Tooth loss is an inevitable truth we all face, whether it comes as the result of an accident, cavity, or a failing root canal. While missing teeth can have damaging effects on one’s psyche, the treatment or lack of treatment chosen can have much further reaching effects on both dental and overall health. Typical treatment options available include fixed bridges, removable dentures, and dental implants. I recommend dental implants for the majority of my patients and here’s why:
Let’s examine the options so you can determine the best alternative for you.
Option 1: Do Nothing. When a tooth is lost, nature’s inclination is for your remaining teeth to shift or tilt to fill the empty space, which can cause a misalignment of the jaw. Teeth in the opposing jawline can also then grow longer vertically to fill the new space. When the roots of the missing tooth or teeth are no longer stimulated by chewing, they begin the process of “resorption,” that is, shrinking away slowly causing a loss in the volume of the jaw. Once this damage has taken place, it is almost impossible to duplicate the architecture of the bone and gum tissue that has been lost.
Option 2: Fixed Bridge. This solution has long been the standard of the dental industry. A dentist shaves down a part of each of the adjacent teeth and a false tooth is cemented down over them. The end result is cosmetically pleasing, and can prevent the shifting of the remaining teeth by filling the empty space. But what should you know about before you chose this option? When you cement the bridge to the sides of the adjacent teeth, the chewing pressure is redistributed to the bone under each of those teeth, meaning that the roots under the bridge will not be stimulated, and resorption continues to remain a possibility. As the jawbone and gums begin to recede, food can get trapped between them and the false tooth. Additionally, as the natural teeth to which the bridge is fused are subject to decay, the “seam” can come apart, causing the bridge to require repair and replacement over time.
Option 3: Removable Dentures. By far the least expensive option in the short term, partial removable dentures are replacement teeth mounted in plastic colored the same as the gums that are sometimes connected to remaining teeth using a metal framework. What is important to know about dentures? The bite force delivered by health natural teeth is between 200-250 pounds, versus the average denture delivering only 50 pounds of force. That’s a huge difference in chewing capability. Additionally, the plastic of the denture can rub and irritate the remaining teeth and gum line and resorption remains an issue.
Option 4: Dental Implants. A dental implant provides an artificial root to the crown or bridge that gets implanted into the jawbone and is capable of supporting one or more teeth. Dental implants provide more than just cosmetic benefits. Eliminating the dependence on adjacent teeth, implanted teeth are secured by cement or screws and cannot be removed. The artificial root structure implanted in the jawbone provides the necessary pressure to stimulate the root preventing resorption and bone loss.