There are many reasons why we, as adults, can have missing teeth: a tooth knocked out due to trauma or injury, a tooth extracted or lost because of dental problems, or perhaps a permanent tooth never descended after losing a baby tooth.
Missing teeth may affect your appearance, eating habits and speech. Constantly being self-conscious about an absent tooth might lead a person to smile less or significantly impact their self-esteem. Persons with substantial gaps may have trouble chewing their food and be forced to make diet changes. Depending on the location of the missing tooth, speech problems may also arise. The teeth are an important articulator and some speech sounds cannot be correctly produced in their absence.
Luckily, a missing tooth doesn’t have to be a permanent burden. Depending on how many teeth are missing, there are several great options that provide long-term solutions to this problem:
Dental Implants– are extremely secure and function just like a natural tooth. First, a titanium root replacement is placed into the jaw-bone. After 4 months, the implant is checked for stability and integration. There are multiple options when using implants:
- A single crown,
- An implant supported dental bridge for a span of multiple missing teeth,
- Or full denture supported by multiple implants.
Once implants are placed, they are in the jawbone permanently and can be used for the rest of your lifetime.
Dental Bridges– do just as their name implies. They bridge a gap over one or more missing teeth. Healthy teeth on either side of the space are used as anchor teeth and a series of connected crowns span the gap. The crowns are cemented to the anchor teeth, creating a permanent, non-removable remedy.
- Bridges work great for very large spaces with only a few anchor teeth for a person who doesn’t want a removable device.
- Bridges usually last about 15-20 years and may eventually need to be replaced with normal wear and tear.
- Poor oral hygiene can cause the loss of bridges even sooner than that.
Dentures– are also known as “false teeth.” They are a removable prostheses. They are custom-made in a lab from impressions taken of your mouth.
- The full, or conventional denture, fits over your gums and replaces all of your natural teeth. The top denture fits across the roof of the mouth and the bottom is horseshoe shape to make room for the tongue.
- A partial denture replaces only several teeth and attaches via a metal or plastic frame to your natural teeth and often snap into place.
Dentures and partials can have a varied life expectancy. As soon as teeth are removed, no matter who you are, your jaw bone shrinks away and your gums change drastically. Denture wearers often go through a number of “re-lines”, meaning, the denture has to be refitted to their mouth. Usually about every 5 years, a brand new denture is necessary.