A missing tooth is not only unsightly, it also can compromise your speech and your ability to chew. A lost tooth can even lead to erosion of the jawbone if it’s not replaced in a timely fashion. Fortunately, patients have a number of options to replace a missing tooth.
Dental implants are the best option for tooth replacement. They involve a multi-step process. First, the oral surgeon places the actual implant—a small screw-like structure that is made of titanium—in the jawbone. When the implant has osseointegrated, or become enmeshed with the bone, a tooth-like cap is placed on top of it to replicate the appearance of a natural tooth.
Implants are the preferred tooth replacement method because they look and function just like natural teeth, and they don’t have any effects on neighboring teeth. Also, the implant structure replicates the missing tooth’s root, so it stabilizes the underlying bone. Other tooth replacement options still present the risk of jawbone erosion. However, patients must have sufficient bone to support the implant before it can be placed. A patient who has already experienced significant bone loss may need to have a bone graft procedure before getting dental implants.
Another tooth replacement alternative is a device known as a bridge, which can be either fixed or removable. With a fixed permanent bridge, the dentist shaves enamel from the teeth on either side of the missing tooth’s spot and places a crown atop those adjoining teeth. The crowns then serve as supports for the artificial tooth that is bonded into the space between them. Because a bridge does not replace the missing tooth’s root structure, the jawbone may continue to erode over time, which is a disadvantage of this method.
Removable bridges are attached to the surrounding teeth by clasps. They can be attractive to some patients because they can be taken out and cleaned, but they also have the disadvantage of being the least stable technique. Also, they are the most fragile tooth replacement method.
If you are in need of a single tooth replacement, consult with our oral surgery team to learn more about the benefits of dental implants.