Tooth loss can be distressing especially if the area shows while smiling. Replacing a missing tooth or teeth can restore a smile and improve chewing ability, it can prevent the migration of nearby teeth and in some cases prevent jaw bone loss and the illusion of premature aging.
It is important to know about the options available to you for replacing missing teeth. Each option has its advantages and disadvantages and careful consideration of each option along with an informed conversation with your treating dentist will allow you to make the decision that is right for you. There are 3 main options available to replace teeth: removable dentures, fixed tooth-supported bridges and dental implants.
Dentures are a cost-effective way to replace missing teeth. A denture can be tooth supported in that it clips onto your teeth, or in the case of a full arch of missing teeth, a denture is completely tissue supported, in that it is retained via suction to the gums. Most tooth-supported dentures perform well when eating and can be made to look fairly aesthetic. Retention and stability of full dentures can sometimes be challenging and depends on the individual circumstances. The main drawback of dentures is the need to remove them for cleaning and while sleeping. Some denture wearers also have difficulty with the bulkiness of the denture.
A bridge involves the drilling the 2 teeth adjacent to a gap and the placement of a porcelain prosthesis, or bridge, onto these teeth with an artificial tooth attached between them. As such a bridge is created with the 2 teeth forming the foundations and the artificial tooth forming the pontic. Bridges can be made to be very aesthetic and are fixed, so they cannot be removed. In general most patients find bridges to be comfortable and report that they feel similar to a natural tooth. The main drawback of bridges is the destruction that occurs to the neighboring teeth. This can sometime lead to problems later on such as pulpal death in one of these teeth which will then necessitate a root canal on this tooth. It is because of this ‘biological’ cost of bridges that dental implants are often recommended over a bridge.
A dental implant involves the placement of a titanium screw into the jaw bone to which a porcelain crown can be attached to replace a missing tooth. Because the neighboring teeth are not touched in this procedure there is a low ‘biological’ cost. Most patients report great function with dental implants and in general good aesthetics can also be achieved. Dental implants tend to be the most expensive of tooth replacement options, however, due to their low biological cost and the fact they are a fixed replacement option, they tend to be the most recommended tooth replacement option.
Dr Michael Russo
BDent, Grad. Dip. Clin. Dent (Oral Implants)
Warning: Any surgical or invasive procedure carries risk. Before proceeding, you should seek a second opinion from an appropriately qualified health practitioner.