If you are missing one or more teeth or need to have teeth removed, it’s important for your long-term oral health that you have those teeth replaced as soon as possible. There are a number of treatment options available for replacing missing teeth, and the right option for you will depend on such factors as how many teeth need to be replaced, your current oral health, your personal desires and your budget.
What Happens if You Do Nothing?
Of course, you have the option of simply not replacing your missing teeth. However, this decision is likely to open the door for many complications down the road — complications that can be both painful and expensive to deal with. Here are just a few of the risks involved:
- Problems with your bite. The open gaps left by missing teeth may allow your other teeth to drift, making it more difficult to chew food.
- Digestive problems (due to inadequate chewing of food).
- Increased risk of mouth infection and gum disease.
- Increased risk of oral bone loss.
- Facial deformity. Gaps in your bite will affect support for other bones and muscles in your face.
- Accelerated aging and increased wrinkles.
On the other hand, given the number of options available, there is generally a solution for every budget and circumstance to fill the gaps where one or more teeth are missing. Let’s look now at four common treatment options for replacing your missing teeth, and the advantages and/or disadvantages of each.
Option 1: Removable Partial Dentures (RPD)
One low-cost solution is for your dentist to create a set of removable partial dentures to fill in the gaps in your bite. An RPD can be customized to replace one tooth or several, and you may have dual dentures for upper and lower teeth. RPDs are designed to be inserted and removed at will, often secured by a hook that wraps around existing teeth.
This solution helps preserve the natural contour of your face and at least partially restores your ability to chew. However, RPDs come with certain disadvantages as well—for example, they don’t always look realistic; they are more difficult to keep clean, increasing the risk of infection; they can be physically uncomfortable; and the hooks that hold them in place may actually encourage bone loss in your existing teeth. Furthermore, RPDs generally need to be replaced every 3-5 years, resulting in ongoing expense.
Option 2: Fixed Bridge Treatment
With this tooth replacement solution, as an alternative to removable dentures, your dentist or oral surgeon will attach a customized bridge to your existing teeth containing fake teeth to match the gaps in your bite. This bridge is affixed permanently in your mouth by grinding down adjacent teeth and attaching the bridge to those teeth using cement. While it may take awhile to adjust, this fixed bridge may eventually feel more natural to the patient, making it easier to chew and process food, and of course restoring the smile. However, it comes with its own set of disadvantages. For one thing, the dentist must permanently alter some of your good teeth to accommodate the bridge, which may compromise those teeth and shorten their life expectancy. For another, the cement eventually deteriorates, encouraging bacteria growth and increasing the risk of infection. And finally, fixed bridges need to be replaced every 5-15 years.
Option 3: Single-Tooth Replacement via Dental Implant and Crown
A third, and often more viable, option is to replace one or more missing teeth permanently through a dental implant and crown. With this two-stage procedure, your oral surgeon will surgically place a dental implant into the gap left by your missing tooth. Once this implant has fused to the jaw bone, the dentist will attach a permanent crown to the implant, effectively replacing your natural tooth. There are a number of advantages to this process. For one thing, the restoration process mimics nature by allowing the implant to become part of your permanent skeletal structure. For another, the replacement looks, feels and behaves very much like a real tooth. The implant also preserves jawbone. This solution also lasts much longer than bridges or removable dentures.
Option 4: Complete Teeth Replacement with Implants (Teeth In A Day)
For people with multiple missing teeth, a fourth, more permanent option is to replace your entire set of teeth (top and/or bottom) with a complete set of dental implants customized to your mouth. This process is similar to the single tooth replacement except that the oral surgeon will remove any remaining teeth, install a complete set of implants, 5-7 per jaw (usually with temporary teeth attached), then you dentist will attach your permanent replacement teeth once the implants have infused to the bone 4 months later. (For certain candidates, the replacement therapy can even be accomplished in a single day.)
Many people with multiple missing teeth prefer this fourth option because they receive an entirely new set of teeth, preserving their facial structure and restoring their smile completely. Once the procedure is complete, your new teeth look, feel and act just like your natural teeth, and with proper care and cleaning they can last a lifetime.
Which of these treatment options is best for you? We invite you to call us to discuss the pros and cons of each, to evaluate your situation and help you make an informed decision. To schedule an appointment, call Riverside Oral & Facial Surgery today at 706-235-5570.