Dr. Haight’s Helpful Hints
Help! I’ve got a tooth missing!
Whether you just lost a tooth or have had a single tooth missing for years, rest assured you have options. When a tooth is lost, changes will begin to take place immediately, so a long term plan should ideally be in place. Let’s visit a few options.
Option one is always do nothing. But that is certainly a risky one to say the least. When a tooth is lost, a number of changes begin to take place. First, without something present to stimulate the bone, bone loss is a significant problem for that space. In addition, teeth may drift and alter not only the space, but your bite as well. Even if you do not want to do anything right away, it is important to have an idea of your options should you decide to go another route.
The next and best option in most cases is a dental implant. In this case, the implant itself, or post, is surgically placed into your bone and acts as good anchor for a replacement. After placement and healing time, an abutment and crown are placed on top of the post to mimic a natural tooth. This option is great for many reasons. First, it is fixed and does not come in or out of the mouth. It also spares the adjacent teeth and requires no drilling while maintaining healthy bone in that area. Finally, it is easy to clean and looks very natural. All this considered, one must be in good health and have adequate bone to be a candidate. While the cost of implants and time allotted may not be ideal, it is by far the best long term solution to a single missing tooth.
Option three would be a bridge for the area. Now this is also a fixed option and appeals to many because of that reason. A bridge requires preparing the adjacent teeth and hooking them onto a fake tooth, or pontic, in the middle into a single unit that is cemented on. While it is seemingly a greater, cheaper and quicker option, there are some drawbacks. First, this option requires drilling on and potentially weakening the teeth beside the empty space. In some cases, those teeth may already have or need crowns, but often times, drilling on healthy teeth is severely frowned upon as it weakens good teeth. A bridge is also much more difficult to clean since the 3 crowns are attached. This cleaning is very important to master though, because getting decay on one of those adjacent teeth sacrifices the whole thing. This option also has lots of bone loss associated with it because of lack of stimulation after the tooth was removed. This is a reasonable fix in some instances, but definitely has some potential problems associated with it.
Let’s take a look at your last option though. A partial denture. This is just a lab fabricated prosthesis that has replacement teeth fixed to an acrylic base matching your gum color. The plastic piece will hook around other teeth in the arch in order to provide stability and retention and may be on top of a metal base depending on the scenario. This option is certainly viable for finances up front, however, not ideal because it comes in and out, does nothing for counteracting bone loss and usually needs to be replaced more often. This option is also not the most esthetically pleasing or comfortable one for most.
With all these options it certainly gives you something to think about! Each one should be considered carefully and discussed in conjunction with your dentist. Every patient and every case is unique and so should the treatment be. Talk to your dentist and really weigh in on which option is best for you and gives you the most comfort.