Loss of Teeth as a Disability

Loss of Teeth as a Disability

Loss of teeth may sometimes be taken for granted and only seen as a common condition that one goes through in life. Many believe that loosing teeth only significantly affects one’s physical appearance and is not considered as a true health concern.  This erroneous notion may change once a person gets a direct or first-hand experience on the difficulties of losing teeth.  The obvious changes in the physical appearance of a person bring about not only psychological but also physiologic changes that may not initially be evident, but eventually will affect a person’s quality of life and entire well-being.  Losing a set of teeth, perhaps for some may not be as debilitating as losing a limb or as difficult as the total loss of the sense of sight.  But it should be clearly understood and must rightfully be accepted that such a condition is also a true form of physical disability.
The total loss of teeth, whether partial or total, may lead to certain challenges to one’s physical and mental health.  Some of the common consequences may include:

1.       Malnutrition
Studies revealed that loss of teeth has a significant impact on a person’s nutrition due primarily to functional impairment with regards to mastication or chewing.  The mouth is the initial stage of digestion and therefore if the bolus of food is not masticated/chewed properly and thoroughly then digestion is not considered optimum. Impaired chewing ability also presents significant effects on a person’s choice of food, as well as its enjoyment. This plays an important part in the quantity and quality of a person’s nutrient intake.  The difficulty and frustration that come with not being able to eat what one wants ultimately will have an impact on that person’s quality of life.

2.       Speech difficulties
Speech is clearly a very important form of communication and expression.  Aside from chewing, teeth play a very important role in being able to produce the proper sounds that come out of one’s mouth during speaking.  Production of certain sounds requires the proper contact of the tongue with some tooth surfaces.  The teeth also dictate the proper distance between the upper and lower jaws which is also crucial in the proper enunciation and pronunciation of words.  The loss of teeth certainly will have a significant impact on the person’s ability and confidence in being able to communicate with others and also in being able to express one’s self through speech.

3.       Poor Self-Esteem
Loss of teeth has been proven to cause some emotional effects on people. Studies reveal that there are significant numbers of patients that have not fully come to terms with their tooth loss.  This clearly indicates that losing teeth significantly impacts one’s self-esteem and confidence.  As previously stated, not being able to eat and chew properly and not being able to speak suitably, affects a person emotionally and psychologically.  Frustration sets in when a person starts to experience the difficulties that come with losing teeth, and only then will they truly realize the value of what was lost.  But even before they experience such challenges, it is the immediate changes in the physical appearance that will initially affect the person’s psyche.  The teeth provide the proper support and shapes of the lips and cheeks.  They also maintain the proper height of the lower third of the face.  And naturally, teeth provide the appearance of a proper smile.  Losing all these surely will cause a negative change in the original physical appearance of a person, thus causing an impact on self-confidence. 

Although the elderly are the most commonly affected by this, there are people who already lose their entire set of teeth even in their early twenties.  No matter what age range or social class they belong to, we all have to note that the quality of their lives have surely changed because of this condition.  And like any other form of disability, such a condition needs the proper care and attention they truly deserve. 


Dr. Charlie N. Atienza
RY2014 President, Rotary Club of Pasig West
District 3800

Assistant Professor
Prosthodontics Section
University of the Philippines Manila

College of Dentistry