What are your choices for replacing missing teeth?
Loss of adult teeth may be due to several reasons. It may be an accident or trauma that has knocked out the tooth or damaged it beyond repair. Cavities and gum disease can also escalate to a point where teeth need to be removed. Genetics may also be a cause for missing teeth. Failure to replace a missing tooth may have significant consequences. Your appearance, diet, speech, bite, jaw joint, oral health as well as emotional health can be affected. Thankfully, if you have a missing tooth, there are various options to replace it and get your smile back.
- Dental implants
Dental implants are titanium fixtures that are surgically inserted under the gums in the jawbone. They serve as robust fixed anchors on which prosthetic teeth are mounted. The implant essentially replaces the root of the missing tooth and feels, looks, and works much like natural teeth. The time required to replace a missing tooth can be a few months; however, the main benefit of a dental implant is that you do not need to trim any of the adjacent teeth.
Factors to consider: Implants are not a choice for all. It’s a surgical procedure, and you need to be in good physical condition for recovery and healing. Secondly, only individuals who have good gums and a reasonable bone height are considered for implants. Thirdly, people should also be prepared to follow a daily oral care regimen and visit their dentist for regular checkups. Implants can cost more than other alternatives, but they are more cost-effective in the long run.
- Fixed bridges:
A fixed bridge effectively fills the gap created by a missing tooth with an artificial or dental prosthetic tooth. To support this artificial tooth, the adjacent natural teeth are fitted with crowns that anchor the artificial tooth in place. The bridge is fixed so you don’t have to remove it all the time, which gives it more functionality than the removable options. It is typically made of metal, porcelain fused to metal or zirconia. Bridges take less time to complete than dental implants.
Factors to consider: Bridges involve trimming of adjacent natural teeth. A badly designed bridge could also slowly damage adjacent teeth over time. Bridges are a little more difficult to maintain, which may also lead to recurrent tooth decay.
- Removable dentures:
This dental product consists of artificial teeth attached to a metal or plastic base that matches the color of your gums. They can be ‘partial’, where only one or a few teeth are replaced, or ‘full’, where all the teeth missing in the jaw are replaced. Your natural teeth or jaw bone may hold the dentures in place, or metal clasps may be needed to help it stay in the mouth.
Factors to consider: As the name implies, removable dentures can only be worn during the day and must be removed from the mouth for cleaning, and at night for gums to rest. Dentures can be less stable in the mouth compared to other alternatives. Some people may feel uncomfortable with removable dentures, at least before they are adjusted to wearing them.
If you lose a single tooth or a few teeth, talk to your dentist about how you can replace them. It may depend on several aspects that include your concerns, finances, and treatment objectives. In-depth discussions with your dental team will help you decide which treatment option is most appropriate for you.
Dr. Paresh Lotlekar is a leading dental practitioner specialising in Periodontology & Oral implantology and the founder of STUDIO32 (studio32india.com), a chain of super speciality dental clinics in Goa.