When missing one or more teeth, you are very aware of their importance to your appearance and health in general. Teeth are designed to work together to help you chew, speak and smile. The loss of a back tooth may cause your mouth to shift and your face to look older. Fortunately, missing teeth can be replaced with implants, crowns, bridges and partials.
Implants can replace a single tooth, several teeth, or support a full set of dentures. Implants are posts that are surgically placed in the upper or lower jaw, where they function as a sturdy anchor for replacement teeth.
Generally there are three phases of implant treatment. This takes from 4 to 6 months depending on healing time.
- Placement of the implant—The dentist surgically places the implant into the jawbone.
- The healing process—Bone grows around the implant and holds it in place making the implant strong.
- Replacing your missing tooth—A custom-made crown is made to fit your mouth and implant.
Advantages of implants:
- An implant is most similar to a natural tooth.
- Nearby teeth do not have to be involved in the placement procedure.
- Implants may last for many years, even decades.
- Some types of implants and artificial teeth or dentures can be placed in just one or two visits.
- Implants may help prevent shrinkage of the jawbone from tooth loss.
Disadvantages of implants:
- Implants are not right for everyone since they require surgery.
- Implant placement may take longer and may require more dental visits than other options.
- Implants may cost more than other treatments.
A bridge is used when one or more teeth have been lost. To repair and replace the gap with a tooth (pontic), first an impression is taken so that crowns can be made of the two teeth on both sides of the missing tooth. Then those teeth on either side of the gap are prepped for crowns. The two crowns support the pontic. A temporary bridge is made and placed until the permanent bridge is ready and cemented into place.
Advantages of bridges:
- look, feel and function like natural teeth.
- don’t require removal for cleaning.
- cost less that implants.
Disadvantages of bridges:
- likely to be more expensive than a removable partial denture.
- affect the teeth next to the missing tooth.
- may require extra effort to clean under the pontic.
Removable Partial Denture
A removable partial denture can easily be taken out of the mouth for cleaning. Partial dentures usually have replacement teeth fixed to a plastic base that matches the color of your gums. The plastic base may cover a metal framework. Partial dentures often have some form of clasp that attaches to your natural teeth.
Advantages of removable partial dentures:
- usually less expensive than fixed bridges or implants.
- usually easier to repair than fixed bridges.
Disadvantages of removable partial dentures:
- can be less stable than other choices.
- they can break or be lost.
- can be uncomfortable.
- some people are embarrassed to take out their teeth at night and for cleaning.
- may need more frequent replacement than other options.