We can lose our permanent teeth in a number of ways during our lifetimes: a fall on the pavement, tooth decay, disease, and more. Luckily, unlike many of our ancestors, we aren’t condemned to living with the discomfort or unattractive look of missing teeth. Depending on your situation, your dentist may suggest one of three typical solutions for missing teeth.
- Dental implant
Dental implants yield the strongest, most natural-looking tooth replacement solution. A dental implant is essentially like implanting a new tooth in the place of a missing tooth, and it is most often used in situations where only one or two teeth are missing and the surrounding teeth, and gums and bone are strong and healthy.
The process entails the dentist first surgically placing an implant into the jawbone. The bone then heals around and adheres to the implant, strengthening it – this is called osseointegration. Once that has taken place, the dentist can then fit the artificial tooth, referred to as a crown. This crown will be made to blend in with the surrounding teeth, just like it is a natural tooth.
A dental bridge “bridges” a gap in your mouth where a missing tooth or missing teeth once were. Some bridges may be temporary, like those used to allow patients to eat normally before the dental implant process is complete; others are more permanent and are often attached to the surrounding natural teeth to hold them in place, rather than the jawbone itself. If the teeth surrounding the gap are or will be in need of crowns or fillings, bridges are often the preferred method over implants.
Dentures are the most extreme of these three options. For patients with many missing teeth or teeth which are extremely damaged and cannot be repaired, only removed, dentures may be the best treatment option.
There are two different types of dentures, full dentures, which are a full set of artificial lower or upper teeth, or both, and overdentures, which are artificial teeth which fit over existing, remaining teeth, somewhat like a retainer. Dentures, unlike implants or bridges, are fully removable, and often require denture-specific care.
If you are missing a tooth or even several teeth, implants, dentures, and bridges are options to fill the gaps in your smile. A dentist can help you explore these options and determine which will work best for your situation and your mouth.