For some, eating is an activity that is taken for granted. With a full compliment of teeth in relatively good health, eating anything you want is routine. The downside is that occasionally the cheek is bitten, pizza burn can be experienced, and if some moderation is not utilized, weight gain can occur.

If you are not in this category of people, there is help for almost any condition. Pain in the teeth, missing or broken teeth, and removable tooth replacements that are not firmly attached and move around – all can contribute to eating being a challenge.

In my experience it is amazing the obstacles people put up because of the slow changes over time. Just like anything else, early detection and treatment allows for more options. “Later” usually takes longer and is more costly.

One example is extraction of a tooth without consideration for replacement. Except for wisdom teeth, extraction of a tooth has consequences. Shifting of adjacent teeth is one result. It’s like pulling a book out of a stacked bookcase.

In addition, the bone is there to support the tooth. When the tooth is removed, the bone dissolves away slowly over time in both a vertical and horizontal direction.

It is recommended to place an implant during extraction or soon after. If waiting a year or more, this might not be an option without additional bone grafting.

A lot of times a patient will experience the breakage of a tooth. It is in the back and does not hurt. Because decay happens so quickly, within even few months the only option may be extraction.

Refer to the paragraph above. If treated as it happens, a lot of times the tooth can be restored, avoiding tooth loss.

Many people have removable partial dentures. If they are loose, it means that something is getting tugged at the wrong way and can lead to additional tooth loss. Also, loose partial and full dentures make eating difficult. The solution might be better fitting partials, bridgework or implants.

If full dentures, implants significantly increase chewing efficiency.

If all the teeth are missing, the same process occurs with the bone slowly dissolving away. Again, implant placement as soon as possible definitely makes the results more predictable. So if any of the above (other than the health part) apply, you owe it to yourself to get checked out as soon as possible and enjoy eating again.

James G. Jenkins, D.M.D. is the owner of Bluffton Dental Care in Bluffton.