To do or not to do: That is the question.
When you are missing a tooth, should you do anything about it? The answer is a resounding yes!
When several teeth are lost, your ability to speak and eat will likely be affected. Since your teeth help support your lower face, you might even see a difference! When just one tooth is lost, this is usually not the case. You can still eat all the same foods and you’ll look the same too. The main reason for replacing that missing tooth is the impact it has on all of the other teeth. When a tooth is lost, the neighboring teeth begin to tip over or shift. The opposing tooth starts to grow into the new space. This change in your bite can create places around the teeth that become harder to keep free of plaque; plaque then accumulates, which can lead to decay and gum disease. It also changes the dynamic of your bite forces, putting more emphasis on the shifted teeth, which can result in increased wear and breakage. When several teeth are missing, the remaining teeth have to pick up the slack and the change in bite force is huge! Your teeth become loose, you develop gum pockets, your bite is ever changing, and you may even develop jaw joint pain. As you can see, that missing tooth is really pretty important! Having a tooth pulled may solve a problem, but if you stop right there, a few more problems will come your way! You can bet on that!
There are three ways to replace missing teeth. All of them can stabilize the other teeth so they can’t shift around and cause trouble. While they are each effective, they are very different from one another.
The first way ever conceived of replacing missing teeth was with a partial denture. A partial is a removable appliance that is held in place by clasps or metal arms that fit tightly around some of the remaining teeth. It comes in and out of your mouth and should be removed when you are brushing your teeth.
As dentistry evolved, a new way was developed to replace a missing tooth. It is called a bridge and it does just that. It bridges or spans a missing space. Crowns are custom fit to the adjacent teeth and a replacement tooth is connected to each one of these crowns. Together, as one piece, it is cemented or bonded to your teeth. A bridge, unlike a partial, does not come out. It becomes a part of you and you must clean around it slightly differently than the rest of your teeth. They can be made of gold or porcelain and can look very lifelike.
The latest and greatest innovation is an implant. This is technology at its’ best! An implant is a titanium post that takes the place of a tooth root. It is carefully placed in your jawbone and we then can build on top of it. Depending on the number of implants, they can nicely support anywhere from a single tooth to a full denture. And they don’t come out either! Implants are by far the best solution though, because they perform a very important function that the other two options cannot do. You’ve undoubtedly heard the phrase ‘use it or lose it’ in association with osteoporosis. Well, here is what happens. When you lose a tooth, if you do not use or stimulate the bone where the tooth was, the bone will slowly melt away and the jaw will get thin in that area. This can be a big deal if you are missing alot of teeth, as you could break your jaw from simply biting on something hard! You cannot generate enough force with a partial to provide that stimulation, so a partial will begin to fit a little looser after you’ve had it awhile, due to the bone melting away. A bridge provides no stimulation under the replacement tooth because it is totally supported by those adjacent teeth. Only the implant provides enough chewing stimulation to preserve your bone, so it won’t atrophy away. Implants are rock solid, virtually indistinguishable from your other teeth, and you brush and floss around them just like you do the rest of your teeth. You can’t get a cavity around an implant either. You can’t beat that!