An Australian study has found that people with tooth loss do not suffer lower quality of life provided they still have a certain number and type of teeth left.
In dentistry terms, these patients are considered to have “shortened dental arches”, enabling them to maintain functional use of many teeth. The researchers say there is a cutting off point at which tooth loss interferes with quality of life, but patients only need dentures when they reach that cutting off point.
The study, based on data from more than 2,700 Australians, is to be published in a future issue of the journal Community Dentistry and Oral Epidemiology. It challenges the idea that if people experience tooth loss, they will need dentures, bridges, implants or other corrective processes to replace the missing teeth. Researchers found that it depends on the position of the teeth that have been lost, as well as the number. Most people have 28 adult teeth, plus four wisdom teeth, but it is possible to have significantly fewer teeth as long as they are in the right positions and in the right numbers.
These findings are significant both for patients and for dental health systems. It raises the question of how to allocate resources, especially if many people are currently receiving dentures or other corrective procedures when they may not need to do so. Resources could instead be allocated to the prevention of further tooth loss, diagnostic services and follow-up for the patient, said the researchers.