One or more lost teeth can be awkward and embarrassing. A missing tooth can leave a gap in your smile which may cause you to smile less. Chewing on the side where one or more teeth are gone becomes more difficult. And the teeth next to the now-open space can begin to drift, because there’s no longer a contact surface to hold them in place. That can change your bite and make eating even harder.
Modern dentistry offers a number of options for filling those spaces with natural-looking and durable replacements. Here’s a quick rundown.
If a single tooth, or several adjacent teeth, are missing, you have some choices. A fixed bridge anchors the replacement tooth to the two adjoining teeth. This is known as a bridge. Bridges are very functional and will restore your ability to chew in that area. With today’s techniques, the bridgework will be undetectable when you smile.
A bridge can be installed over a relatively short period of time. You get your smile and your ability to chew back fairly quickly.
However, installing a bridge usually requires the two enamel of the adjoining teeth to be ground down to accept crowns that are part of the bridgework. If the two teeth already have crowns, those will have to be redone.
As well, you and your dentist should watch carefully for signs of decay around bridgework
If the idea of a fixed bridge doesn’t appeal to you, consider getting dental implants.
Implants are small screws made from a biocompatible material such as titanium. The screw is inserted into the jawbone. After enough time passes for the bone to regrow and fuse over the screw, a replacement tooth is attached to the screw. This permanently anchors the replacement, although your dentist can remove it if needed.
If two or more adjacent teeth are missing, a bridge is anchored to two or more dental implants. People who are edentulous, or missing all of their teeth, can have dentures fixed to the implants for a permanent, non-slip solution.
Implants are very long-lasting (the replacement tooth may function for 10 years or more, depending) and typically don’t cause any problems with decay in the adjacent teeth. However, the process can require up to six months to complete and is considerably more expensive than bridgework.
Also, depending on how long teeth have been missing, the underlying bone may have thinned. The process of chewing puts pressure on the bone, stimulating it and keeping it healthy. Without that pressure, the bone slowly thins and may not be strong enough for a dental implant. Some people elect to have new bone grafted onto the existing bone to strengthen it. That’s a surgical process that requires additional healing time. That adds to the total time to complete the implant process.
For those folks with thinned bone who elect not to have bone grafting, mini-implants may be the answer. Mini-implants use several tiny screws, basically replacing the roots of the missing tooth. That spreads the pressure when you chew and makes it possible to attach the replacement tooth, teeth, bridgework, or dentures.
Mini-implants are less expensive than traditional implants, as a rule (but still more expensive than fixed bridgework). The work can be often be completed more quickly as well.
At Tulip Tree Dental, we want to give you back your smile and your ability to comfortably eat the foods you love. We offer the full range of solutions for your missing teeth. And we guarantee your complete satisfaction with how your new teeth function and look.
Your first step is to set up an appointment for an examination. We’ll take detailed scans of your teeth and the underlying bone. Then, we’ll discuss your options.
If implants or mini-implants are appropriate, you’ll see an oral surgeon to have the screws put in place. After the screws have integrated with the bone (which can take up to six months), you’ll return to our office to have the restorations “loaded” onto the implants.
Your “new” teeth will give you back almost 100 percent of your chewing power. They’ll blend perfectly with your other teeth; no one will know they’re not originals. And you’ll be able to smile without embarrassment and to eat the foods you love.
You’ll be able to get back to being you again.