What are your options for teeth replacement?
Our teeth help us perform countless tasks each day, from eating and speaking to expressing happiness through our smiles. As a result, your smile’s functionality and appearance are both important, as losing a tooth can make you self-conscious and can affect the way you eat or speak. Even worse, missing teeth can cause your other teeth to shift in your mouth over time, making chewing even harder and compromising your oral health.
Thankfully, dental practices and technology have improved in recent decades, providing a range of tooth replacement options that restore the function and appearance of your smile while keeping your teeth in their proper positions. We know that choosing a tooth replacement option can be confusing and overwhelming, so here are the details on your options.
Bridges are a popular replacement option that can be used if there’s one or two missing teeth. The bridges consist of two crowns attached to a prosthetic tooth, or pontic, which sits on top of the gums in place of your missing tooth. They’re often made out of porcelain or porcelain fused to metal, both of which can be matched to the color and gloss of your natural teeth. The procedure to receive a bridge takes about two visits to our office and causes almost no discomfort.
During your first visit, your dentist will prepare the healthy teeth on each side of the gap, shaving them down so they can be capped with a crown. This is one of the biggest downsides of bridges; they require dental work to be performed on otherwise healthy teeth. The crowns are necessary, however, in order to support the pontic. Once your teeth have been prepared, your dentist will take molds of the area; these will be used to make your permanent bridge. You’ll be given a temporary bridge until your permanent one arrives at our office, which will take a few weeks.
During your second visit, your dentist will remove your temporary bridge and replace it with your permanent one, checking your bite to ensure that it’s even and making adjustments as necessary. Since they’re supported by your natural teeth and fixed firmly in place, bridges look and feel natural. You should maintain a great oral hygiene routine, including carefully cleaning under the pontic daily, to protect the supporting teeth and make your bridge last as long as possible. With great care, it can last about 15 years.
If you have a lot of missing teeth (or you’ve lost all of them), dentures are a good solution. They consist of prosthetic teeth and a plastic base that is made to match your gums. Although there are persistent stereotypes about dentures looking fake, today’s dentures look completely natural; other people will have no idea you have them!
If you still have some remaining teeth, you’ll need to have them removed, and your gums will need to heal for eight to 12 weeks before you can receive your dentures. Your dentures are designed specifically for you, so you can work with your dentist to choose the color, shape, and size of your teeth. Dentures do take some adjustment, so you may notice that they feel strange, make eating a little awkward, or slightly affect your speech for the first few days; this will improve as you get used to them.
Dentures are relatively high maintenance, so they do come with some downsides. They’re easy to lose or break, as they’re surprisingly fragile, and they often need to be adjusted or replaced due to bone loss in your jaw, which dentures can accelerate. You should clean your dentures carefully every night and continue a dental hygiene routine that involves cleaning your gums to keep them healthy. When you’re not wearing your dentures, they should always be kept in water to help them maintain their shape. If they’re well cared for, dentures can last five to eight years before they need to be replaced.
Much like their name suggests, partial dentures are dentures that replace some teeth rather than all of them. Some partial dentures are secured to your mouth using metal clasps, while others use precision attachments on crowns or fixed bridgework next to the partial denture.
Partial dentures are highly customized for each individual to ensure that they fit your mouth perfectly and create a natural bite. Once you’re ready to make the final denture, the color of the prosthetic teeth and plastic gums are matched carefully to your natural teeth and gums, allowing your smile to look completely natural. The entire process takes several weeks and multiple visits to our office. It may take time for you to adjust to the way the partial dentures feel in your mouth, but any discomfort shouldn’t last long. If they become painful or are uncomfortable for more than a week, contact our office right away to schedule an adjustment.
Partial dentures carry many of the disadvantages of full dentures, as they’re fragile and can be broken or lost easily; you may end up needing to replace or repair them more often than other tooth replacement options. Follow your dentist’s instructions on how to clean your partial dentures closely, and be sure to carefully clean your natural teeth and remaining gums. Despite its downsides, partial and full dentures are both relatively inexpensive ways to replace many teeth at a time without sacrificing the appearance of your smile.
Implants consist of titanium rods that are implanted directly into your jaw in order to mimic a tooth’s root. These rods can then be capped with a single crown, a bridge, partial dentures, or full dentures. This makes implants a versatile tooth replacement option; they can be used to replace a single tooth or rebuild an entire smile. Even better, implants do something other tooth replacement options can’t: They prevent—and sometimes reverse—bone loss in your jaw. Your jawbone actually receives stimulation to grow from the roots of your teeth, so when you lose a tooth, your body starts to reabsorb the bone in that area; this can give your face a caved-in appearance over time. The titanium metal rods take the place of the root, stimulating the jawbone to grow and helping the replacement tooth feel natural and secure.
The trade-off is that implants are an expensive option that requires a series of involved procedures; the entire process can take anywhere from several months to a year due to the healing time you must take between each procedure. This includes tooth extractions or bone grafts if necessary, the rod implantation, abutment placement, and the placement of your crown, bridge, or dentures.
All of this healing means that implants aren’t for everyone. To get an implant, you must be in good health, and if you have an illness that slows healing or weakens your immune system, you may not be a good candidate for the procedure. If you’re a candidate for dental implants, however, the extensive process to get them is often worth it. They’re a great way to restore the function and appearance of your smile while protecting your jaw and face shape.
While it can be a little confusing to wade through all the missing teeth replacement options out there today, weighing both the short- and long-term benefits of each and having so many options is great. It ensures that everyone can find a treatment that fits their practical needs, like cost, without sacrificing their smile’s appearance. Once your treatment is complete, you’ll once again have a bright, natural-looking smile.