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Ways to Replace a Missing Tooth

Despite your and your dentist’s best efforts, teeth are sometimes lost. The most common causes of tooth loss are extensive decay, advanced gum disease, and accidents.

Tooth loss decreases your chewing ability and means that your remaining teeth must take on functions for which they’re not designed in order to compensate for the missing ones. Your speech can also be affected.

In addition, tooth loss compromises your looks (even if “it’s only a back tooth”). Teeth move and drift into open spaces, creating gaps and increasing facial wrinkles. Bone defects occur in areas where there is no tooth and may be visible when you smile or talk. Most of these problems continue to worsen over time, making later replacement more difficult and possibly leading to increased expense.

So what options do you have to replace teeth that are lost? Let’s look at the choices available to you.

The choice that is most like your natural tooth is a dental implant. You’ve probably heard of hip and knee replacements. A dental implant is like a tooth replacement. This option is the only one that places something in your jaw bone to help preserve it. It is also the only option that leaves your remaining teeth intact.

Like hip and knee replacements, dental implants are a long term solution. The implant is metal, so it doesn’t decay. (You do still have to clean it to prevent gum disease around it.) You can have one dental implant with a crown to replace a single tooth or several implants to hold a larger appliance. One big advantage for those who have a problem with gagging is that implants may allow your appliance to have a shorter section on the roof of your mouth.

A second option is a bridge, sometimes called a fixed bridge or a fixed partial denture. This will restore your chewing function and your looks but does not prevent bone deterioration. The procedure involves grinding down your teeth that are on either side of the space (or missing tooth) to allow room to slide caps or crowns over them.

A fixed bridge is cemented to your teeth and is not removable. This cement can wash out over time and allow decay to form on your tooth. Fixed bridges are also harder to floss; gum disease often develops on teeth that are part of fixed bridges.

A removable appliance is a third option. You may hear these appliances called a partial denture, a partial, or a flipper. These appliances are economical if you have a large number of missing teeth and do restore some chewing function. Because they are removable, they can dislodge, fall down, or fall out during use. Stability of the appliance varies from person to person. Some people will experience few problems while others struggle.

Partials hook onto your natural teeth to help hold the appliance in place; these hooks are often visible. They also place additional stresses and pressures onto your teeth, again asking the remaining teeth to take on a heavier load than what they were designed to take. The hooks also tend to catch food and hold it against your teeth. If good home care is not maintained, cavities or tooth decay often result.

Removable partials can accelerate loss of bone in your jaw, particularly if the appliance does not fit correctly. Discomfort, sore spots on your gums, and odors are common complaints. You may also notice that you need to adapt to a new way of eating or that food tastes different. For upper ones, there is some coverage of the roof of your mouth, so if you gag easily, this may not work well for you.

So now that you have a general overview on the ways to replace a missing tooth and what can happen if you do not replace a tooth, you and your dentist should discuss what option will most benefit you.

If you have missing teeth and do not have a dentist but would like to discuss these options, please call 440-960-1940 or use the contact form at www.drjrobb.com to reserve a time with Dr. Robb. Questions can be directed to Dr. Robb via her website or on her facebook page at www.facebook.com/drjenniferrobb