Single tooth replacement can be achieved in three ways
- A removable partial denture
- Dental implants
- Fixed dental bridgework
Dental bridges and implants have replaced partial dentures as the most recommended single tooth replacement options. The quality of life is much better and the aesthetics are much preferred.
Why is single tooth replacement important?
Teeth are about much more than your smile. When you have a missing tooth, the remaining teeth will shift and move into the gap, resulting in crooked teeth. Since misaligned teeth are harder to brush and floss, this increases your risk of tooth decay and gum disease. Both of these issues can lead to further problems, such as receding gums and further tooth loss.
The visible part of your tooth has many functions outside of appearance, including biting and chewing. But the tooth root, which is below the gum line, also has essential functions.
Each time you bite down or chew, vibrations occur in your teeth. These vibrations stimulate the bone surrounding the tooth, which keeps the bone healthy and strong.
When a person loses a tooth, the bone surrounding the lost tooth is no longer stimulated. Without the stimulation, the body stops supplying the bone with calcium and phosphorus. Starved of these essential nutrients, the jawbone may begin to lose bone density.
Loss of bone structure affects the stability of surrounding teeth, increasing your risk for further tooth loss. It also alters your facial structure, changing your appearance and making you look older.
What is a Dental Implant?
A dental implant replaces your tooth root, and it is anchored into the socket of the missing tooth. This titanium post mimics your natural tooth root and allows for stimulation of the bone tissue. This resumes the flow of vital nutrients and prevents the loss of jawbone density.
Since it is made of titanium, which is compatible with human tissue, there is no worry of corrosion or toxicity. Moreover, titanium encourages bone growth, so once it is implanted into your jaw, new bone growth will occur around the post. This process, called osseointegration, fuses the implant in place, making it a permanent restoration.
Implants look, function, and feel just like your natural teeth and are the most ideal single tooth replacement option. They also provide the strongest, most durable method of securing complete dentures, bridges, and crowns for replacing one or more missing teeth.
The Implant Process
Receiving a dental implant begins with a thorough oral examination that includes diagnostic imaging and visible inspection.
Since the implant is surgically placed into the jaw, a patient must have sufficient bone tissue to receive the implant. If you don’t have the necessary amount of jawbone density to support the implants, you may need a bone graft.
At this point, your dentist will work alongside a specialist (oral surgeon or specially trained restorative dentist) to surgically place the implant into the socket of the missing tooth. After placement, it will take three to six months for the implant to fuse fully to your jawbone.
When the healing period is over, a connector, called an abutment, will be placed on the end of the implant. Your dentist will complete the restoration with a dental crown, fixed bridge, or denture.
Now, your tooth has the full function and strength with the beautiful appearance of a natural tooth.
Fixed Dental Bridge
A bridge is a dental appliance that “bridges the gap” of up to three missing adjacent teeth. Unlike removable partial dentures, a bridge is secured in place with either dental implants or crowns. Artificial teeth, called pontics, are the replacement teeth.
While dental implants offer a much more secure and durable anchor for the bridge, crowns are an excellent option for those who can’t or don’t want to undergo oral surgery.
To secure a bridge without implants, your dentist will place crowns on the teeth on either side of the gap (abutment teeth). The downside is that the abutment teeth must be prepared for the crowns, which involves removing some of the tooth structure. This can weaken the abutment teeth, leaving your bridge more susceptible to damage and breakage.
Another alternative for those not wanting surgery is a Maryland bridge, also called a resin-bonded fixed partial denture. This appliance also uses a pontic to replace a single tooth, but it is secured in a unique way.
Rather than anchoring it by completely covering the abutment teeth with crowns, the pontic has a metal framework that reaches out to the abutment teeth and bonds to the back of them. The appearance is that of a flying bat, with the pontic in the center and two wings on either side.
A Maryland bridge is not as secure or durable as other options, and the metal can make the abutment teeth appear darker in color. However, it is the most economical option, and it can be a good option for patients under 18 who are not old enough for a dental implant.
Schedule a Visit to learn about single tooth replacement
Do you have a gap in your smile that needs single tooth replacement? Or maybe you have several missing teeth that need replacement? Many patients are unaware of the damage a missing tooth can cause, so they avoid or delay necessary dental care. While many believe restorative dentistry is too expensive, delaying it only ends up costing more in the end.
Does embarrassment over a gap in your smile make you want to hide it or cover it up? A single tooth replacement option not only enhances the aesthetics of your smile, but it also improves your overall oral health.
The truth is, a lost tooth can not only make you feel self conscious about your appearance, especially if the gap is in your front teeth, but it can also endanger your dental health.
Call 847-234-0517 today to schedule your tooth replacement consultation. Our office welcomes patients from Lake Forest and the North Shore suburbs of Chicago.