Restoring Form and Function of Missing Teeth
“Why is it important to restore missing teeth?” Believe it or not, I am asked this question often, especially from new patients. The quick answer is to restore form and function so a person can eat, speak, and not look like a stand-in for a Jack-O-Lantern on Halloween!
In addition, if a missing tooth is not replaced, the surrounding teeth can shift. This can result in a change in one’s bite, which could also lead to extra pressure and discomfort on the jaw joints.
You might ask, “Hey! What can I do if I lose a tooth?” I’m glad you asked. Read on to find out!
Straight Talk About Dental Bridges
Dental implants are becoming a much more common option to restore missing teeth, and they have really been a game changer for many people. In the past, when you lost a tooth or multiple teeth, a way to restore the area was with a fixed partial denture.
More commonly known as a bridge, this replacement option is simply two or more crowns (“caps”) fused together to fill a toothless space. The problem with this option is that most of the time you need a tooth in front of and behind the space you want to restore. Also, these teeth will need to be prepared/recontoured by means of a dental drill so the bridge will have anchor teeth to attach to. This is often a difficult choice for patients to make especially if these teeth have nothing wrong with them.
Oh, and one more little thing. If one is to have a bridge placed, you need to have exceptional oral hygiene which includes DAILY FLOSSING (yes, I said daily) around and under the bridge. If you don’t brush and floss daily, the teeth holding the bridge in place become decayed and ultimately weaken. You might end up losing the bridge and the teeth holding it in place.
You might be able to avoid all these bridge issues by simply considering a dental implant to restore missing teeth.
Dental Implants Restore Missing Teeth Better Than Bridges In Most Cases
A dental implant is a metal (usually titanium) screw-type fixture that is placed in your jaw usually by an oral surgeon or a periodontist. Most times, the area is numbed with the same medicine/anesthetic used for routine fillings. The area is allowed to heal anywhere from six weeks to a few months. When the oral surgeon or periodontist feels the patient has fully healed, they refer the patient back to the dentist for restoration.
The dentist or dental assistant will take an impression of the area, along with a color match of surrounding teeth, and send it to the dental lab. The dental lab will then make a post — also called an abutment — that will attach to the implant with a screw. The dental lab will also make a crown (“cap”) that is placed on top of the abutment (“post”). The crown is usually cemented to the abutment using permanent dental cement. The crown can be made of porcelain (most people choose this option because it is more natural looking) or gold.
One of the beauties of implants is that the dentist usually does not have to prepare/contour any surrounding teeth. The implant tooth will never decay, but you still need to brush and floss to keep the gums healthy around the implant.
Aren’t Dental Implants Expensive?
My patients are often concerned about the price of implants compared to bridges. However, the cost of a single tooth implant is only slightly higher than a three tooth bridge, both of which are the options for replacing a single missing tooth.
Many of my patients feel it is much easier to care for an implant than a bridge. If you are looking to restore missing teeth, schedule an appointment for a consultation today to discuss your treatment options further.
-Blog Post by Martin M. Challenger, D.D.S.