Did you know that a single missing tooth can affect your entire smile? While you may think that one missing tooth is no big deal, the fact of the matter is that the space left behind can pose a threat to your remaining teeth. This is because a gap in the mouth allows the adjacent teeth to move sideways, while also allowing the opposite teeth to grow longer due to a lack of opposing force. Even if you only have one missing tooth, the movement and growth of the remaining teeth can change your entire bite and cause a variety of problems.
For these reasons, as well as to retain the function and appearance of your smile, dentists recommend replacing missing teeth. Having your missing teeth replaced not only ensures that you are still able to eat and speak properly, but it helps to keep your remaining teeth in better condition. Unfortunately if teeth are left with a gap in the mouth, they will likely shift and grow in such a way that causes them to become damaged or prematurely worn. In some cases, they end up needing to be extracted due to severe damage or decay.
To prevent the many complications associated with missing teeth, there are three different types of tooth replacement options that your dentist may recommend, including:
A dental bridge is composed of one or more fake teeth fused together with dental crowns on either side. This structure allows the crowns on either side to be placed over existing teeth, while the fake teeth are used to “bridge” the gap between the dental crowns. There are also other types of dental bridges that use a wire framework instead. Dental bridges can usually be placed over the course of two dental appointments. The first appointment is needed to prepare the teeth and take dental impressions, while the second appointment is needed to permanently fix the bridge in place. Once placed, dental bridges will last about 10-15 years before needing to be replaced.
Dentures are an entire set of fake teeth that are attached to a base made from acrylic or resin that is modeled to look like gums. The base of the denture is fabricated so that it fits over the contours of the gums and uses suction to remain in place. Since dentures are used to replace an entire mouth of missing teeth, any remaining teeth will need to be extracted before a denture can be placed. For this reason, they are often used when there are little to no healthy remaining teeth. Although dentures are durable, they will need to be adjusted every few years since the jawbone will continue to change shape and cause them not to fit properly.
Dental implants are titanium screws implanted in the jawbone that act as artificial tooth roots. These artificial tooth roots can then support a dental prosthetic to support one or more missing teeth. Out of all the options for replacing missing teeth, dental implants are the strongest, last the longest, and look and function the most like natural teeth. They are also the only option that stimulates the jawbone in order to maintain proper bone mass. However, dental implants also require a minor oral surgery so that they can be appropriately placed.
Dr. Alina Huang has been practicing dentistry in Manhattan for the last eight years. She was born in New York City, and raised in California where she received her Bachelor’s degree at UCLA, and her D.D.S. at the University of the Pacific in San Francisco. She then made her return to NYC where she completed her General Practice Residency at Montefiore Medical Center and has been working in private practice ever since. She continues her learning by attending courses to stay current with the latest advancements in dentistry and refine her skills.