All too often in the practice we hear “it’s only a back tooth, nobody can see it”. We are hope to clarify the important role back teeth play, and the potential consequences of their loss.
The teeth’s most important role is in eating food, unsurprisingly. Broadly speaking the front teeth are design to BITE and RIP food. The back teeth are designed to CRUCH and CHEW food before swallowing. The teeth also act as a surface for the tongue to articulate against in speech.
A whopping 74% of all adults have had to have a tooth extracted. Our first molars are our first big chewing molar. They are statistically at high risk of loss. Perhaps because they are one of the first to erupt into the mouth and do a lot of the heavy lifting where chewing is concerned. They are also one of the most difficult tooth to Root Canal Treat.
Losing one back tooth renders it’s opposing tooth useless. So loss of one tooth is equal to the loss of 2 units of activity. As back teeth are lost the front teeth need to do more work. They are not designed for chewing and crunching and suffer chips and fractures as a result. The back teeth around the gap will also shift and migrate resulting in poor contact points between teeth. This can cause plaque and food trapping and eventual decay.
Your back teeth protect your front teeth by doing the job they are designed to do. Their loss means the front (visible) teeth will have to do extra work that they are not designed to do. So if you want to keep your front teeth looking healthy in your smile you should try to avoid the loss of your back teeth. In cases where their loss is unavoidable, all patients should consider the options to restore resulting gaps. We will explore that in another post.