Let’s face it: nobody likes the gap left by one or more missing teeth. It’s awkward when you smile – if you smile, which many people who are missing teeth are too embarrassed to do. And the gap can make biting and/or chewing more difficult as well.
Dental implants are probably the ideal method of restoring the natural appearance and function of your missing teeth. However, not everyone is a candidate for implants.
Here’s why: once a permanent tooth is lost, the underlying bone begins to thin. This bone loss happens to everyone – the only question is how fast. Generally, the longer the tooth has been gone, the greater loss of bone.
Implants require a certain amount of bone to anchor the posts which are then secured to the artificial replacement tooth. (Those posts are usually made of titanium, which is very strong and won’t cause problems inside the body.) As well, the bone has to be strong enough to handle the mechanical stresses of biting and chewing. If the bone’s not thick enough or strong enough, an implant won’t work.
There are procedures, known as bone grafting, that can restore the bone so that implants can be used. Bone grafting adds considerably to the time and expense involved with dental implants.
Fortunately, people who aren’t candidates for implants or who don’t want to have bone grafting have options when it comes to keeping or regaining a beautiful smile.
Bridges and Crowns
A bridge is a fixed (permanent) dental restoration that joins one or more artificial teeth to the adjacent teeth. The adjacent teeth are called abutments, while the artificial teeth are known as pontics.
Crowns are also known as “caps” for your teeth. They’re used after root canals, when a tooth has been damaged beyond repair, and as part of dental bridgework. Crowns present the appearance of your natural teeth and are undetectable once they’re in place.
In order for a permanent bridge to be installed, the neighboring teeth have to be healthy enough to anchor the bridgework.
Traditional bridges are made of porcelain that’s fused to metal, or made of ceramics. Both materials can be exactly matched to the shade of your existing teeth, giving you a completely natural appearance.
The process of getting a permanent bridge begins with the dentist removing enough of the enamel on the adjacent teeth so that crowns can be fit over them. Those crowns, part of the bridgework, will anchor the bridge.
Next, impressions are taken of your teeth to guide the dental laboratory in creating your new crowns, artificial teeth, and the bridgework that connects everything. While the lab is working on your permanent bridge, you’ll receive a temporary (removable) bridge to cover the exposed teeth and fill the gap.
Once your permanent bridge is ready, the temporary bridge will be removed. The permanent bridge will be tried for fit, and adjusted as needed. This may take several tries. Once you and your dentist are satisfied, the crowns may be temporarily cemented into place. This will allow you to live with the bridge for several weeks. If any problems show up, the bridge can be easily removed for further adjustment.
When your bridge is comfortable and fits perfectly, it will be permanently attached.
Cost: Bridges vs. Implants
By some estimates, a permanent bridge to replace one tooth will cost about two-thirds as much as a dental implant. Clearly, a permanent bridge is more affordable initially, but that’s not the only consideration.
All of the data isn’t in yet, but it looks as though a dental implant may well outlast a traditional bridge. Your bridge may need to be replaced every ten years or so depending on wear and tear, among other factors. While the crown portion of a dental implant may also need to be replaced, the metal implant itself should last a lifetime.
You and your dentist will make the decision about whether an implant or a permanent bridge – or something else – is the right option for you. But there are options, which is why you don’t have to put up with missing teeth.
Why Wait to Get Your Smile Back?
You don’t have to live a day longer without your teeth! Give us a call at our welcoming and comfortable office in South Bend, IN; our phone number is 574-208-5668. You can also reach our office by filling out this online form. We want to help you find the right solution to restore your smile.