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If you’re missing a tooth, you already know some of the impacts it can make on your daily life. Not only can a missing tooth make you self conscious of your smile, but even the loss of a back tooth can cause your other teeth to shift and drift out of place, changing the look and feel of your bite.
We get it – there are some big obstacles between you and restoration, and it’s easy to understand the hesitation behind getting a missing tooth repaired. The cost, dental work involved, and time commitment can be significant. If you are like many others with dental anxiety, these hurdles can be quickly magnified.
Fortunately, modern dental care cuts through some of the stress. Choosing the tooth replacement method that works with your needs is the first step to getting rid of your tooth replacement anxiety and moving forward towards better smile.
Which Tooth Replacement Option is Right for Me?
When it comes to replacing a missing tooth, you have three different treatment options. Replacement teeth should last you years at a time, so it’s important to choose the treatment option that’s right for your lifestyle and budget not only in the moment, but for down the road as well.
Choosing a Dental Implant & Crown
A dental implant is an artificial tooth that is rooted by a secure post surgically placed in the upper or lower jaw. Implants provide support where it is most necessary and feels the most similar to a natural tooth.
If you choose to have an implant, your treatment process will look similar to this:
- Prior to an implant, patients either need to have adequate existing bone structure to support the implant, or undergo a bone graft prior to implant placement to prepare the area. There will be a several month-long healing period after a bone graft.
- During implant placement, an incision will be made in the gums to expose the jawbone where the post will be surgically placed in the jaw.
- After a sufficient healing period (typically lasting several months), the implant post head will be exposed after the implant is completely healed.
- The dentist will custom-make an implant for your mouth, and the man-made teeth are attached to the implant post.
Pros: Implants are the most stable method of tooth replacement – they can last for a life, and look and feel natural.
Cons: Implants have a longer treatment process, and come with a higher price tag.
Replacing a Tooth with a Bridge
A dental bridge consists of a false tooth attached to two crowns, which fit over neighboring teeth “anchoring” the false tooth in place. Bridges are the simplest way to replace a missing tooth and a bridge doesn’t require surgery.
If you choose to have a bridge, your treatment process will look similar to this:
- Placing a bridge usually requires more than one dental visit. On your first visit, the dentist will prepare the teeth on either side of the gap.
- An impression will then be taken of your teeth and the space so a custom bridge can be made for a perfect fit.
- The bridge is then fitted, adjusted and cemented in place.
While a bridge can be a great option for some patients, mainly those missing single teeth, a bridge can weakens the surrounding “anchor” teeth, and the bridge could lead to further tooth loss if the anchor teeth are not strong enough to support the structure.
Pros: A bridge is more affordable, and is a quicker treatment option.
Cons: Not as secure as an implant, a bridge may affect the teeth next to the bridge and will not last as long.
Benefits of a Partial Denture
As the name describes, a removable partial denture can be easily removed for cleaning. When in place, a partial denture is fixed to a plastic base that matches the color of your gums and will have some form of clasp that attaches to your natural teeth to hold it in place.
Partial dentures are right for patients missing a number of teeth, but not the majority.
If you choose to have a partial denture, your treatment process will look similar to this:
- An impression will be made of your mouth to have a partial denture created for a custom fit.
- Your dentist will teach you how to properly take care of your partial denture an ensure a proper fit.
- Your dentist will make follow up appointments to look for pressure points or sore spots and adjust denture so it fits comfortably.
Pros: Usually less expensive than a bridge or implant, removable and easy to replace. Partial dentures are more affordable.
Cons: Shortest lifespan of these options, and can be bulky, uncomfortable or unnatural feeling.