We are living in an age in which having missing teeth in one’s smile is increasingly more unacceptable in a social and professional setting. And unfortunately, people have situations in which teeth become unsalvageable and must be extracted. For these situations, it is nice to know that there are many options available to fill in the spaces from extracted or missing teeth and restore one’s smile and confidence.
The first option to replace missing teeth is a removable denture or partial denture. This is usually best for replacing many teeth. Complete dentures are used to replace an entire set of teeth on the top and/or bottom of the mouth. Usually, the suction created for an upper denture can create a decent result. However, lower full dentures are rarely tolerated well by patients due to the inherent instability of the device. Partial dentures are useful when teeth remain in order to hold the device into the mouth. For this situation, the partial is clasped onto the existing teeth in order to achieve stability of the device. A variation of partial denture which eliminates the need for clasps is a precision-attached partial. In this case, the removable partial denture is held into place by specially designed caps (crowns) which allow for the device to be snapped into place.
Then there are fixed solutions for replacing teeth. The traditional solution for restoring a space is a bridge. The bridge is created by using the teeth on either side of the space in order to hold a tooth which fills in the missing space. The two anchor teeth are prepared for caps (crowns). In this situation, the bridge creates a very natural looking solution which does not need to be removed.
The more modern method of replacing a space is with an implant. For this solution, an implant is placed into the space and allowed to integrate into the tissue of one’s mouth. Then, a cap (crown) is placed on top of the implant, creating a very natural looking solution in which the teeth on either side of the implant remain untouched.
Lastly, for individuals without any remaining teeth on either the top or bottom jaw, one can choose an implant-retained removable denture or fixed bridge. For the denture solution, the denture still needs to be removed in order to be cleaned, but the fit in the mouth is much stronger, especially on the bottom. With the placement of as little as two implants, one can have a much better chewing experience than with a normal denture. For the fixed bridge solution, the teeth are securely attached to the jaw with several implants (usually six to eight) and create the strongest solution for an individual without any teeth.
When considering which option is best. One must consider several factors. The two most important are: 1) the number and position of the missing teeth and 2) one’s budget. Whereas implant solutions are often the more modern and preferred method, they can sometimes be outside of one’s budget. It is always important to discuss all of the factors with one’s dentist in order to determine the correct solution.