Replacing Lost Teeth with Bridges, Dentures and Implants
Regular dental care and proper oral hygiene go a long way toward helping you retain your teeth. However, tooth loss is still surprisingly common among teens and adults. A recent study conducted by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control found that only 34% of adults between the ages of 40 and 64 still had their full set of permanent teeth, which means that the majority of people will need some type of tooth replacement in their lifetime.
Extensive decay and gum disease remain the leading causes of tooth loss. However, you may also need to have a tooth extracted if it sustains damage from an injury or health condition that affects the nerve or root.
While no one wants to lose a tooth, extractions are sometimes your best option to eliminate pain and preserve the health of the other teeth in your mouth.
Once a tooth is lost, the resulting gap can lead to further problems in your mouth such as other teeth shifting out of place or difficulty chewing your food properly. You may also feel a sense of embarrassment about the changes in your appearance if your missing tooth is visible when you smile.
Tooth replacements are designed to eliminate all these problems by filling in the gap with a restoration that fits naturally in with the rest of your appearance.
In our office, we offer several different types of tooth replacement options from which you can choose to enhance your smile.
How Dental Bridges Work
A dental bridge is used to replace one or more missing teeth with the support of the adjacent teeth. Typically, two crowns are placed on the adjacent teeth with the false tooth resting in between. However, we can also use implants to secure a bridge if the adjacent teeth are not capable of supporting the restoration.
During your visit to the office, you may hear us refer to the false tooth as a pontic, and we can have one made from a variety of different materials such as gold or porcelain to suit your preferences and needs. The teeth that sit beside the pontic are called abutments, and they will be prepared to hold the crowns that keep the bridge secure.
Bridge placements typically require several office visits. During the first one, the shape of the abutment teeth is altered so that a crown can fit over the top without creating too much bulk in your mouth. Once the teeth are prepared, we then take impressions of this portion of your mouth for the dental laboratory to use to make the bridge.
Before you leave our office, we will create a temporary bridge for you to wear until your permanent one is complete. This serves the purpose of instantly improving the aesthetics of your smile while also protecting your prepared teeth from damage before your next appointment.
When you return for your second visit, we will remove the temporary bridge and check to make sure that the permanent one fits. Depending upon the fit, we may use temporary cement to hold it in place until we are certain that it is the ideal size and shape for your mouth. Once we are sure, we can then permanently cement the bridge in place.
Types of Dentures
Dentures are removable tooth replacements that come in full and partial forms. With a complete denture, you can replace all your missing teeth on the top, bottom or both jawlines. Partial dentures are used when you have several teeth that need replacement but still have natural teeth remaining.
There are two main types of complete dentures, and these are defined by how long you wait to have them placed. With conventional dentures, we allow time for your gums to heal after the tooth extraction before we make the replacements. Typically, it takes about eight to twelve weeks for the soft tissues of your mouth to heal enough for the placement of conventional dentures. While this does take longer, it allows us to give you a more precise fit.
Immediate dentures are sometimes preferable for people with high aesthetic needs because they can be placed as soon as we extract your natural teeth. Being able to leave the office with a full set of teeth in place allows you to continue with your normal activities right away.
However, it is common for jawbones and gums to shrink over time, and you may need to have immediate dentures adjusted to accommodate these changes. For this reason, we often use immediate dentures as a temporary solution to help you feel comfortable until you are ready for your conventional set.
Partial dentures work much like a bridge to replace teeth that have other teeth still in place along their sides. These types of dentures can be permanently placed, or clasps can be used to hold them in position so that they can still be removed.
You may prefer a removable partial denture for hygiene reasons or if you anticipate changes in the structure of your mouth in the near future. Removable partial dentures are often the ideal choice for children or young adults whose jaws are still growing.
What to Expect with Implants
Dental implants can be used to replace a single missing tooth, or you may explore this option as a more secure way to hold dentures in place. To be a good candidate for this type of tooth replacement, you must have enough bone left in your jaw to support the implants or be healthy enough to have surgery to build up the area.
The process of placing implants typically involves several stages. First the posts are surgically implanted in the jaw. Then, you will undergo a healing period that can take anywhere from a few weeks to several months. Once the area is healed, the replacement teeth can be attached to the posts.
While implants require more intensive dental work than other types, they offer benefits such as stimulating bone growth that improve your oral health.
Tooth replacement goes far beyond being a cosmetic issue. You rely on each one of your teeth to eat, speak and smile comfortably. Whether you need one or all of your teeth replaced, we have an option that allows you to regain your beautiful smile.