Often times people are unaware of the importance of their teeth until they lose one. Missing one or more teeth has functional and aesthetic consequences to smiling, eating and speaking. Fortunately, in most cases there are multiple options to replace missing teeth:
- Dental Implant
- Bridge (Fixed partial denture)
- Removable Partial Denture
Dental implants are titanium posts that are surgically placed in the bone where a tooth is missing. Following a period of healing (4-6 months), a crown is placed on the implant to restore the missing tooth. Advantages of dental implants are that nearby teeth do not have to be involved in the restoration process; dental implants help prevent jaw bone shrinkage where the tooth is missing; and dental implants are most like natural teeth.
A dental bridge is prosthesis that bridges the space where the tooth or teeth are missing. Another way to think of a dental bridge is multiple crowns fused together. The dental bridge is fabricated by preparing the tooth in front and behind the space where the tooth is missing. Next an impression is taken of the prepared teeth and space and this sent to a lab for fabrication of the bridge. The bridge is permanently bonded or cemented onto the prepared teeth. Advantages of a dental bridge are they do not require surgery; they do not require removal for cleaning; and the restoration process is less extensive than that of an implant.
A removable partial denture is a dental prosthesis that consists of teeth attached to a gum colored plastic base. Often times the plastic base has a metal framework that rests on nearby teeth to help retain the prosthesis. Removable partial dentures require daily removal for cleaning and tissue health. Getting used to removable partial dentures often takes a period of time. Advantages of removable partial dentures are the cost - often the least expensive option.
Replacing missing teeth is an important decision that has many consequences on everyday function. It's important to explore all options when replacing missing teeth and then determine what fits your individual needs. Your dentist will be able to help you through the decision process and further answer any questions.