When you have a missing front tooth, you can become self-conscience about smiling and laughing. A missing tooth in the back part of your mouth can affect your ability to thoroughly chew your food. When several teeth are missing, all of these issues are exacerbated. Fortunately, there are many options for replacing missing teeth.
Traditional Methods for Tooth Replacement
Tooth-supported Fixed Bridge
A tooth-supported fixed bridge was the primary method for replacing a missing tooth for many years. With a tooth-supported bridge, the teeth on either side of the gap are filed down to fit a crown over them. A bridge is two crowns joined by an artificial tooth, all fused together into one piece. The crowns on the two ends of the bridge are cemented onto the two neighboring teeth, filling in the missing tooth with the artificial tooth on the bridge. Bridges are permanent and can last for many years.
A resin-bonded bridge, also called a Maryland or Rochette bridge, is an option for patients who are missing one tooth in the front area of the mouth. The artificial replacement tooth has extensions on both sides that are attached to the adjacent teeth. Because this attachment is more fragile than traditional bridges, a resin-bonded bridge can become loose more easily than other tooth-replacement methods.
Temporary Partial Denture
A temporary partial denture, also called a flipper, works a lot like a retainer but with one or more teeth attached to it. The partial denture easily flips on or off, but stays in place without any adhesive. Although you can eat with it, dentists don’t recommended it because the material is somewhat fragile and can easily break. Flippers are primarily meant as a cosmetic solution for patients who are waiting for their gums to heal from an extraction or another procedure before they’re able to replace the missing tooth with something more permanent. Also, because most flippers cover the palate, they can affect speech when you first start wearing them, but your mouth will adjust over time.
Traditional partial dentures are made with denture teeth embedded in gum-colored acrylic and held in place with metal clasps that hook around the remaining natural teeth in the arch for support. A metal seat is placed on the natural teeth so that the partial denture doesn’t receive too much pressure up against the gum when biting or chewing. This type of partial denture can replace one or more teeth. Metal supports that run along the palate or behind the front teeth can connect the left and right sides, giving the patient one partial denture per arch. When another tooth fails or is extracted, a new tooth can be added to the partial denture. The downside of this type of denture is that the metal clasps can detract from a patient’s smile, depending on whether they are visible.
Soft, flexible partial dentures that have clear, less noticeable clasps are now also available. This type of partial denture lacks a metal seat so it can cause irritation to the gum, and it’s more difficult to add more teeth to them. There are also hybrid partial dentures with metal clasps and metal seats on the back teeth and clear clasps toward the front.
The denture teeth on a partial denture are much more durable than the teeth in a flipper, so patients with partial dentures can eat most foods without worrying about breaking their appliance.
Complete dentures are a full arch of denture teeth for the upper arch, lower arch, or both. All teeth in the arch are removed from the patient. The dentures are held in place with adhesive and prone to slipping and coming loose unexpectedly. Because the natural teeth are no longer embedded in the jawbone, patients with complete dentures can experience significant bone loss over time. This can affect the fit of the denture, so they must be periodically adjusted to accommodate the changing bone density.
Implant-Based Methods for Tooth Replacement
A dental implant is a permanent solution for tooth loss that replaces one or more teeth. A dental implant has an artificial metal tooth root that is embedded into the bone, so it’s fully supported by the jawbone and prevents bone loss just like natural teeth. A replacement tooth is attached to the metal root that is matched to the color of your other teeth. Patients with dental implants can eat the same foods as they can with natural teeth, and care for them the same way as their other teeth.
Implant-supported Fixed Bridge
An implant supported fixed bridge functions the same as a traditional fixed bridge, only the teeth on the ends that anchor the bridge are supported by dental implants instead of natural teeth. An implant-supported bridge lasts much longer than a traditional bridge and is a great solution for patients wanting a permanent solution for three or more missing teeth in one area but aren’t ready for a full denture arch.
Implant-supported Removable Dentures
Implant-supported removable dentures are similar to complete dentures, only they snap in and out of anchors that are supported by dental implants. The patient can remove the dentures for routine cleaning but no longer has to worry about them slipping or moving because they stay in place. The implants help prevent bone loss, and the anchors provide pressure points that keep the denture from irritating the gum.
Implant-supported Fixed Dentures
Implant-supported fixed dentures are permanently put into place with dental implants and only removable by a dentist. Fixed dentures are less bulky than removable dentures, so patients may forget they’re even wearing them at all. This type of denture needs more support, so patients who have been using regular dentures for long enough to experience significant bone loss may need bone grafting to rebuild their bone density before embedding the dental implants.
Get Your Smile Back with Periodontal Associates of Memphis
If you’re finding yourself reluctant to smile or hiding your teeth behind your hand because you have a missing tooth or teeth, Dr. Mitchel S. Godat and Dr. Grant King of Periodontal Associates of Memphis are here to help. The professionals at Periodontal Associates of Memphis can go over the best options for tooth replacement based on your lifestyle, preferences, and budget to get you back to smiling with confidence again. If you’re ready to find out if a bridge, implant, or denture would be the right solution for your tooth replacement, contact Periodontal Associates of Memphis to schedule an appointment today!