Options to Replace a Missing Tooth
Are you a soccer player or a hockey player and you’re missing a front tooth? Perhaps you had a tragic zip line accident or fell down the stairs? Your question might be, what can I do to replace this missing tooth and regain my confidence and get my smile back?
When you’re missing a tooth, you’ve got several options to consider. In this blog, we will go a little more in-depth about the options you have to help guide you in picking the best one for you.
Here are Five Options You Have for Replacing Your Missing Tooth:
- Do nothing and just rock and roll with a missing tooth
- Removable prosthesis
- Resin-bonded bridges
- Conventional dental bridges
- Dental implants
Of course, no treatment at all is always an option, but when you’re missing a tooth, you really should look into options for replacing it. In addition to the aesthetic and the social disadvantage of missing a tooth, you do need to be worried about the possibility of teeth shifting in the space, not to mention bone loss, which can cause periodontal disease. You can also have issues with speech or the ability to chew properly. Very rarely do we recommend doing nothing for a patient with a missing tooth.
The next option to replace a missing tooth is a removable option. A tooth prosthesis is just that – a removable appliance that you take in and out of your mouth. This means that once you’ve healed from the tooth extraction, we can make an appliance for you that resembles your missing tooth and gum tissue. All you have to do when you get up in the morning is put the appliance in and you’re good to go all day. You can talk, eat, sing at church, and nobody will know you’re missing a tooth. The only disadvantage is you’ll need to take it out at night. The main reason is due to the wet environment in the mouth, the tissue needs a chance to breathe. If you left it in, it would be like going to bed with wet socks on your feet. The next day your feet would look and feel pretty nasty. The same is true for your mouth. If you have something compressing the tissue every night, your mouth won’t have a chance to breathe, and creates an environment that could possibly cause infections.
There are many people who have removable appliances. Sometimes they’re referred to as ‘flippers’ because you can flip them in and out. Flippers are very useful, especially in situations where you’re worried about losing more teeth. This applies to people who play intense sports, like hockey or rugby, or someone that wants to have the appearance of teeth but is worried about further damage.
Another advantage of a removable appliance is that it is not only the least expensive treatment option, but it is also something that our team can make very quickly. So if you are preparing to replace a tooth and time and/or finances is an issue, a removal appliance, even if it’s just a short-term solution, is a great option.
The next treatment option is a dental bridge. There are two types of bridges. The first one is a resin-bonded bridge, which is sometimes referred to as a Maryland Bridge. We use this a lot when healthy teeth are adjacent to a missing tooth. It is also used with children where we don’t want to take away the tooth’s structure because we don’t want to damage teeth.
Basically with the Maryland Bridge or the resin-bonded Bridge, all that is done is a little bit of reduction on the backside of the teeth next to the missing tooth. We just want enough thickness for us to build a fake tooth with two wings on the side. So when you come in, only a little bit of tooth reduction is done. It is a very easy process that you won’t even need to be numb for because of the minimal amount of shaving that is involved. Afterward, an impression will be done, and the lab will send back a beautiful tooth with these wings on the side. The wings can either be out of white zirconia, or they can be out of typical dental metal, which has a silver appearance.
Once it comes back from the lab, at your next appointment, the bridge is bonded into place. It will look and feel like your regular tooth and you will be able to eat and chew and function as you did before. You just don’t want to put any force directly on the fake tooth, like for example, eating a raw carrot or ripping open packages with your teeth. Nonetheless, it’s a great solution and it’s definitely the most minimally invasive solution.
Fixed Dental Bridge
The alternative to a Maryland bridge is your typical fixed dental bridge. In this process, we’ll reduce the teeth on either side of the missing tooth and prepare this area for crowns. This is a 3-unit piece that has a fake tooth attached. On both sides of the fake tooth, there will be two caps that cover the adjacent teeth. We put that in and it gives you the appearance of all three teeth looking normal. The big advantage of fixed bridges is that if you have teeth on either side of the missing tooth that are either heavily restored, have some decay, have big fillings, or have older crowns that you want to replace, you can correct them in this process. You fix two problems at once.
That is why a dental bridge is a great solution. You can have a beautiful smile and not necessarily have to go down the surgical route. The other advantage of a bridge is that it is permanent. We cement it in place, and it stays in place. We design them to last a lifetime and they look and feel like your natural teeth.
Advantages of a Fixed Bridge vs Implant
Another advantage of a fixed bridge versus an implant is that the turnaround time is quicker. You will have the preparation appointment where we numb the mouth, prepare the teeth, make your temporary bridge, and make an impression. You will leave that day with your temporary bridge until your next appointment. They look real and feel like your regular teeth.
It’ll take about three to four weeks for your bridge to come back from the lab. At your next appointment, the temporary will be removed and the fixed bridge will be put in and bonded into place. You will leave that day with your permanent three or more-unit bridge that looks and feels like your natural teeth. With a bridge, there really are no restrictions. You can eat and chew and function normally. It’s strong enough to treat like your regular teeth. There’s a little bit more involved with the hygiene aspect of it because you have to really clean everything well to stimulate that tissue but, it’s still a great option.
Is it One Shade Fits All?
Simply put, everyone has a different color shade when it comes to their teeth. In fact, there are up to 16 different color shades for teeth and that’s not even counting the bleach shades. At each appointment, before we order the crown from the lab, we’ll figure out your custom shade.
Sometimes we’ll even have the lab technician come out, the person who’s actually making the crown for us, to get an expert opinion since every mouth is different. We have to make sure we match it perfectly because, at the end of the day, we want this fake tooth to blend in and look like your natural teeth and we’ve got the capability to make that happen.
Single Dental Implant Crown
The final option for replacing a missing tooth is a single dental implant crown. This is a great option because it gives us the ability to just address the area that’s deficient. We don’t have to touch the adjacent teeth. It’s a very straightforward surgical procedure. We can control not only the depth and where we replace the implant, but we can build the tooth so it looks like it’s naturally emerging out of the socket and it will blend in with your other teeth.
It’s like a three-part stack, almost like an ice cream cone with two scoops. You’ve got the implant, which is a titanium screw that goes up in the bone and the bone actually grows around. It’ll actually stay in your bone right up to the level of your tissue. Then we’ve got a custom piece that we put into the implant that screws into place. It looks like a little miniature tooth. On top of that, we’ve got your permanent ceramic crown that looks like the natural tooth that gets cemented into place. Once it is in place, it stays in your mouth. It doesn’t come out and you treat it like your other teeth which is a big advantage. The biggest disadvantage of implants is that it takes time. It’s not a quick fix; it’s a process. But if you’re interested in more of a long-term solution, it’s well worth it!
Implant Surgery and Expectations
A lot of times people come in expecting to get their final tooth on the day of the surgery. Unfortunately, that is not the way it works. In order to make sure we’ve got the greatest chance for success, it takes time for the body to heal. So when a tooth is extracted, if you have a deficient bone or the area’s not strong enough, we add bone to the socket the day of the extraction. If that happens, you will have to wait about three months for that bone to heal before you’re ready for the implant.
Once the bone is ready, the implant will be placed. Then there is another three-month waiting period for that bone to fully integrate around the implant. During that time, we start the process of making the tooth that goes on top.
If your bone is healthy in the implant area and you have a healthy mouth, sometimes we can put a temporary crown on top of the implant on the day of surgery. It’s just designed to look nice. We don’t want you touching it or chewing on it. We can do that only in those situations where everything lines up perfectly. These are just some of the things to discuss with us when you come in for your treatment plan to replace your tooth.