How to Replace Missing Teeth

Missing tooth (3)A missing tooth is not just a cosmetic problem.  It impacts the way you chew and speak.  It creates negative effects on the teeth around it.  We could spend all day talking about why you need to replace missing teeth.  However, that isn’t the subject of this blog.  This blog focuses on how you can replace missing teeth.

Three Types of Tooth Replacement Options

In general, we can break the current tooth replacement options into three categories.  There are multiple variations within each category that help us meet a diverse range of goals.  In this blog, we will just describe the general categories to help you understand the basic options.

Partials

PartialsWe use the term “partial” as a shortened form of the dental treatment called a Removable Partial Denture.  The word removable is self-explanatory.  The word partial means that it replaces some but not all of the teeth.  The word denture means prosthetic, or fake, teeth.  Sometimes, people use the layman’s term “plate” to describe a partial.

A partial uses clasps that wrap around the remaining teeth in order to stay in the mouth.  For stability, a partial must clasp onto multiple teeth and cover both sides of the mouth, even if it only replaces teeth on one side.

Pros

  • Least expensive tooth replacement option
  • A single partial can replace multiple missing teeth
  • Can be made in 4-6 weeks

Cons

  • Least cosmetic option
  • Least comfortable option
  • Does not completely restore chewing force
  • May lead to eventual loss of other teeth
  • Must remove every night

Bridges

BridgeA bridge is the term we use to describe a Fixed Partial Denture.  The word fixed means you cannot remove it.  Bridges are the tooth replacement options that attach to neighboring teeth with permanent dental cement.  The method of attachment for a bridge is the same as that of a dental crown.  We prepare each neighboring tooth by removing the outer layer and creating space for the porcelain covering that will connect to the fake tooth in between.

For the sake of stability and long-term success, we limit the size of a bridge to 1-2 replacement teeth.  Anything larger greatly reduces the long-term survival rate of both the bridge and its underlying teeth.

Pros

  • Fastest way to replace missing teeth (two to three weeks)
  • Permanently affixed in the mouth
  • Better chewing force than partials

Cons

  • Causes significant damage to neighboring support teeth
  • If a single support tooth “fails” (by getting a cavity or significant gum disease), the entire bridge fails.
  • High cost (typically equals the cost of 3-4 crowns)
  • Connection to adjacent teeth may give unaesthetic appearance
  • Requires additional tools and techniques for oral hygiene

Implants

Implant crownA dental implant is as close as we can get to a natural tooth.  This is because dental implants are the only tooth replacement option that replace the root of the tooth instead of just the visible portion.  Dental implants anchor into the jawbone and protrude out of the gums, just like a real tooth.

In order to be a good candidate for replacing teeth with dental implants, you must have healthy jawbone and no uncontrolled health problems that could complicate your healing.

Pros

  • The most natural and cosmetic appearance
  • The best chewing function
  • No damage to other teeth
  • Maintains health of the jawbone
  • Easiest to clean

Cons

  • Requires surgery
  • High cost
  • Slowest – Requires several months of healing before you can chew on your replacement tooth

Which Tooth Replacement Option is Right for You?

Does this help you narrow down your options? Did it spark new questions?  Call to schedule a consultation with Dr. Jill and Dr. Cara today.  They can answer any question you have about all of these tooth replacement options and help you decide which is the best fit for you.

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