The loss of natural teeth can occur for a number of reasons. While age is a factor for many people, accidents, medications, and smoking can also contribute to the loss of teeth. Deciding which course of action will work best to replace missing teeth is often a matter of lifestyle, comfort and expense. This is a decision no one should put off any longer than necessary. The loss of teeth can have a dramatic effect on self-esteem. Teeth also perform an important function as the ability to eat healthy and nutritious foods depends on them. In looking at what options are available to replace missing teeth, it’s important to consider not only the appearance of the teeth, but also the stability and comfort of the replacements.
One of the reasons not to delay too long in making decisions is drifting. With the loss of two teeth in a row of an individual’s mouth the neighboring teeth can drift or lean into the vacant place. This will make a later replacement more difficult. When teeth are missing from the jaw the supporting bone tends to shrink. Without the stimulation of the teeth the bone will lose height and width. Bone loss can also make replacing teeth more of a problem.
When two or more teeth are missing from a segment, but the surrounding teeth are healthy, a bridge is a possibility. The surrounding teeth must be healthy and stable enough to support the bridge. These healthy teeth near the area of loss are prepared for the bridge by reducing their size and the prosthetic teeth are then suspended from these healthy teeth. This gives the individual a better cosmetic appearance as the prosthetic teeth are designed to match the natural teeth. In most cases as long as there is no change with the natural teeth supporting the bridge the prosthetic will also function well when chewing most foods. It is often necessary after a bridge replacement to avoid very hard or sticky foods that could damage the bridge.
When several missing teeth or all of the teeth in a segment have become unstable then removable partial or full dentures are an option. Dentures are also designed to match the natural appearance of teeth, and with the use of adhesives, these can be stabilized enough to eat most foods. The drawbacks with full dentures is that slipping are pinching of the gum often occurs. Some people who use dentures also report problems with speaking.
The dental implant will replace the missing tooth at the root. This will provide the strongest and most stable replacement. As the implant also matches the surrounding natural teeth, it is also a good cosmetic alternative. Because of the stability few people who have implants have to change diet, and seldom report issues with speech. As this is a surgical procedure, there is typically some discomfort for a few days after an implant.