Background, Failure to replace a missing posterior tooth is assumed to resu
lt in a host of adverse consequences; which include shifting of teeth and l
oss pf alveolar bane support.
Methods, A retrospective longitudinal study (median follow-up period 6.9 ye
ars), using the radiographs of 111 patients who had an untreated bounded ed
entulous space, or BES, was conducted to determine the extent to which thes
e adverse outcomes occurred.
Results, The majority of patients lost 1 millimeter or less of the distance
between teeth adjacent to the space, extrusion of the opposing tooth was l
ess than or equal to 1 mm in 99 percent of the cases, and the amount of alv
eolar bone loss next to the adjacent teeth was less than or equal to 1 mm i
n 83 percent of the cases.
Conclusions. Within the follow-up time in this study, this group of patient
s did not exhibit the expected adverse consequences with either the frequen
cy or severity generally assumed to be associated with nonreplacement of a
single posterior tooth.
Clinical Implications. These findings suggest that for the large majority o
f patients who experience a single-tooth posterior BES, immediate treatment
may not be critical to the maintenance of arch stability. Instead, regular
follow-up assessments to monitor change in stability and periodontal healt
h may be warranted.