The Importance of Back Teeth: Do They Make or Break Your Dentition?
During my career as a dentist, I have heard “it’s just a back tooth”, again and again. This has often resulted in a reduced investment in time and money when dealing with the back teeth. For example, back teeth receive inappropriate restorations when they should be crowned, or a tooth is extracted when it should have been root treated.
One look at social media in dentistry and you can see the amount of weight given to the “front six” and the rest of the mouth is entirely disproportionate.
This ultimately means that back teeth are lost when they could have been saved. So what, right? “They’re just back teeth”.
Jaw Force & Fractures
Here’s what! The human jaw is very powerful and can exert a great deal of force. How else could you crush ice cubes or chew toffee? Neither of which we condone! This means the jaw force needs to be managed and applied in such a way that teeth will not break. Fun fact, your teeth are harder than bone by some margin and yet the fracture of teeth is something I see daily!
Dentition & It’s Function
With a full dentition and teeth in a favourable position, this force can be dissipated, and teeth can last a lifetime. However, a little bit of wear and tear or crowded teeth can mean ongoing fractures or breakage. If you take away your big and bulky back teeth from their role in dissipating force, suddenly, the rest of your teeth must work harder.
If One Tooth Breaks, Others Will Too
Top and bottom teeth collisions are responsible for accelerated wear and fracture in the mouth. Will 'the front six' manage force? Will thin edges of these teeth take the full load of our daily lives? Or will they wear and tear and ultimately break?
The image labelled (1.1) is a back tooth which was continuously filled with composite material and eventually resulted in a crack running through the tooth. Fortunately, we were able to place an appropriate restoration (crown) which covers the biting surface and ultimately, binding the tooth together to save it.
In some cases, if the tooth is unable to be saved, this may mean an extraction. Many won’t opt to replace teeth once they are lost, this means the rest of your teeth will have to work a lot harder. Which tooth would be next, I wonder?
Let’s Be Proactive
It’s time to make the most of all of our teeth and do what we can as early as possible to protect them. At Integrated Dentalcare, our dental health checks look at whether cracks are present and how the teeth are interacting. We aim to take the proactive approach to prevent the loss of your teeth and tooth structures. It is difficult to predict when a crack may propagate nor how, and so if one has been spotted, why take the risk?
Remember the old adage “a stitch in time saves nine”
You will avoid costly dentistry and bigger problems later on by the proactive and joined-up-thinking approach that we have. Remember, your back teeth will protect your front teeth (vice versa), if they are well maintained and invested in. Every tooth has value.
Dr. Allan Matthews