What Are My Options for Replacing Missing Teeth?
Missing teeth are not only embarrassing and a blow to your self-confidence; it can actually have a negative effect on your oral health. Dental disease can actually negatively impact your whole body. If the gums become infected, infection can actually get in your blood stream and cause heart problems. The good news is there are many options for replacing missing teeth.
Why Not Extract?
There are many reasons dentists do whatever and whenever possible to save your natural teeth. Obviously, missing teeth can be replaced by a variety of means, but it can be costly, much costlier than a root canal or filling would be. When a tooth is lost, replacement is necessary to avoid collateral damage. Once the tooth is removed, the jawbone underneath begins to deteriorate. Once this begins, the other teeth adjacent to the lost tooth will begin to move, to almost topple into the open space. Eventually, this will begin to compromise your bite and can cause other problems.
The fixed bridge is a long-standing treatment to replace a missing tooth or teeth. This treatment requires that teeth on either side of the missing tooth be stable and healthy enough to support the bridge. The dentist will remove the enamel on the adjacent teeth in order to permanently fix the replacement tooth to the supporting teeth.
There is a chance of the nerves of the supporting teeth will be injured relational to the reduction required to attach the fixed bridge. Barring any issues, the fixed bridge should last between 10 and 12 years before needing to be replaced.
Another treatment that has also been in use for many years is the removable bridge and is a good fit for replacing multiple teeth. The removable bridge has the artificial teeth attached, as well as wires that hold it in place by wrapping around the adjacent teeth. The downside is it noticeable and takes you awhile to get used to having it in your mouth.
Another type of bridge is sometimes called a “Maryland Bridge.” This is similar to the fixed bridge in that it attaches to the adjacent teeth, but does not require them to be altered. However, this is less secure than the fixed bridge and does not last as long.
Another option, for those whose teeth are weak, broken, or rotted, is to have the remaining teeth removed completely and get a full, removable denture. This can be done for just the top or bottom, or for both. The dentures to replace the teeth are made to closely resemble the patient’s natural teeth. The major drawback to dentures is that the gums on which the dentures rest will be very sore until they properly toughen up, but eventually the gum will adjust.
The best option for replacing lost teeth available today is dental implants. Unlike other options, implants protect the jaw bone from atrophy, which prevents the surrounding teeth from moving. Titanium, the metal used for dental implants, actually bonds with the bone where it is implanted, and becomes one with the natural bone, making the implanted tooth as strong as, or better than, the original tooth. The titanium screw is functionally the “root” and the crown, although man-made, looks just like the natural tooth.
Although the process seems invasive, it is a fairly easy procedure with very little discomfort, both during and after the procedure. A local anesthetic is administered similar to having a tooth removed and the titanium screw is placed into the underlying jawbone. Unlike having a tooth pulled, which leaves an open wound, having the dental implant base inserted means there is no open wound.
After the initial placement, the implant must fuse with the underlying bone, a process that takes at least two months but can take as much as four. Once the implant is fully integrated with the bone, the crown can be attached. This procedure will not only look like a natural tooth, it will actually be stronger than the tooth it replaces. Nearly 100 percent of implants are a success and an implant can possibly last the rest of your life. They are far more successful than any other tooth replacement option.
Implants can and successfully replace one or multiple teeth, even up to a full upper or lower arch (100 percent of top or bottom teeth). Once implants have integrated with the underlying bone, they require no more care than other teeth. Some health conditions, like diabetes and osteoporosis, can negatively affect healing or cause the bone to fail to bond to the implant well enough to support the action of chewing. As with natural teeth, regular brushing and flossing are needed to ensure proper gum health. Any periodontal disease will affect implants as well.
If you think you might be a good candidate for implants, make an appointment with your regular dentist to get started today.