Here’s the thing. Dentists love teeth. We’re in the business of saving teeth long before we replace missing teeth, and sometimes we’ll go through some crazy heroics to do it. I’m still waiting for Marvel to recognize this and offer me a lucrative contract for my life story (which will later be turned into a Netflix original series), but in the meantime, I’ll be out there, trying to keep your teeth where they belong—in your mouth.
But sometimes teeth can’t be saved, even with an Avengers-style dentist team-up. Severely decayed or broken teeth are difficult or nearly impossible to restore. But fear not, people who regularly open beer bottles with your teeth, get into fights, or spend time on deserted islands without a toothbrush and floss; you have options to replace missing teeth. Let’s review them!
What Are Your Options to Replace Missing Teeth?
Option 1: Dental Implants
Implants are the gold standard for tooth replacement and are the next-best thing to your natural teeth. An implant is a titanium rod that is placed into your jaw. After it integrates with the surrounding bone, a crown is placed on the implant (via a “peg” called an abutment), and voila! A new tooth!
Additionally, implants can be used to create bridges, as well as improve retention in patients with dentures. In some scenarios, implants can be used to create a denture that stays “locked” in the mouth and can only be removed by a dentist.
The Pros of Dental Implants:
- High success rates in healthy patients
- Stable and comfortable, as well as strong and functional
- Doesn’t require removing tooth structure from adjacent teeth
- Less maintenance compared to a bridge or partial (you can brush and floss like normal)
The Cons of Dental Implants:
- Can be time-consuming
- Requires minor surgery
- The success rate is lower in patients with particular medical histories (bisphosphonate usage, diabetes, current smoker, etc.) and poor gum health and hygiene
- Has minimum requirements for the amount of bone and proximity to nearby teeth and other important structures that may require additional procedures to correct
Option 2: Bridges
In cases of single-tooth replacements, bridges are considered the second-best solution. A bridge is when the two teeth on either side of a space receive crowns, and then a fake tooth, or “pontic,” is added in between to fill the space.
The Pros of Dental Bridges:
- Fixed—not taking it in and out means better function than a removable appliance (denture or partial)
- Cheaper and faster than implants
- Less stringent anatomical requirements
- Less dependent on patient’s health history and can be done at any age
The Cons of Dental Bridges:
- Must have adjacent teeth on either side of space
- Have to crown adjacent teeth
- Harder to maintain/keep clean which could lead to recurrent decay
- Compared to implants, less predictable with a higher failure rate
- Bone loss below pontic
Option 3: Removable Partial
For tooth replacement, removable appliances are ideally the last option. A partial (short for partial denture), is something that you wear during the day but take out at night. There are different varieties based on the type of material, but they all have the same basic pros and cons.
Pros of Removable Partial Dentures:
- Don’t require surgery
- Rarely require more than minor alterations to existing teeth
Cons of Removable Partial Dentures:
- Less esthetic
- Less stable
- Less functional
- Can be less comfortable
- Harder to clean
Which Option to Replace Missing Teeth is Best for You?
Well, that answer depends on a few factors, the two most significant of which are finances and number of teeth needing replacement.
If you’re a 1%-er and have no health or anatomy contraindications, I’d say implants all the way regardless of how many teeth you’re missing. For the rest of us peasants who have student loans and limited finances, my rule of thumb is that if it’s only a few teeth, I recommend implants or bridges, depending on individual factors and the adjacent teeth. When we start getting multiple, larger spaces, that’s when I start considering partials as a potential option.
If you’re considering tooth replacement, give us a call at The Silberman Dental Group. Your Waldorf dentists, Dr. Silberman or me, Dr. Triplett, would be happy to talk over your situation and provide recommendations and a treatment plan customized to your unique needs, so you can get back to doing what you do best: opening beer bottles with your teeth.
Just kidding. Don’t do that.
(For the record, Chris Hemsworth, Sebastian Stan, and Tyler Hoechlin would all be acceptable for the role of my love interest in the Marvel Universe. Also in real life. Call me, Chris.)
Still have questions about the options to replace missing teeth? Leave us a comment below!