What Are My Options for Replacing Missing Teeth?

Our teeth have a significant impact on the way we live our lives. They influence the way we look, speak, and eat, and their absence greatly affects the way we perceive ourselves and the way others see us.

1. Implants

A dental implant is a titanium post (like a tooth root) that is surgically inserted into the jawbone beneath the gum line. It allows your dentist to mount a replacement tooth or a bridge in that area. An implant doesn’t come loose like a denture can. A dental implant consists of three parts:

  • the biocompatible titanium implant screw, which is placed into the bone,
  • the abutment, which is secured on the implant and
  • the crown, which is screwed or cemented on top of the abutment.

2. Dentures

While dentures are often the target of ridicule in popular culture, they are an effective replacement for teeth lost to decay, gum disease, or trauma. If you have experienced partial or total tooth loss, it’s likely your dentist will talk to you about dentures.

Dentures are typically made of acrylic and resin, special plastics, and occasionally lightweight metal. They are designed to look like your natural teeth.

There are three main types of dentures:

1. A full denture

Replacing all your natural teeth, full dentures rest on your upper or lower jaws or both, providing support to your face and giving it a natural, more “filled-in” look.

2. A partial denture

Replacing lost or missing teeth, partial dentures are held in place by clasps around your remaining teeth. They may have a cobalt-chrome base for added strength.

3. An implant retained denture

An alternative to standard dentures, implant retained dentures replace one or more single teeth and are held in place by implants fixed into the jaw.

Dentures are customised by your dentist or prosthetist to fit your mouth to prevent them from being the cause of bleeding gums, swelling, and ulcers. However, even the best made dentures will feel a little irritating at first as you adjust to how they feel in your mouth. You may need to return to your dentist for minor adjustments.

If you’re having teeth removed and need a denture, your dentist may suggest waiting a few months after the teeth have been removed to let your gums heal and to minimise the need for adjustments. However, if you need a denture immediately after a tooth is removed and it is fitted during the same visit (an immediate denture), you may require more frequent adjustments.

3. Bridges

Dental bridges literally bridge the gap created by one or more missing teeth.

A bridge consists of two or more crowns for the teeth on either side of the gap and a false tooth/teeth in between. The anchoring teeth are called abutment teeth. The false teeth are called pontics. They can be made from gold, metal alloys, porcelain, or a combination of these materials. Dental bridges are supported by natural teeth or implants. One of the disadvantages of dental bridges is the abutment teeth have to be shaved to make space for the crown to support the pontic. Vigilant flossing under the bridge is also required to keep dental decay at bay.