Tooth Replacement Options
You can select from a number of different options to replace your missing teeth – from temporary to long-lasting implant solutions and removable vs. non-removable options. These options are typically decided based on your treatment plan created with your dentist, but we have outlined options in detail below for you.
Dental Implants are a stable, comfortable, attractive, and permanent solution to replacing teeth without drilling/cutting of your healthy adjacent teeth. Implants provide a strong foundation for the crown (no wiggling of the tooth like with a removable flipper/denture) and can maintain jaw bone. Implants can be used to replace single teeth, multiple teeth, or all of your teeth and feel most like your natural teeth that can last a lifetime.
A fixed bridge is a connected set of replacement teeth. For support, it is cemented into position on top of the teeth adjacent to the empty space. The protective outer layer of these teeth is usually removed or drilled down prior to attaching the bridge. Sometimes additional procedures such as crown lengthening, root canals, and buildups are necessary to make this option possible. Bridges require specialized daily flossing to keep the adjacent teeth healthy.
A fragile, temporary, and inexpensive solution is a removable plastic tooth with a plastic retainer, often called a “flipper”. This often covers the palate where some of your taste buds exist. This needs to be removed and cleaned after eating and left out at night. If malpositioned, this can accelerate bone loss at the site of the missing tooth.
Removable Partial Denture with Metal Framework
A less fragile option to the flipper is a removable partial denture cast in metal and acrylic. It is held in place by wire clips that hug your remaining teeth and sometimes these clips can be visible when you smile. If you are missing most of your back teeth, this type of partial can put a lot of stress on your remaining teeth causing them to become mobile, tender, and prone to bone loss. This needs to be removed and cleaned after eating and left out at night.
For people missing all teeth in one or both arches/jaws, one option is complete dentures. This is made out of acrylic and sits on top of the gums. The top denture covers your palate where some of your tastebuds exist and it can also cause gagging. Denture wearing is a different experience than your natural teeth or implants. As they are not anchored in the bone, the dentures can move with chewing, speaking, and smiling. This can be uncomfortable and create mouth sores or embarrassing social situations. Some patients have to use denture glue to keep them in place.
Dentures need to be removed at night and cleaned after eating. These are custom made to fit your jaws and will need to occasionally be adjusted and re-made because jaw size and shape changes over time with bone loss. When patients wear dentures for a long time, significant bone loss occurs, the dentures become very mobile, and their facial appearance can change. Luckily, implants can also be used for patients missing all of their teeth.