It is unfortunately quite common for people to have missing teeth, many times nothing is done and people live quite happily with the gap, in this blog post we will look at some of the reasons why you may want to replace missing teeth and if you so choose, what are your best options?
We’ve written in a previous blog post that when you have a missing tooth the opposing teeth can begin to drift and the adjacent teeth can begin to tip, this is probably the biggest reason to replace missing teeth, in order to protect your surrounding teeth and bite.
Options to replace missing teeth.
You basically have three options to replace your missing teeth.
- Dental bridges
- Dental implants
let’s look at each of these in turn.
A dental bridge essentially uses the teeth either side of the gap as a support to replace the missing tooth in the middle. One of the biggest disadvantages is that there is often a requirement to remove healthy tooth structure on either side of the gap in order to accept this new support. The support is called an abutment in technical terms and often takes the form of a new crown.
The tooth which is replaced (called a Pontic in technical terms) is then attached to the abutments either side. You will generally find that to replace a single missing tooth that both teeth, on either side of the gap, are involved in this bridging process. This means that there will be a three tooth bridge required in order to replace a single missing tooth.
The biggest disadvantage in this process is that possibly healthy teeth on either side of the gap may need to have healthy tooth tissue removed.
Modern dentures can be highly asthetic so that no one would know that you are wearing them, the gum and acrylic teeth can be made to look highly lifelike and natural, mimicking a natural smile almost exactly. One of the biggest disadvantages of dentures is the fact that they are removable. Many people dislike the idea of removing their teeth at night.
Small dentures can be made to replace a couple of missing teeth, in this case a clasp will be used around the teeth either side to hold the denture in place. These clasps can we made in one of three different materials:
- Gold. A more expensive option but an excellent material to use in the oral environment as it is inert and has good pliability.
- Stainless steel. A cheaper alternative and with the similar properties to Gold
- Acetyl resin. These are tooth coloured clasps, they often very expensive to make as the manufacturing process is relatively long and complex, they do however provide an extremely aesthetic option to retained dentures.
A dental implant is often your dentist’s preferred option. When a dental implant is placed it will support the surrounding bone, this prevents the bone collapsing into the gap where the tooth was removed (remember to read our previous blog post on the subject). This means that bone is retained rather than lost after the extraction. It then but also means that the adjacent teeth do not have to be touched in order to take the abutment, as is common with dental bridges.
This means that dental implants can often be the best biological, functional and aesthetic way to replace missing teeth.
One disadvantage with dental implants is the immediate cost, there is the cost of providing the implant itself (this is a precision made dental appliance made to tolerances of thousandths of a millimetre), a dental implant surgeon to place the implant itself and then the final dental crown which is fitted on top of the dental implant.
However, an extremely important point to bear in mind is that the dental implant will typically last longer than any of the other restorations. As your teeth and gums change shape you will be required to have a new denture overtime, with a dental bridge, the gum underneath the pontic (the new tooth) can change shape as it is not supported, as this happensgaps appear underneath this pontic meaning it needs to be replaced.
Because dental bridges need three teeth to replace one single missing tooth, this can also be more expensive than you might imagine.
For this reason dental implants are often considered the best option for you.
How do I know which option is best for me?
This is a great question…
If you want to have the simplest replacement of a missing tooth with the minimum number of appointments then a denture may be the best option. You do however have to consider the disadvantag that it is removable and will need replacing overtime.
Next on this list would be a dental bridge. You will need a couple of appointments at the dentist but once the bridge is fitted you can forget about it, apart from cleaning regularly of course, although again you do need to remember that it may need replacing a few years down the line.
Dentures would be the minimum cost way to replace missing teeth, apart from doing nothing at all. When it comes to dental implants and dental bridges it can often be a very close call. In the short term a dental bridge may be slightly cheaper but in the long-term, taking into account that a bridge may need to be replaced sooner than a dental implant, an implant can be the longest serving option.
It’s also worth thinking about what your budget could be when you first go to the dentist. Remember, many dental practices offer payment plans, often at 0% so you will not always be expected to pay the full amount upfront. Please ensure you discuss this with your dentist if you think a payment plan could work for you.
Trinity Dental Centre around local dental practice in Barnstaple, North Devon offering the local people dental health advice and treatments to help replace missing teeth as well as stay dentally fit and healthy for life.