Choosing the Best Replacement for Missing Teeth: A Practical Guide
What is the best option for replacing missing teeth?
While lots of things can cause tooth loss, having a gap in your smile can cause problems later on. Tooth loss can make it hard to eat certain foods, cause speech problems and even affect the alignment of other teeth. Missing teeth can also change the way your smile looks. If you are one of the many New Zealand adults with missing teeth, there are ways to restore your smile.
What causes tooth loss?
Tooth loss doesn’t have to happen naturally as we age. If you adopt good oral health habits, there’s a good chance you’ll have all your natural teeth, even in old age.
Gum disease is a major cause of tooth loss in New Zealand. Periodontitis, the more severe form of gum disease, causes bone and soft tissue loss in the jaw. If not treated it can lead to tooth loss.
A poor diet can also impact your teeth. Eating a diet rich in sugar can cause cavities. If a tooth is too decayed for a filling, sometimes the only option is tooth extraction.
Is it bad to have missing teeth?
While you can live with missing teeth, it’s not good for your oral health. The hole left behind by a missing tooth is the perfect breeding ground for bacteria. Tooth loss increases the risk of gum disease and other oral health problems.
Another reason a gap in your smile is ‘bad’ is because your teeth can begin to shift around. Our teeth do a great job of keeping each another in place. When a tooth falls out, the surrounding teeth can start to shift into the empty space. Even if you had straight teeth before, you may end up with wider gaps between your teeth or a crooked smile after tooth loss.
A missing tooth can also affect the bone density in your jaw. Once a tooth falls out or is removed, some of the bone beneath the missing tooth is reabsorbed back into the body. This weakens the overall structure of the jaw and can weaken the surrounding teeth.
Missing teeth can also affect your facial structure. Extensive tooth loss can cause your cheeks to sink inwards, weaken your facial muscles and cause the lips to thin.
What are my options for replacing a missing tooth?
There are a few options for replacing a missing tooth. The best way to know what’s best for you is to talk to your dentist. Cost, the quality of your existing teeth and your own personal preferences are all factors that may influence your decision. Some options for replacing your tooth include:
Dental implants can be a good option for a missing tooth or multiple missing teeth. Not only do they look natural, they also help prevent bone loss and will restore the functionality of your smile. Dental implants are strong, last for years, and can be placed anywhere in the mouth. If you take care of your dental implant, they can even last a lifetime.
A dental implant is made up of two parts, the implant and the crown. A metal screw is implanted into the jawbone and once healed a false tooth (the crown) is placed on top. Dental implants require surgery and several weeks of recovery before the crown is attached.
Pros of dental implants
- Permanent option for tooth loss
- Strong and natural looking option
- Will last a lifetime if cared for
Cons of dental implants
- They can be expensive
- Long healing time post-surgery
- Not everyone is a good candidate for dental implants
Implant supported bridge
If you are missing multiple teeth in a row, an implant supported bridge is a more affordable option than multiple implants. An implant-supported bridge consists of several artificial teeth anchored by dental implants on either side.
Implant supported bridges aren’t a permanent fix for tooth loss. Although the implants may last a lifetime, the bridge will need to be replaced at some point. You’ll also need to be more careful about brushing and flossing under the bridge as bridges can increase your risk of gum disease.
Pros of an implant supported bridge
- Great option for multiple missing teeth
- More economical than multiple implants
- They look natural and feel comfortable
Cons of an implant supported bridge
- Not a permanent option
- Placement of your bridge requires multiple appointments
- Can only be used under some circumstances
- Food and bacteria can get lodged under the bridge
With a tooth supported bridge your natural teeth act as the support posts for the bridge. For this to be an option you’ll need to have healthy teeth on either side of your missing tooth or teeth. During treatment, your natural teeth are shaped and fitted with a crown. The bridge is then cemented to the crowns on either side.
Tooth-supported bridges look natural and don’t take long to fit. Like an implant bridge, a tooth supported bridge increases the risk of food or debris getting trapped underneath the device. You’ll need to be careful about cleaning under the bridge.
Pros of a tooth supported bridge
- No downtime or healing time
- Crowns can be fitted in one visit
- Natural, realistic looking option
Cons of a tooth supported bridge
- Natural teeth need to be shaved down
- Adjoining teeth can be damaged if the bridge is poorly fitted
- Food and bacteria can get lodged under the bridge
Removable partial dentures are a less invasive way to fill the gap in your smile. Removable partial dentures can replace several missing teeth. Artificial teeth are attached to a metal or gum-coloured base and kept in place with a metal framework.
Partial dentures are very affordable. It’s worth noting that while the teeth look natural, the metal clasp of the dentures may be visible.
Pros of partial dentures
- If you lose further teeth, extra artificial teeth can be added
- Affordable option
- Easy to replace or repair
- A simple option with no downtime or lengthy procedures
Cons of a partial dentures
- Can sometimes be uncomfortable if not fitted correctly
- Must be removed and cleaned daily
- Must be removed before sleeping
- Less natural as the metal clasps are visible
If you have a gap in your smile, these options can keep your teeth and mouth healthy and prevent further tooth loss. Come and see us at Gentle Dental to talk about options for repairing your smile.