Tooth Loss and How It Affects Your Overall Health

Each adult should boast 32 permanent teeth, including four wisdom teeth.

What happen when you lose a tooth? It’s probably ok if it’s a wisdom tooth, but if you are losing one of the other 28, it can affect not only your oral health but also your overall medical health.

The most obvious effect of missing teeth is aesthetic. The way you look affects the way you feel. But it's not just about unsightly gaps, may lead to further tooth loss, bite problems, gum disease and tooth decay -- even bone deterioration and the potential collapse of facial structure if enough teeth are lost. It can make you appear years older than you are, cause nutritional and other health troubles

Teeth tend to work in pairs. If one of the pair is missing, you actually lose the function of two teeth, and you won’t be able to chew properly in that area.

Teeth can also supra-erupt (grow out of the jaw) without the pressure of an opposing tooth. This can cause gum problems, tooth-root exposure, decay, and bite problems.

Teeth also tends to move toward the front of the jaw, most commonly if the front most tooth is missing. The teeth behind the missing one will begin to tilt forward, trying to close the gap. This in turn tends to cause the other teeth to drift resulting in uneven smile, gaps or spaces between the teeth.

Gaps between teeth create areas where food particles are easily trapped .The bacteria that thrive there may lead to tooth decay and gum disease. This weakens the affected teeth and leading to further tooth loss.


As a results of missing and drifting of teeth, the teeth don't fit together properly when the jaws bite together. This leads to problems not only in teeth but also the gums, the temporo-mandibular joint or the muscles that move the jaw. These problems are called 'occlusal' problems.


When teeth dont fit properly, the unfavorable forces can lead to cracks and more breakage of the remaining teeth. It can also cause trauma to the supporting gum and bone resulting loose teeth and further tooth loss


Clicking, grinding or pain in the jaw joints, ringing or buzzing in the ears and difficulty in opening or closing the mouth could all be due teeth not meeting each other properly.


When the teeth and jaw are in the wrong position, the muscles that move the jaw have to work a lot harder and can get tired. This leads to muscle spasm. The main symptoms are continual headaches or migraine, especially first thing in the morning; pain behind the eyes; sinus pain and pains in the neck and shoulders. Sometimes even back muscles are involved.

This can also leads to poor posture.

Jaw bone

The jaw bone, needs stimulation from the presence of teeth to maintain its form and density. When a tooth is lost, the lack of stimulation causes loss of jaw bone. Gum tissue also gradually decreases. The more teeth lost, the more the jaw melt away. The distance from nose to chin decreases and with it, the lower third of the face partially collapses. The chin rotates forward and upward, and the cheeks, having lost tooth support, become hollow giving the ‘sad’ look in completely toothless people. Extreme loss of bone can also make an individual more prone to jaw fractures as its volume depletes more and more.

Article contributed by:

Dr Loh Ee Tyug

BDS (Singapore)