Replacing Missing Teeth
Your oral health is more important than you realize. Your teeth affect your whole body. When they’re healthy, you’re healthier too. A missing tooth can affect your bite, speech and eating choices. As you rely more on your remaining teeth, you increase the chance that they will wear out prematurely, or be damaged or lost. You may also experience headaches and/or jaw pain.
The Importance of Teeth for Jaw Bone Health
Bone loss is the natural consequence of missing teeth. When teeth are missing, the portion of the jaw bone that anchors the teeth into the mouth, no longer receives the necessary stimulation it needs and begins to deteriorate or resorb. Generally, people will lose 25% of their supporting jawbone structure within the first year after tooth loss.
The great news? Implants act just like your natural teeth. In the same way that muscles are maintained through exercise, bone tissue is maintained by activities such as chewing and biting. They safeguard and preserve your bone structure, oral health and appearance.
Tooth Replacement Options
There are a number of different options to replace your missing teeth – from temporary to long lasting solutions. Your dentist and our oral surgeon will provide you with options so that you can make the most informed decision concerning tooth replacement.
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 ground down prior to attaching the bridge.
A fragile, temporary and inexpensive solution is a removable plastic tooth with a plastic retainer, often called a “flipper”.
A less fragile option is a removable partial denture cast in metal and plastic. It is held in place by wire clips. A removable partial denture can be removed and reinserted when required by the patient.
The most common solution, for people missing all teeth in one or both jaws are complete dentures. Some people adapt well to dentures. Others find them uncomfortable, even intolerable, because of differences in jaw size and shape.
Dental implants are the most comfortable and permanent solution. They form a strong foundation for teeth and keep the jaw healthy and strong. Implants support individual replacement teeth or secure specialized dentures in place. Unlike bridges, no healthy teeth are damaged. Unlike most bridges, implants can last a lifetime. Implant-supported replacement teeth can be attractive, stable, and comfortable for almost any patient.
The Advantages of Dental Implants
When it comes to replacing missing teeth, it has become the new standard to use dental implants over traditional dentures and bridges. There are several reasons to choose dental implants:
- Dental implants are permanent and do not have to be removed.
- Adjacent teeth do not have to be altered in size or manipulated in any way.
- Each tooth carries its own load, eliminating stress to adjacent teeth.
- Dental implants essentially replace the root of a missing tooth, which prevents bone resorption that is normally associated with tooth loss.
- Dental implants rank superior as they look, feel and function like natural teeth.
- Caring for dental implants is just like caring for natural teeth; you may brush and floss as normal.
A good candidate is anyone missing one or more teeth, or who is unhappy with their dentures. Age is not a factor. However, smoking, diseases such as diabetes, and radiation therapy to the area, have been shown to lower the success rate of implant placement. Detailed imaging of your jaw will be taken to evaluate whether they will accommodate implants.
The Longevity of Dental Implants
Implants last a long time. For patients missing one or several teeth, recent studies show a success rate of greater than 95 percent, which compares favorably with other areas in the body that receive implant replacement (such as hips or knees). When patients are missing all of their teeth, long-term studies (more than 30 years) show an 80 to 90 percent success rate. However, if one of your dental implants either doesn’t heal properly or loosens after a period of time, you may need to have it removed. After the site heals (or on occasion at the time of removal), another implant usually can be placed.