Although most people start adulthood with 32 teeth, it’s not uncommon for a person to lose one or more of those teeth as they go through life. A variety of factors, from tooth decay to injuries and from gum disease to intentional extraction can all lead to missing teeth.
One or more missing teeth can lead to a number of problems. Fortunately, modern dentistry has developed ways to replace lost teeth. The replacement teeth can often look as good, if not better, than the real thing. If you are missing a tooth or two, it helps to understand the value of replacing the lost teeth and what your options are for doing so.
Why Replace Missing Teeth?
There are a few reasons it’s a good idea to replace any teeth you’re missing. One reason is that a lost tooth can interfere with your ability to chew and eat. Whether you are missing a front tooth or a molar, it can be difficult to bite off pieces of food or to fully break it down when teeth are missing.
Missing teeth can also interfere with your ability to speak clearly. The tongue, teeth, and palate all have important roles to play when you form sounds and words. When a tooth is gone, it can make it difficult to pronounce certain sounds or to say some words.
A missing tooth also has a negative impact on your appearance. Some teeth are much more noticeable than others when they’re missing — it’s obviously easier to see when a person has lost a front tooth than one farther back in the mouth. Even the loss of a tooth in the back of the mouth, such as a molar, can affect your appearance. A missing molar can change the shape of your mouth, aging your appearance.
Finally, not replacing a missing tooth can put your other teeth at risk. When there’s a gap between teeth, the remaining teeth can shift in position, which can increase your risk for cavities and gum disease. A shifted tooth position can also affect your bite.
Missing Tooth Replacement Option: Dentures
For years, dentures were the go-to replacement option for missing teeth. People in colonial times reportedly wore wooden dentures to replace any teeth they had lost.
Dentures are a passable, but not ideal, option for replacing teeth nowadays. They tend to be the most budget-friendly option, but their affordability often comes at a cost. Dentures aren’t permanently attached to your gums. You’re supposed to remove them when sleeping and at certain other times of the day. They can be easy to lose if you forget where you put them down. There have also been instances of people swallowing their dentures because they forgot to take them out before falling asleep.
Missing Tooth Replacement Option: Fixed Bridges
Unlike dentures, bridges are typically fixed into place and can’t be removed. They look like your natural teeth and can be cleaned like your other teeth. Often, bridges replace one or more teeth and are attached to the remaining natural teeth on either side. Over time, it is possible for a fixed bridge to cause wear and tear on the remaining teeth. It can also be difficult to clean under the bridge to remove any trapped food bits or bacteria.
Missing Tooth Replacement Option: Implants
These days, dental implants are the gold standard when it comes to replacing missing teeth. They do tend to cost more than other tooth replacement options. But the payoff is that they are pretty much indistinguishable from your natural teeth.
Dental implants are permanently attached to the jawbones in your mouth. To place an implant, a dentist first positions a titanium post in the gums where the tooth or teeth are missing. The bone underneath the gums fuses to the post, holding it permanently and securely in place. Next, a crown is prepared to go over the top of the post. The crown will look and feel like a normal tooth.
The process of placing dental implants can take several months. The post will need time to fuse with the bone, which can take up to six months. During that time, you’ll wear a temporary crown to cover up the post. After the post is fully fused to the bone, your dentist will place the permanent crown.
You don’t have to live with missing teeth. In the Miami area, Dr. John Paul Gallardo is a periodontal specialist who offers patients several dental implant options, including single tooth replacement, multiple teeth replacement, and full teeth replacement. He can recommend an implant that works for you. To schedule an appointment in Miami, FL, call 305-547-8687 today.