Replacing Missing Teeth
Your teeth affect your whole body. When they’re healthy, you’re healthier too. A missing tooth can affect your bite, speech and eating choices. As you rely more on your remaining teeth, you increase the chance they will wear out prematurely, be damaged or lost. You may also experience headaches and/or jaw pain.
Premature tooth loss may lead to atrophy of your jawbone. That’s the natural consequence of missing teeth – the jaw literally melts away. Generally, people may lose 50% or more of the bone in the first 6 months after tooth loss. Dental implants are more easily placed when teeth are first extracted because bone replacement therapy may be performed at the time of extraction.
Implants act just like your natural teeth. They safeguard and preserve your bone structure, oral health and appearance. Your dentist and the implant surgeon will provide you with options so that you can make the most informed decision concerning tooth replacement.
Tooth Replacement Options
You can select from a number of different options to replace your missing teeth – from temporary to long-lasting solutions.
A good candidate is anyone missing one or more teeth, or who is unhappy with their dentures. Age is not a factor. However, smoking, diseases such as diabetes, and radiation therapy to the area, have been shown to lower the success rate of implant placement. X-rays of your jaw will be taken to evaluate whether they will accommodate implants. Detailed x-rays or CT scans may also be required to determine if other tests or procedures are needed to place implants properly.
A fixed bridge is a connected set of replacement teeth. For support, it is cemented into position on top of the teeth adjacent to the empty space. The protective outer layer of these teeth is usually removed or ground down prior to attaching the bridge.
A fragile, temporary and inexpensive solution is a removable plastic tooth with a plastic retainer, often called a “flipper”.
A less fragile option is a removable partial denture cast in metal and plastic. It is held in place by wire clips. A removable partial denture can be removed and reinserted when required by the patient.
The most common solution, for people missing all teeth in one or both jaws are complete dentures. Some people adapt well to dentures. Others find them uncomfortable, even intolerable, because of differences in jaw size and shape.
Dental implants are the most comfortable and permanent solution. They form a strong foundation for teeth and keep the jaw healthy and strong. Implants support individual replacement teeth or secure specialized dentures in place. Unlike bridges, no healthy teeth are damaged. Unlike most bridges, implants can last a lifetime. Implant-supported replacement teeth can be attractive, stable, and comfortable for almost any patient.
Why select dental implants over more traditional types of restorations?
There are several reasons: A dental bridge can sacrifice healty, sound structure of surrounding good teeth to bridge the space of the missing tooth/teeth, which often leads to further treatement (i.e. root canal treatment). It also requires adjacent teeth to support additional weight, which may result in a fracture. Performing proper oral hygiene is harder under a bridge, which leaves the supporting teeth at greater risk for future decay. Furthermore, dental implants maintain the jawbone even after the tooth is lost, something that neither a fixed bridge or a removable appliance are capable of doing. Finally, removing a denture or a “partial” at night may be inconvenient, not to mention dentures that slip can be uncomfortable and rather embarrassing.