According to the American Dental Association, it’s common for adults aged 20 to 64 to have three or more decayed or missing teeth. Potential repercussions of tooth loss include ongoing jawbone loss, drifting of adjacent teeth, gum disease, tooth decay, loss of other teeth, discomfort eating, and a hit to self-esteem.
The good news is that ongoing advances in dental technology have led to a greater number of available tooth replacement solutions. If you’re dealing with tooth loss, today’s options include dental implants, traditional full or partial dentures, dental bridges, overdentures (also called snap-in or snap-on dentures), and fixed implant-supported dentures.
Replacing missing teeth is necessary to prevent tooth loss from negatively impacting your oral health, systemic health, and quality of life! But so many tooth replacement options can make it difficult to take the first step.
Learning about current tooth replacement options will help you make an informed decision when you’re ready to start your journey to improved oral health and aesthetics.
Table of Contents
Dental Implants Overview
The three-part dental implant consists of a dental implant post, abutment, and restoration. The titanium implant post is surgically placed in the underlying bone where it fuses over a three- to six-month period. The dental implant abutment is attached to the implant post with a fixation screw to support an artificial tooth, bridge, or full mouth dental implants.
The three components work together to optimally restore oral function and smile aesthetics. Once they fuse with your underlying bone, dental implants provide unsurpassed versatility, natural-looking beauty, longevity, and durability. Dental implants are the only tooth replacement solution that assumes the function of a natural tooth root, thereby keeping the underlying bone healthy and encouraging new bone growth. They only require the same at-home oral hygiene and professional dental care as natural teeth.
Although dental implants have a high success rate of 95–98%, they cost more upfront than other options. Poor oral hygiene, untreated periodontal disease, and inadequate bone can lead to failure. As such, it’s important to consult an experienced dentist with expertise in placing dental implants. Good oral hygiene is crucial for keeping gums healthy and maintaining the long-term viability of dental implants.
A dental bridge consists of a false tooth anchored by teeth on each side. The adjacent teeth need to be modified and fitted with crowns to provide adequate support for the bridge.
A dental bridge is fabricated from high-quality materials and color-matched to look natural alongside existing teeth. A bridge effectively eliminates unsightly smile gaps, prevents adjacent teeth from shifting, and restores the ability to eat and speak.
Although a dental bridge helps restore function and aesthetics, bone loss continues under the false tooth without a natural tooth root to stimulate it. In addition, a special flossing tooth is needed to clean under the bridge and this can be difficult to use.
Full and Partial Dentures
Traditional dentures consist of both upper and lower sets of removable teeth crafted from acrylic resin or porcelain held together by a gum-colored acrylic or metal base. Upper and/or lower partial dentures are an alternative to bridges and designed to fill in gaps created by missing teeth.
While dentures are considered a relatively conventional treatment, technical innovations have led to the availability of far better options than in the past. For some people, dentures are an economical and acceptable method for remedying tooth loss or replacing a full mouth of missing teeth.
With conventional dentures, the bone that previously surrounded your natural tooth roots progressively deteriorates until it’s completely resorbed. Bone loss can cause gum irritation, a poor fitting denture, the need for periodic relining, and undesirable facial changes. Dentures can fall out, click, slip, require messy adhesive, and need to be removed every night for cleaning. In addition, they can easily be dislodged when eating, so limiting foods is a necessity.
Overdentures and Implant Supported Dentures
Overdentures are held in place with a bar- or ball-retained device and like traditional dentures, are typically made of natural-looking acrylic resin or porcelain. Attachments on top of the implants create a snapping mechanism, enabling eating, speaking, and smiling with ease. This also allows for relatively simple removal of the denture for daily cleaning and maintenance.
Snap-on dentures provide 40 to 50% of normal biting force versus just 20% with traditional dentures. Most snap-on dentures can last 10–15 years with proper maintenance.
Implant supported dentures stabilized by two or more dental implants can restore 60% of dental function and are typically designed as a fixed prosthesis removable by a dental professional. The teeth can be fabricated from acrylic or zirconia.
Removable overdentures don’t provide as much stability as fixed options. Both overdentures and implant supported dentures may require relines or repairs, but not as frequently as traditional dentures because the implant posts stimulate and keep the underlying bone healthy.
Factors to Consider When Choosing a Tooth Replacement Option
Dental implants are the best option if you have missing or severely damaged teeth and are looking for a permanent, natural-looking option. With that said, factors to consider include tooth replacement cost, your financial situation, and the number and location of missing teeth.
If you have poor oral health, a history of smoking, gum disease, or a health condition that affects bone healing, you aren’t a good candidate. But getting preliminary treatments can help you qualify, in many cases.
Whether you opt for dental implants, dentures, or implant supported dentures, it is important to choose a dentist with advanced skills and extensive experience, including diagnostic and planning expertise. Consulting a dentist who offers a wide range of restorative dentistry is essential to selecting a tooth replacement option that best fits your needs.
Enjoy a Complete Smile and a Changed Life
For a long time, dentures, and bridges were the only tooth replacement options for people with missing teeth. Today, if you’re missing teeth on your upper arch, lower arch or both, you have many choices. Now that you’ve learned about different options, the absolute best way to determine the right option is to schedule a consultation with Dr. David Sabourin.