American adults are missing an average of 7.25 teeth! Missing teeth affect a person’s ability to chew, speak and smile without issue. Moreover, many adults who are missing teeth feel self-conscious or even embarrassment about the gaps where missing teeth were.
Unfortunate consequences of not replacing a missing tooth can include bone loss that affects the jawbone, periodontal ligaments and bones that support the structure of the face. Over time changes in these critical components adjust the aesthetics of your face. More alarmingly missing teeth can cause remaining teeth to drift and misalign, causing further oral health risks.
Replacing lost teeth
Lost, broken, chipped or decayed teeth will not grow back nor repair themselves. There are several ways to replace a lost tooth and avoid oral health risks associated with missing or decayed teeth. Your dentist offers multiple restorative dentistry procedures that can recreate your smile including crowns, bridges, full and partial dentures. The dentist will advise you on the treatment that is best suited to your unique needs, to best rebuild your smile.
A crown is a tooth shaped cover that is placed over a tooth to restore its size, shape, alignment and structure. A crown is created to match your natural teeth in color and texture, and is cemented above the gum line over a decayed, chipped or broken tooth. The dental team will take an impression of your tooth, as well as measurements and a crown is created to uniquely fit your tooth size and shape.
Depending on your oral health, your dentist may need to remove decay and fill your tooth with composite prior to bonding the crown over your natural tooth. Your dentist will apply a temporary crown to protect your tooth, while your permanent crown is created in the dental lab. This may take two or more weeks. Crowns are a permanent solution for reshaping your teeth, and function just like a natural tooth. While it may take time till the crown feels natural in your mouth, discuss with your dentist any discomfort, pain or issues that you experience with your crown. Even though the crown is made of porcelain or ceramic it is still important treat restorations just as you would your natural teeth, by brushing and flossing two times twice daily.
A bridge is a restoration that fills in a gap created by one or more missing teeth. A bridge consists of two crowns with false teeth in between. The two crowns on either end of the bridge are bonded to existing teeth, and prosthetic teeth in between the crowns fill the gaps left by missing teeth. Bridges are a less costly alternative to dental implants, however fitting the bridge to natural teeth may require reshaping of the existing teeth that neighbor the gap/s, in order to make the crowns fit over the teeth. Bridges restore your bite, ability to chew and speak properly, maintain the shape of your face and smile and prevent teeth from drifting out of alignment.
Dentures are the only removable restorative treatment that look and feel just like natural teeth. Dentures are a good solution for patients who are missing all, several or most natural teeth. Replacing missing teeth can revitalize your life; giving you the ability to smile, speak and chew again. There are two major types of dentures: full and partial. Full dentures are a replacement for when all or most teeth are missing. The dentist may remove remaining teeth or severely decayed teeth as well as treat infection prior to fitting a patient for a full denture. A partial denture attaches to remaining teeth and fills in gaps where missing teeth are with artificial teeth much like a bridge, however unlike a bridge a partial denture is removable.
Patients may experience some discomfort from dentures during eating or speaking, and a bulky or loose feeling is also common. After some time most patients experience the benefit of a restored smile from their dentures. Dentures require special cleaning and handling, and it is still important to maintain the health of the gums and any existing teeth.
Dental implants are replacement artificial teeth that are fused into the jawbone through metal posts. Implants are created to look like a natural tooth and function just as your other teeth would. Implants are an option for people who are not ideal candidates for bridges or dentures for a number of reasons including the condition of remaining teeth. One benefit of dental implants is that remaining teeth do not need to be altered or shaved down to fit a crown, as required by a bridge.
Unfortunately not every patient with missing teeth is a candidate for implants, since implants require healthy and stable gums and jaw bones to anchor into. Smokers and patients with degenerated gums and jaw bones may require extra steps to improve oral health and prepare the mouth prior to starting the implant process. With good oral hygiene and proper care, implants will look and function like your teeth.
With several options for repairing broken, chipped or missing teeth, your dentist will help you understand which treatment will work best for your particular case. Some insurance plans will help cover part of the cost of some procedures and Jefferson Dental offers several flexible financing options and a Dental Savings Plan that can help put the smile of your dreams at reach.