Replacing missing teeth is important for many reasons in addition to the aesthetic considerations. Unless a missing tooth is replaced, other teeth may shift position and cause bite issues and other problems such as excessive wear and even headaches in some patients. Shifting teeth can also lead to oral health problems such as gum disease and tooth decay. In addition, the natural chewing action stimulates the growth of new jawbone tissue. If several adjacent missing teeth are not replaced, bone loss can occur.
Dental implants are an excellent alternative for replacing missing teeth that have many advantages over other options for replacing missing teeth such as fixed bridges. Unlike other tooth replacement options, dental implants do not rely on support from adjacent teeth. For example, placement of a bridge to replace a single missing tooth requires reshaping the teeth on either side of the missing tooth.
A bridge is essentially two crowns with a prosthetic tooth suspended between them. To place the bridge, the teeth adjacent to the missing tooth are reduced in size to allow the crowns to be placed on them. The result is that to replace a single missing tooth, two healthy natural teeth are permanently compromised.
With a dental implant, the healthy adjacent teeth are not affected. The implant is surgically implanted in the jawbone, and a post is screwed into the implant. Cementing a crown to the post completes the restoration and leaves the adjacent teeth intact. The implant and crown looks and feels just like a natural tooth and should last a lifetime with proper care.
If you need to replace missing teeth, your dentist can explain your tooth replacement options and help you decide if a dental implant is the right choice for you.
Even though tooth loss due to gum disease and tooth decay is preventable, hundreds of millions of Americans are missing one or more teeth and ten percent of Americans have lost all of their natural teeth. For these Americans it is important for their overall health and self-esteem to replace missing teeth.
It is well established that a person’s diet is adversely affected by tooth loss and the more teeth that are missing, the worse the problem becomes. In addition to leading to poor diet and health, tooth loss causes loss of jawbone density and can cause problems with speaking. People with missing teeth are also more inclined to avoid social interaction because they feel self-conscious about their appearance and have problems speaking and chewing.
Fortunately, there are a variety of tooth replacement options. Removable dentures are a very common alternative due to their relative low cost and the fact that they can usually be fitted without extensive treatment. However, they take some getting used to and denture wearers have to learn to chew and speak with their new teeth. They can also slip and require occasional adjustments for a good fit.
A fixed bridge is a more permanent solution that provides sturdier replacement teeth. A fixed bridge is one or more prosthetic teeth that are permanently attached to adjacent healthy teeth. They look and feel like natural teeth, but are only appropriate if the patient has sufficient remaining healthy teeth.
Dental implants require more invasive treatment, but they result in a replacement tooth or teeth that look and feel almost exactly like natural teeth. Implants have a higher initial cost than other alternatives, but they last much longer. A dental implant can be used to replace a single tooth or to anchor numerous teeth.
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