The Real Price of Tooth Loss

June 18, 2019

To me, having teeth extracted just seems barbaric in this modern world of fast-paced science, and I guess you feel the same. I remember the first tooth I saw being taken out when I was training at dental school. Quite honestly, I was shocked. I didn’t realise that kind of thing really happened.

I was astonished at the numbers of teeth being taken out. Thousands. Hundreds of thousands.

We are still a really long way away from a world of perfect teeth for life.

I’ve been looking at statistics about tooth loss. In the UK, each adult on average has lost 6 teeth each. Unbelievable.

Listen to this, an enormous 6% of the population in England, Wales and Northern Ireland have no teeth whatsoever! This means that 2.7 million of all these adults are struggling with no teeth at all.  

(The 2009 Adult Dental Health Survey)

This is an epidemic.

Let’s take a big step back.

If you have a problem with a tooth, then there are two different solutions – if possible, get it fixed, or have the tooth taken out.

One of the first questions we get asked as dentists at this decisive moment is, “How much is it to fix the tooth or how much to take it out?”

However, there isn’t a simple price comparison. There are much more important issues at stake.

Life will NOT be simpler or cheaper after an extraction.

Trust me.

Do you know what is the real price of having missing teeth?

Think about it.

Probably not. Few people do.

Well, we are going to tell you.  

The Psychological Price of Tooth Loss

A friend of ours, Rob Keating, tells this story: “When I was 23, I broke one of my back teeth on a hard sweet when I was in Australia. I was there for a year and didn’t have dental health insurance, so I didn’t go to the dentist.  I just lived with a broken tooth for that year.

When I got back to the UK, I went straight to my dentist. I needed root treatment and he gave me a crown. It lasted 15 years.

All of a sudden, I got an infection. My face was all swollen and massive! It was an absolute nightmare. They tried to treat it with antibiotics, but it was so painful that I just had the tooth out.

My wife said just leave the space, no one could see it. I left it a while. But in a matter of weeks, I felt my other teeth shifting. Literally in a matter of weeks!  Where my teeth had been so tight together and I could barely get the floss down, all of a sudden there were big gaps and I had to use big brushes between my teeth instead of floss. And where the tooth had been taken out, the bone recession was enormous!

It was the first tooth that I had lost. All of a sudden, I felt like I’m getting old. I’m almost 40. I have this thing that has been taken away from me that will never grow back. Nothing like this has ever happened to me before in my life.”  Rob.

Let’s look at some statistics.

According to a study by the American Association of Cosmetic Dentistry (2004), 99.7% of people believe that a smile is an important social asset.

96% of adults believe that an attractive smile makes a person more appealing to the opposite sex.

If we have missing teeth, like it or not, we are judged.

Social Stigma

One man told us that he was getting depressed. He had a missing tooth at the front and felt that he was always being judged for it. If he went out drinking with his friends, he had to keep his mouth closed as he entered each pub, so the doormen didn’t see his front missing tooth, as he had been turned away because he appeared too rough. Yet he had lost his front tooth through a difficult accident.

Having missing teeth affects how we are perceived socially and so affects our confidence.  

Bereavement

A desperate lady wrote an email to our team just a few weeks ago. She simply said, “Please help. I’ve just had my front tooth out. I’m devastated. I won’t leave the house. I feel mortified. Please can you help me?”

If you have had experience of tooth loss, then you probably know this. When we lose a tooth, particularly a front tooth, there can be a feeling of emotional loss that is similar to losing something or someone precious in our lives forever. Losing a tooth is irreversible. Not only can there be acute embarrassment that brings with it a deep lack of confidence, also there can be a long period of mourning.

We all know that confidence is a fragile thing. Some of the most beautiful moments in life are when we openly smile, laugh and talk.

When we smile, people reciprocate and smile back at us.

Pulling Back

Imagine this.  If we are embarrassed of our smiles, ashamed of missing teeth or terrified that our dentures might fall out, then we close our lips, we cover our mouths, we hide our faces with our hands and we shut down. We stop laughing. We pull back socially.  We become introverted or appear so. 

Those around us may take this social ‘pulling back’ as a signal that we don’t want to communicate, or at worst, that we dislike them and are being hostile.

Let’s be honest together here, it is our missing teeth and loose dentures that are holding us back and putting us into social isolation.

Lack of Confidence

A few years ago, I was delighted to be invited to the wedding of my friends.  The couple were radiant and looked beautiful.

I stood behind the official photographer as he was taking an enormous bridal party photo.  As he went to capture the photo, he shouted, “Say cheese!” As I watched, imagine my surprise when I saw almost 50% of this big group smacking their lips tightly shut before smiling for the camera, whereas the other 50% dazzled their teeth for the photo. Now, as a dentist, I was intrigued. So, I spent the rest of the day chatting to as many people as I possibly could and analysing the different smiles of both groups.

What I found was really interesting.  The ones who closed their lips together for the photograph, all had aesthetic issues with their smiles. I could see dentures, missing teeth, discoloured fillings, ugly crowns or crooked teeth. Interestingly, even during simple conversation, many of this group put their hand over their mouths when chatting and smiling.

They were demonstrating what we call a low level of ‘Smiling Confidence.’

However, the ones from the other group, the ones who smiled broadly and confidently for the photo, typically had great teeth and showed a very high level of ‘Smiling Confidence.’

Next time you are at a wedding and there is a group photo, stand behind the photographer and see for yourself.

Try this easy questionnaire to assess your own level of ‘Smiling Confidence.’

THE SMILING CONFIDENCE TEST

When smiling, do you

(a) normally show off your teeth

(b) close your mouth

After a meal

(a) are you normally confident your teeth will be clean

(b) are you worried that you will have food stuck between your teeth

Look at several photographs of yourself, do you

(a) normally show your teeth when smiling

(b) do you rarely show your teeth

When laughing, do you

(a) normally laugh freely

(b) usually put your hand over your mouth

When talking with people close up, do you normally

(a) feel proud and confident of your smile

(b) normally feel self-conscious

 

Count up the number of questions that you answered as an (a):

0 = No Smiling Confidence at all

1 = Very poor Smiling Confidence

2 = Poor Smiling Confidence

3 = Mediocre Smiling Confidence

4 = Reasonably good Smiling Confidence.

5 = Total Smiling Confidence. Dazzle the world with your smile!

 

If we go through life pulling back from social interactions and reducing our smiling, then people may misinterpret this. They may think that we do not like them or that we have something to hide, and pull back from us. This is a Catch 22 situation here.

Consider this.

Having beautiful teeth may not actually make you happier in itself, however having beautiful teeth increases our ‘Smiling Confidence.’ And as we smile more openly and freely, then due to social reciprocation, people smile back at us. Then we smile even more at them.

You understand the point.  

We have listened to hundreds and hundreds of patients’ before and after stories of their Smile Transformation journeys. I am a cosmetic dentistry patient, myself, I have to say, yes, having a beautiful smile does make us happier and makes those around us happier too.

Do you want a more beautiful, confident smile?

If you would like to discuss replacing missing teeth with dental implants, learn more here or call 01904 639667 for a FREE consultation with our lead Implant Surgeon, Dr Adam Glassford.