Having missing teeth can make normal tasks such as eating or speaking difficult, but there are several tooth replacement options available to allow you to restore function and improve the appearance of the mouth. Learn more about what alternatives are available to patients and the potential benefits of each method.
3 options for replacing a missing tooth
Depending on the situation and how many teeth are missing from the mouth, patients can choose from three methods to achieve a full smile.
A dental implant replaces a missing tooth by placing a titanium screw into the jaw and attaching a porcelain crown that appears and functions similarly to a natural tooth. One of the main benefits of this restorative option is that implants integrate with the jawbone, acting as substitute tooth roots that help stimulate and preserve the bone. While this method is most often used to address issues where only one tooth or a small number of teeth need to be replaced, there is no limit to how many implants a patient can have.
For patients who are missing one tooth or several adjacent teeth, a dental bridge can be used to fill the gap. There are three main types of bridges offered by dentists:
- Traditional dental bridge: The most common type, a traditional dental bridge requires the dentist to first remove the enamel of the two natural teeth on both sides of the gap. The bridge prosthetic, which includes the fake teeth, called pontics, is cemented onto the mouth using dental crowns placed on each tooth.
- Resin-retained dental bridge: A less invasive option, resin-retained bridges use a metal or porcelain attachment to hold the pontics in place instead of dental crowns, which allows the dentist to preserve the patient’s natural teeth. Also called a Maryland bridge, this alternative is less secure than traditional methods and is often only used on the front teeth where less force is used when biting.
- Cantilever bridge: With this method, only one natural tooth is stripped of its enamel and fitted with a crown to support a pontic. This method is used in certain situations, such as there being no teeth on the other side of the gap or one of the adjacent teeth is already supporting a separate prosthetic.
For patients experiencing widespread tooth loss, dentures are one of the most common tooth replacement options. With a partial denture, patients can fill in gaps of missing teeth with a clip-on prosthetic. Full dentures, on the other hand, are a complete set of upper and bottom teeth that suction onto the patient’s gums. Traditionally, the gum-like base is made from acrylic. With flexible dentures, however, nylon or other more comfortable materials are used that often look and feel more like natural gums. Implant-supported dentures use four or more strategically placed implants to secure a full arch of teeth onto the gums.
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Living with one or more missing teeth can have negative effects on a person’s oral health and everyday life. Patients should consider each of these tooth replacement options carefully and discuss the alternatives with a dentist.
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