically occurs due to poor dental hygiene. Patients with this disease often do not brush and floss their teeth regularly, nor do they seek regular dental checkups. A patient who maintains consistently good oral hygiene is much less likely to suffer from partial or full tooth loss.
Another cause of tooth loss is physical trauma. A person may lose one or more teeth in a car crash or other accident. Tooth loss may also occur due to another condition, such as temporomandibular joint disorder, or TMJ, which is characterized by jaw pain. This disorder may result in tooth loss due to the physical stress it places on the teeth and surrounding bone structure.
There are a few risk factors that may predispose a person to developing edentulism. Besides poor dental care, patients may be at greater risk for this condition if they smoke, if they are older than 35, and if they are male. Diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, and high blood pressure may also predispose a person to edentulism.
Patients with edentulism have a few treatment options to consider. Full dentures are a possibility, however there are several disadvantages to this option. These false teeth may not stay in place as well as partial dentures. The pressure exerted by full dentures may also hasten the absorption of the underlying bone structure back into the body. This can make chewing more difficult.
Another treatment option is dental implants. With this treatment method, a metal implant is inserted into the jaw bone, past the gum line. The patient then needs to wait for further treatment to allow the gum to heal around the implant. Once healed and the bone can hold the implant in place, the dentist can affix a crown to the implant.
Implants can replace some or all of the missing teeth. They do tend to be expensive, so some patients may opt to have a few implants placed at strategic intervals around the mouth. Then, the dentist can adhere a fixed bridge to replace the rest of the teeth. A fixed bridge is a device in which a false tooth is anchored to either the surrounding natural teeth, or to the dental implants.
Patients should carefully consider their treatment options with a dentist. Edentulism can hinder a person not only physically, but also socially and psychologically. While preventing edentulism is the best medicine, artificial teeth can help boost patients’ self-esteem and confidence.