Dentists are dedicated to saving teeth, but sometimes their patients still lose them. Accidents or other injuries may knock teeth out or break them off. Or, they may be extracted by a dentist when cavities are ignored and tooth decay has destroyed them.
Luckily, there are choices of what you can do to replace a lost tooth.
Do You Have to Replace a Lost Tooth?
It isn’t essential to replace a lost tooth, but it is a good idea. Aside from the cosmetic reason of an imperfect smile, there are dental health reasons for fixing the problem, too. Over time, the remaining teeth will drift to fill in the gap left by the missing tooth. The misalignment can make it more difficult for a patient to chew or talk. It can also cause bone loss and decay around the existing teeth.
Anyone with a missing tooth should consider replacing it, even if it’s at the back of the mouth or they are not bothered how it looks.
Dental implants have become the most popular method of replacing a missing tooth. They are particularly effective for a single tooth, but can also be used to secure a partial or full set of dentures.
Getting implants is a minor surgical procedure. The dentist places a metal post into the jaw bone, in place of the tooth’s root. The bone will begin actually to grow around the implanted post, making it as secure as a real tooth. A manmade crown, bridge, or dentures, are custom-made to fit in the patient’s mouth, and attached to the top of the post.
People love implants because they look and feel like natural teeth. No dental work is necessary on the surrounding teeth to prepare for them. They last a long time and halt the bone loss that can come with missing teeth.
They are, however, the most expensive option. In addition, the procedure can take several visits to the dentist. The fact that implant placement requires surgery may eliminate it as an option for patients with severe bone loss, poor gum health, or some medical conditions.
A bridge is an alternative to an implant, especially when only one tooth is involved. It is less expensive, but like an implant, looks and feels like the original tooth. It’s called a bridge because it connects two healthy teeth by placing a false tooth (called a pontic) in between. The pontic is cemented into place and is a permanent solution.
During the procedure, crowns are placed on the teeth next to the lost tooth. This involves cutting the teeth down first. Some people don’t like the idea of cutting down teeth that are perfectly healthy. And since the pontic is not set into the jaw like an implant, the patient can still experience bone loss underneath it. Despite these drawbacks, bridges offer a cost-effective and quicker alternative to implants.
Removable Partial Denture
As their name implies, removable partial dentures can be taken out, usually overnight. They have been around the longest and are what people often picture when they think of false teeth.
Partial dentures consist of a plastic base that matches the color of the gums. The replacement tooth or teeth are attached to the base. Metal hooks or clasps attach the base to the healthy teeth next to the space.
Although they might seem “old-fashioned,” advances have improved their look and fit. They remain one of the least expensive options for replacing one or more lost teeth.
Because they can be taken out, one of their drawbacks is that they can be lost or broken. Another is that if they don’t fit properly, they can be uncomfortable, rubbing on the gums. Ill-fitting dentures can slip while talking or eating, which could also be a nuisance.
Despite these downsides, they are a reasonably priced, effective option, especially when multiple teeth are missing.
Is DIY Tooth Replacement a Thing?
Believe it or not, a web search will result in videos and even products at the drugstore for in-home fixes to missing teeth. At best, these are temporary solutions until you can see a dentist. At worst, they can cause more damage.
Our dentists do not recommend any of these items or methods. The cost savings may be tempting, but there is no substitute for seeing a trained professional. If you need to find a dentist in your area, use our online locator.
See a Dentist to Recreate Your Smile
No matter how you lost your tooth, there is no reason you have to live with an incomplete smile. Your dentist can review the options available to you and have you smiling again in no time!