There are several options available to you if you’ve lost one or more teeth. Millions of adults have lost one or more of their teeth due to oral diseases (such as cavities or gum disease) or injury. Missing teeth can make chewing difficult, cause problems speaking, and impact a person’s sense of self-esteem. That’s why seeing a dentist about tooth replacements, which may include dental implants, bridges, or dentures, can be an important part of maintaining your dental health.
1. Tooth Replacement: Dental Implants
Dental implants are artificial tooth roots that a dentist inserts into your jaw to replace lost teeth. Putting in dental implants involves the surgical placement of a metal post into the bone underneath your gums. A replacement tooth, called a crown, will be attached to the post, giving the appearance of a natural tooth. In cases where you are missing multiple teeth, or all of your teeth, dental implants can be used in conjunction with bridges or dentures to make these tooth replacements more secure.
Dental implants are often a preferred tooth replacement option because they do not affect the adjacent teeth like a bridge does. Dental implants also look and feel like natural teeth, and are more secure than removable dentures.
But not everyone is a candidate for dental implants. To receive dental implants, you must be in good overall health, your jawbone must be able to adequately hold the implants in place, and your gum tissue should be healthy and free of disease. So, in some cases, a bridge or dentures without dental implants may be a better choice.
2. Tooth Replacement: Dental Bridges
A dental bridge, which is also called a fixed partial denture, may be a tooth replacement option if you are missing one or more teeth. Dental bridges get their name because they “bridge” the gap between your missing tooth or teeth and your surrounding teeth. Your dentist will bond the bridge onto the teeth that surround your gap.
Dental bridges are made from various materials, including gold, alloys, and porcelain. They can help maintain the shape of your face and the integrity of your bite, and allow you to chew, speak, and smile with more ease and confidence.
3. Tooth Replacement: Dentures
For people who have lost all or most of their teeth, dentures, or false teeth, may be the best tooth replacement option. There are two types of dentures:
Complete dentures. This type of denture is used when you have no teeth remaining, or when your remaining teeth need to be removed. They cover your upper and lower gums. If you have teeth removed, your dentist will give you an immediate denture to wear for six to eight weeks, until your gums have healed and a conventional denture can be custom designed for you.
Overdentures. These are removable dentures that can be used if you still have some remaining natural teeth, or have dental implants. Overdentures should only be used if your remaining teeth or dental implants are able to provide adequate support.
Like dental bridges, dentures can help you maintain your facial shape and your self-esteem. It may take some time before you’re able to chew and speak normally again, but these skills will improve with practice.
If you are missing teeth, talk with your dentist about whether dental implants, bridges, or dentures may be options for you.