One to several missing teeth can be replaced by implants, bridges and partial dentures. Replacement options can be removable, which will come in and out of the mouth, or fixed, attached permanently in the mouth.

Bridge: a fixed restoration that bridges the gap by crowning teeth on either side of the space

Implant: a fixed restoration that takes the spot where a tooth used to be with a titanium post (the implant) and a crown on top

Partial Denture: a removable replacement with teeth set in acrylic or metal base

Why replace missing teeth?

Having a missing tooth can cause some serious side effects. When teeth are lost, people often have difficulty chewing. They will then start to chew on the opposite side of the missing tooth or teeth. The excessive forces on this side will wear these teeth faster causing more problems such as decay, mobility, broken teeth, and cracks. Implants and crowns will restore chewing capacity back to 100%.
When a tooth goes missing, tissue loss starts to occur at that site and spreads to the adjacent teeth causing them to move. When teeth drift into the open space, the bite changes causing pain, headaches and teeth to chip, fracture or loosen. Bridges, implants and partial dentures will fill in the missing spaces keeping the adjacent teeth from moving.
Tooth loss can have a drastic effect on a person’s appearance. They may become embarrassed and self-conscious. Even just one tooth lost can keep someone from smiling. If multiple teeth are missing, the lips and cheeks can start to collapse in causing wrinkles and a premature aged look. By replacing missing teeth you can restore that beautiful confident smile while also helping the teeth function and last.

Fixed versus Removable

Fixed options are better than removable. Implants and bridges will look, feel, and function just like natural teeth. Partial dentures can be difficult for patients to adjust to wearing. They are removable so they will have to come in and out and cannot be worn 24/7. They will move around so the function and chewing capacity is not as good as a fixed prosthesis. The advantage with removable over fixed options is that the partial dentures offer a cost effective way to replace several missing teeth.

Bridge versus Implant

Implants and bridges are both excellent ways to replace missing teeth. Dr. Brian can talk with you about which option may be the best option for you. They each have their pros and cons.
Bone vs. Reduction of adjacent teeth:
Implants depend on bone quality and volume where the tooth is missing. A CT scan may be needed to determine if and where an implant can go. A minor surgery is needed to place the implant in the bone. If there is not enough bone, then grafting is needed or a bridge is the better option.
Bridges depend on the adjacent teeth on either side of the space. If these teeth are compromised in any way, then the support of the bridge is also compromised and an implant is a better option. Tooth structure needs to be removed on the adjacent teeth to attach a bridge. If these teeth have large fillings or crowns already then the bridge is a good option. If these teeth have never been worked on, an implant is a better since it requires no work on adjacent teeth. Implants have the best long term prognosis
A single implant crown is self-supported, where a bridge has 3 or more crowns connected together. If something happens to the implant crown, the problem is isolated to that one area. If one part of the bridge fails, such as one tooth gets decay or one crown of the bridge breaks, then it affects the entire bridge.
Implants cost more than bridges in the short run. Long term, an implant is the better option and will be more cost effective. The implant will likely last you the rest of your life whereas the bridge will probably need replacement at least once. You cannot get decay around an implant and it’s like having a single tooth back.
An implant is easier to clean than a bridge. You can floss just like normal around an implant. Since several crowns are connected together with a bridge, you have to thread floss underneath of the bridge to be able to clean it.
The process of getting a bridge takes less time than an implant. Implants need time to heal. There is time needed after an extraction before an implant can be placed, 3-4 months, and then another 3-4 months before the implant can be loaded with a crown. That’s 6-8 months before treatment can be finished where you will need to wear a partial denture during healing time or just be without a tooth. The bridge can be delivered much sooner and there’s less time without a tooth.
Tissue loss
Once a tooth is lost, bone and gum tissue starts to resorb in that area. Only an implant can help maintain the bone so tissue is not lost.

More Information:

You can learn more about implants, bridges and partial dentures such as what to expect with each option and how to best care for them.
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Partial Dentures