Tooth Replacement Options
If you're missing one or more teeth, you may be all too aware of their importance to your looks and overall health. Your teeth are designed to work together to help you chew, speak, and smile. When teeth are missing, it is difficult to do these things. Even the loss of a back tooth may cause your mouth to shift and your face to look older. Fortunately, missing teeth can be replaced.
Replacement teeth should last for years at a time, so it is important to choose a treatment that's right for you. Depending on your needs, the following are three options your dentist may suggest:
1. Dental Implants
2. Dental Crowns
3. Dental Bridges
4. Removable Partial and Full Dentures
Of all the ways modern dentistry has to replace missing teeth, dental implants are by far the best. There is no tooth-replacement option that will give you a longer-lasting result. Implants also help preserve tooth-supporting bone that naturally deteriorates when a tooth is lost. Loss of bone is one of the major hidden consequences of losing teeth.
A dental implant most often takes the form of a small, screw-shaped titanium post that replaces the root-part of a missing tooth. The surgical procedure used to place an implant is actually quite minor and routine, requiring only local anesthesia in most cases. After a healing period, the implant is topped with a lifelike crown custom-made to match your existing natural teeth. Implants have a documented success rate of over 95%, which is significantly higher than any other tooth-replacement option.
What is a Bridge?
A bridge is a replacement tooth or teeth that fill the space where one or more teeth are missing. The bridge restores your bite and helps keep the natural shape of your face.
Before you get a bridge, your dentist wants you to know more about the steps involved. He or she can advise which type of bridge is best for you.
Why Do I Need a Bridge?
A missing tooth is a serious matter. Teeth are made to work together. When you lose a tooth, the nearby teeth may tilt or drift into the empty space. The teeth in the opposite jaw may also shift up or down toward the space. This can affect your bite and place more stress on your teeth and jaw joints, possibly causing pain.
Teeth that have tipped or drifted are also harder to clean. This puts them at a higher risk for tooth decay and gum disease.
Dentistry is an art as well as a science; dental crowns offer a perfect example of this. A dental crown or “cap” is a covering that fits over a damaged, decayed or unattractive tooth. It can even replace a tooth entirely as part of dental bridgework.
A crown completely covers a tooth above the gum line. This is in contrast to a dental veneer, which only covers a tooth's front surface and needs natural tooth structure to support it. Therefore, if a tooth is missing a significant amount of structure above the gum line, a crown would be the restoration of choice.
Crowns strengthen damaged teeth, allowing them to function normally again. When crafted from today's high-tech porcelains (dental ceramics), crowns are virtually indistinguishable from natural teeth. They can even be designed to improve upon a tooth's original appearance.
If you have lost some or all of your natural teeth, dentures can replace the teeth that are missing and improve your quality of life. With a little practice, dentures can make eating and speaking easier. You can smile freely without feeling embarrassed.
Dentures can be made to look like your natural teeth. There may be only a small change in how you look. Full dentures may even give you a better smile. Dentures also support your cheeks and lips so the face muscles do not sag and make you look older.
Full or partial tooth loss, if left untreated, doesn't just affect a person's self-image — it can also increase the risk of developing nutritional problems and other systemic health disorders. Fortunately, there's a reliable and time-tested method for treating this condition: full or partial dentures.
Complete dentures have replacement teeth fitted into an acrylic base. The base is made to closely match the color of your gums. If you still have some natural teeth, they will be removed before your dentures are placed.
Bridge: A tooth replacement option that fills the space where one or more teeth are missing by permanently connecting a replacement tooth or teeth into place.
Crown: A "cap" that is either placed over attachment teeth as part of a fixed bridge or placed over an implant itself to serve as a new tooth replacement.
Partial Denture: A tooth replacement option in which the replacement teeth are fixed to an acrylic base that matches the color of your gums. It has clasps that attach to your natural teeth to hold the denture in place and is removed daily to be cleaned.
Implant: A tooth replacement option in which a metal post is surgically placed in the upper or lower jaw bone and acts as a support for a replacement tooth or teeth.