How Can I replace My Missing Teeth?
Despite our best efforts, sometimes we still face the consequences of tooth loss. Losing a tooth can change the way one smiles, chews, and can create long-term changes in health conditions. We discussed these in newsletter #5; Periodontal Disease.
“So now that I have missing teeth, what choices and options do I have for these spaces?”
Depending on the position and number of missing teeth, these spaces can be restored by multiple options. The goal of restoring missing teeth is to rehab the dentition back to its original condition. Having a full dentition provides the capacity to properly chew our food. We also need a full set of pearly white teeth for a beautiful smile.
Since teeth brace each other for support, spacing caused by missing teeth will change the balance of the bite. An unbalanced bite leads to shifting of existing teeth and collapses of the bite. These chain reactions will lead to further tooth loss and pain while chewing.
Restoring missing teeth has the following 3 requirements:
- Restoring the bracing support for remaining teeth
- Restoring balance to the biting force and chewing surfaces
- Restoring the esthetics of the smile
Options for restoring the space of missing teeth:
A titanium implant placed into the bone at root level and restored with a porcelain tooth on top. A dental implant should achieve (create) the bracing support for adjacent teeth. It also restores chewing function and is esthetically comparable to real teeth. Implant procedures are highly technique sensitive, and require advance training and experience in implant dentistry.
- Advantages of having a dental implant are normal looking teeth and long-term permanent restorations. Dental implants are closest to the replication of real teeth. This option does not involve other teeth. No special cleaning routine is required to maintain dental implants.
- Disadvantages of having dental implants are that they are limited to the availability of bone level and space at the implant restoration site. There is also a long restoration time period which could take up to 6-8 months to complete.
Dental bridges are multiple crowns connected together to fill missing spaces. Healthy teeth adjacent to the spaces are used as anchors to create the dental bridge. With improvements in dental restoration material, dental bridges can be very strong and esthetic.
- Advantages to the bridge option are a highly esthetic and long-term permanent restoration. It is a flexible cosmetic solution, ideal for a cosmetic zone with lack of bone quality for a dental implant. Bridge option has a very quick turnaround time (usually start to finish in 2 weeks).
- Disadvantages are that this requires a connection to healthy teeth. It is hard to floss under the bridge therefore dental bridges require special home care instructions and tools for properly maintaining.
Partial Denture option:
A partial denture is a removable option to restore some missing teeth. Removable partial dentures should only be used when we do not have enough bone structure to restore the space with a dental implant, or if we don’t have any back teeth to connect to a dental bridge. Good partial dentures will temporarily restore the balance of the bite, but it does not solve the esthetic and bracing support of the remaining teeth.
A partial denture transfers the biting force to its’ anchor teeth. This will cause these anchor teeth to become loose over time. Due to the movements of partial dentures under chewing forces, pain and discomfort are common. However, a partial denture serves as a perfect short-term solution until better options can be done for the spaces of missing teeth.
- Advantages of partial dentures are that they serve as the only option for those patients who cannot do dental implant or bridge option. Partial Dentures provide some balance and increase chewing capacity. This is an excellent tool for temporary restoration while waiting for bone healing to occur after teeth extractions.
- Disadvantages are that the partial denture can cause pain and discomfort, a poor esthetic look, and loosening of teeth after long-term use.
Due to the complexity of missing teeth restorations, a full comprehensive planning and consult with your dentist is recommended. To avoid missing teeth and to keep all your existing teeth is still the best and the cheapest option of all. Regularly visiting your dentist and preventive dentistry will help you keep your teeth for life.