Replacing Missing Teeth

Your teeth affect your whole body. When they’re healthy, you’re healthier too. A missing tooth can affect your bite, speech and eating choices. As you rely more on your remaining teeth, you increase the chance they will wear out prematurely, or be damaged or lost. You may also experience headaches and/or jaw pain.

Who would want their appearance and health to deteriorate? That’s the natural consequence of missing teeth – the jaw literally melts away. Generally, people will lose 25% of their supporting jawbone structure within the first year after tooth loss. Dental implants are more easily placed when teeth are first extracted because bone replacement becomes more complex as time passes. The great news? Implants act just like your natural teeth. They safeguard and preserve your bone structure, oral health and appearance. Your dentist and the implant surgeon will provide you with options so that you can make the most informed decision concerning tooth replacement.

Tooth Replacement Options

You can select from a number of different options to replace your missing teeth – from temporary to long-lasting solutions.

When would you want to to start thinking about tooth replacement options?

  • If you are missing one or more teeth
  • If you have teeth that need to be extracted and you don’t want missing teeth
  • If you are unhappy with your denture

Below is a list of options for tooth replacement. In most of these options you would be working with your general dentist who would provide you with most of these fixtures (dentures, bridge, flipper). An oral surgeon specializes in the extraction of teeth or the placement of implants. This simply shows options for tooth replacement, and highlights the benefits of implants over all options.  

An example of a dental fixed bridge

Fixed Bridge

A fixed bridge is a connected set of replacement teeth. For support, it is cemented into position on top of the teeth adjacent to the empty space. The protective outer layer of these teeth is usually removed or ground down prior to attaching the bridge. This would be done by your general dentist. Your dentist may referrer you to our office if a tooth needs to be extracted in order to place a bridge.  

A sample of a removable retainer with a plastic tooth known as a flipper

Flipper

A fragile, temporary and inexpensive solution is a removable plastic tooth with a plastic retainer, often called a “flipper”. This can be a temporary or long term fix for a missing tooth. Many times if a patient is in the process of getting an implant for a front tooth, they will work with their general dentist to get a flipper during the healing period. 

A representation of a full denture for the entire lower jaw

Denture

The most common solution, for people missing all teeth in one or both jaws are complete dentures. Some people adapt well to dentures. Others find them uncomfortable, even intolerable, because of differences in jaw size and shape. There are removable and fixed implant supported dentures that may be an option for you.  

A visual of a permanent dental implant to replace missing teeth

Dental Implants

Dental implants are the most comfortable and permanent solution. They form a strong foundation for teeth and keep the jaw healthy and strong. Implants support individual replacement teeth or secure specialized dentures in place. Unlike bridges, no healthy teeth are damaged. Unlike most bridges, implants can last a lifetime. Implant-supported replacement teeth can be attractive, stable, and comfortable for almost any patient.

Why Select Dental Implants Over More Traditional Types Of Restorations?

There are several reasons: A dental bridge can sacrifice the structure of surrounding good teeth to bridge the space of the missing tooth/teeth. In addition, removing a denture or a “partial” at night may be inconvenient, not to mention dentures that slip can be uncomfortable and rather embarrassing.

Age is not a factor. However, smoking, diseases such as diabetes, and radiation therapy to the area, have been shown to lower the success rate of implant placement.

X-rays of your jaw will be taken to evaluate whether your jaw bone will accommodate implants. More detailed x-rays may also be required to determine if other tests or procedures like, bone grafting are needed to place implants properly.