Missing teeth impede speech and may contribute to malnutrition as a result of a limited ability to chew food. Missing teeth can also lower confidence and self-esteem by altering the appearance. A missing tooth can also cause other teeth to crowd, extrude or become titled as they strive to fill in the space. Bridges, dentures and partials are available to replace missing teeth. However, the use of such restorations requires altering healthy teeth, is not permanent and/or may cause damage to existing bone and tissue.
The placement of a bridge to replace a single missing tooth requires that each tooth on either side of the missing tooth receive a crown. The three crowns are cemented together with the middle one acting as the replacement for the missing tooth. Bridges will last up to 10 years. The loss of tooth structure required to place the bridge weakens otherwise healthy teeth and could cause either of the adjacent teeth to require removal, at which point the bridge may be extended or a partial denture may be placed.
Partial dentures are removable prostheses consisting of a wire and artificial teeth. The wire clasps on to an existing tooth. The partial denture can be removed for cleaning and during sleep. Prolonged use of a partial may cause the anchoring teeth to deteriorate. The bone may also begin to recede as partial wears on the existing structure.
Full dentures are notorious for shifting, loosening, clicking and being uncomfortable. Prolonged use of dentures deteriorates the jaw bone and can causes sores on the gum tissue. When the removal of an entire arch of teeth is unavoidable, the use of dental implants can aid in denture retention.
The replacement of a missing tooth by a dental implant is the superior choice on all accounts. The dental implant is a permanent solution that behaves most like a natural tooth. It can be placed without damaging existing tooth structure and will not deteriorate the bone or other teeth with prolonged use.