Replacing missing teeth promptly – even those in the back of the mouth—has many benefits, because one missing tooth can affect many teeth and cause numerous problems.
When I tell patients that they need to have a back tooth replaced, they will often say, “Well, it’s a back tooth. You can’t see it. So why do I really need to have it replaced?” The answer is that each tooth in your mouth has a specific function.
The back broad molar teeth are used to grind your food. The molar teeth are designed to work with an opposing molar—the tooth in the other arch that makes contact with that tooth when you bite. So if you’re missing either an upper or a lower molar, there is no corresponding opposing tooth in the other arch. The result is that you cannot, therefore, grind your food.
Another problem is that when you are missing a tooth, the opposing tooth in the other dental arch, over time, will super-erupt into that space which may prevent you from having a dental implant because there may not be enough space to place the restoration on the implant. This problem can be corrected, but the point is that replacing a missing tooth promptly is the best course of action.
Also, if you lose a molar tooth, bone loss will tend to occur in that area, with the potential of the adjacent teeth shifting into that space where the molar used to be. This situation can lead to additional tooth and bone loss over time. Also, as you lose your back teeth, there is more pressure applied to the front teeth. Your front teeth are not designed to take these forces and the result could be tooth fracture or loss of bone around the front teeth. When teeth are subjected to too much force they also tend to shift, which alters the bite and makes it more difficult to clean around these teeth. As a result, the patient could experience problems with tooth decay and gum disease.
The bottom line is that it is not just a simple matter of losing one tooth, because when you lose one tooth, there is a cascading effect on the other teeth.
Dr. Leonard Spector