If you are missing a tooth or must have a tooth removed, there are several options for replacing it. We generally recommend replacing a missing tooth for a few reasons. Firstly, you begin losing chewing power when you are missing teeth. All the teeth function together to tear and chew food. With one or several teeth missing, you have now lost a big surface area to chew with. The other teeth must work harder to begin to process the same amount of food.
Another reason to replace a missing tooth is that your other teeth can shift into the space once a tooth is missing, causing changes in your bite and increased risk of decay, fracture, or gum infections of the surrounding teeth. Over time, your face can also appear aged and sunken in areas where you are missing teeth, as your jaw bone in the area shrinks without the tooth there.
A third and obvious reason is esthetics. Having a tooth removed leaves a gap in your teeth which appears dark when you smile. This is especially true with front teeth, but if you have a wide smile, it may be noticeable on the back teeth as well. Many studies have shown that your smile is the first thing that is noticed when someone meets you. A nice smile makes a memorable first impression.
Options for replacing a tooth:
1. Removable partial denture
Just like the name sounds, this appliance is not fixed in place but has to be taken in and out to clean or to eat. A partial denture is a piece of plastic with a false tooth or teeth on it that attaches to other teeth by metal clasps. For a single missing tooth, a partial denture is not a good choice, as this is an older method that was used to replace multiple teeth before implants became an option. It can be cumbersome to wear and the metal clasps that hold it in place are often noticeable when you smile.
Dental bridges are still used today, but not as often as in the past. A bridge is a 3 or more-unit appliance that covers the teeth on either side of the missing tooth and has a “false tooth” in the middle. It is cemented in place and does not come in and out like a partial denture does.
The advantages are that it is sometimes slightly less expensive than an implant and can usually be completed in 2 visits. The disadvantages are that the teeth on either side of the missing tooth must be “cut down” to fit the bridge, putting them at risk of needing root canals in the future. Since it is three teeth (or more if you are missing several teeth) tied together, if something happens to one of the teeth, like a new cavity, you have to replace the entire bridge. Another disadvantage is that the life span of a bridge is generally 5-10 years, requiring multiple replacements over a lifetime.
Implants are the gold standard for replacing teeth. Benefits of an implant are that it only involves the tooth that is missing, and other teeth in the area don’t have to be touched. It functions most like a natural tooth, with a titanium “post” replacing the tooth roots and a porcelain, tooth-colored crown replacing the part of the tooth that you see. It looks and feels more natural and is brushed and flossed just like a regular tooth. Tooth implants also keep the bone from shrinking, since your bone locks in around the implant to hold it in place. In addition, implants are the longest lasting restoration we do, with a usual lifespan of 25+years.
Disadvantages are the time required to complete the implant process. There is generally several months of healing time in between having a tooth out, placing an implant, and receiving the final crown, all depending on how quickly you heal. Implants are more expensive than other treatments, but the cost over a lifetime is usually less since they aren’t replaced as often.
Contact Gentry Dental to Learn More
At Gentry Dental, we are glad to discuss all your options with you and see what suits you best. Dr. Gentry is well-trained in all three methods of replacing your missing tooth and enjoys helping you achieve the solution to your problem in a pain-free and comfortable environment.
Contact us via our website or by phone to set up a time to meet with Dr. Gentry and discuss your tooth replacement needs!