The image of a gap-toothed child is always charming, but switch that picture to an adult and the results are nowhere near as attractive. Whether you’re missing a series of teeth through genetics or because of gum disease or accidents, the lack of teeth is going to cause problems. Having an empty space as wide as three teeth can cause your entire mouth to move out of alignment, resulting in any number of health issues. If you want to avoid these problems, you’re going to have to replace those missing teeth.
Why Go Through All That Trouble?
You’re living without those teeth right now, and it might not be so bad. Why should you go through all the time and expense to replace a row of teeth?
No matter how you lost your teeth, the empty space where they belong is going to be the source of problems. The teeth around this gap will begin to migrate into it, causing your entire jaw to become misaligned. You might have trouble chewing food, can suffer from severe headaches, may experience faster aging in your face and will probably have a harder time brushing and flossing your remaining teeth. All of these issues are bad enough, but add the danger of gum disease and you’ll see why replacing those teeth is a crucial health issue.
The Classic: Partial Dentures
There’s a reason why partials are such a popular choice: they get the job done while generally being the least expensive option. A partial fits in your mouth by clasping onto the teeth nearest the gap that’s missing teeth. Today’s partial dentures are a far cry from your grandma’s painful version. Your partials will be created in a lab using gum-colored framework that’s designed to match your own gums as closely as possible, combined with artificial teeth that have been colored to match your own smile.
Once your partial has been created, your dentist will work with you to fit it perfectly in your mouth, and make any needed adjustments to make it as comfortable as possible. While your partial will be a perfect fit when you walk out the door, your dentist may have to make adjustments from time to time in the future.
Bridging the Gap: Fixed Bridges
Fixed bridges are a more permanent solution to the missing teeth problem. This device fits right over the space where the missing teeth should be. A fixed bridge is created by first preparing the two teeth around the empty space by drilling into them as if preparing them for crowns.
Your fixed bridge will essentially be a row of crowns, with the end crowns fitting over the prepared teeth and the ones in the middle capping the empty spaces. Once your bridge is finished your dentist will make sure it fits correctly, both over your teeth and through the section protecting the gums in the empty space. Once the bridge feels right in your mouth, it will be cemented in place permanently. This isn’t a fast process; it could take several visits before the final fitting.
Just Like New: Implants
Not everyone can have implants, but they’re a great option for those who can. When we determine if someone is a good candidate for implants, we look at her overall health as well as her dental health. Some important details to consider are a patient’s immune system, chronic conditions such as diabetes, disease such as past or present cancer, and even the strength of the jawbone.
Patients who do get implants generally undergo a process that takes several months. The first step is often getting a bone graft, which strengthens and thickens the jawbone. Once you’re cleared to continue the process, we’ll place tiny screws called abutments into your jawbone, then allow them to heal in place.
After the screws have healed and are solidly in place, a crown will be created to fit snugly over the implants, creating a permanent replacement for your missing teeth. They’ll be a part of your mouth, just like the rest of your smile!
I’m always happy to consult with patients and advise them on options for treatment, but it’s ultimately up to you to research your choices for dental care and teeth replacement. Replacing missing teeth is important, but the method we use is up to you.