Missing teeth can impact the appearance, function and health of your smile. Of course, no one actually wants to have a missing tooth. Unfortunately, even those of us with very healthy smiles may find at some point a tooth needs to be replaced. The key is to replace your missing tooth as quickly as possible. Doing so eliminates the impact that a missing tooth can have on your oral health and confidence.
If you remove one tooth, do you think it can impact the teeth in other parts of your mouth? You may not - but it can. Even if a tooth is removed in one arch, the teeth in the opposite arch are affected. How? you ask? Drifting of the teeth due to changes in the bite relationship. An opposing tooth that once used your tooth to bite against may now start to “supra-erupt” out of place in an effort to find a biting partner.
Teeth adjacent to your missing tooth will no longer be supported on one side. Even a slight amount of movement into the open space will create a chain reaction. Slowly, one by one, the teeth start to shift throughout the mouth. If you have a perfectly straight smile (by nature or thanks to braces,) you can lose it before you even realize what has happened. Minor crowding, gaps and leaning teeth are very likely after a dental extraction that is not followed by tooth replacement.
As teeth shift or lean, they are at a greater risk of leading to problems like:
Today, the preferred method of tooth replacement is dental implants. Implants function as independent teeth, made of a prosthetic titanium root that support a restoration such as a crown or bridge.
In most cases, dental implants are stronger than natural teeth. Their success rating is extremely high, lasting as long as a lifetime in approximately 94% of dental implant patients. The number of dental implants that you need will depend on the type of restoration that you choose. For a single tooth, one implant and crown are used. A multi-tooth dental bridge is usually supported by two implants (one on either end). Implant retained dentures can replace an entire arch of teeth.
A bridge is a fixed restoration that holds a false crown between two functional teeth. The functional crowns are anchored onto the teeth on either side of the missing tooth. Of course, this requires a healthy, stable tooth on each side to properly support the bridge. The supporting teeth are prepped the way a tooth would be for a crown. Then an impression is taken, so that a custom bridge can be designed. About two weeks later, the bridge is ready to be bonded permanently over the teeth.
If healthy teeth are not present, then a bridge will not be an option. However, bridges can also be anchored directly onto dental implants to replace wider areas of missing teeth. Each end of the bridge is supported by a single implant, allowing the restoration to replace up to 3 or 4 teeth at once.
An implant retained denture brings the stability of dental implants and the full coverage of a denture together. Your retained denture will not rock out of place the way a regular denture would. It provides greater reliability and comfort on a day to day basis. Dentures can be secured by as few as 2 to 4 dental implants. Depending on the type of implant denture that you are wearing, the process could go a few different ways.
Dental implants allow dentures to snap in and out without becoming loose throughout the day. Depending on the health of your jaw, only 2 implants may be needed. Other forms of implant retained dentures can be permanently anchored into the jaw with as few as 4 implants.
Some people elect to use mini dental implants to secure their denture. Mini implants add much needed security for dentures that may not stay in place well with an adhesive. They are also very easy to place, with very little discomfort. Since they are much smaller than conventional implants, more of them will be needed. Most people require at least 4 mini implants to keep the denture retained properly.