Dental Implants & Missing Teeth

EMBARRASSED by missing teeth?  Nearly 70% of adults ages 35 to 44 are missing at least one permanent tooth. By age 50, most Americans have lost several permanent teeth!  A single missing tooth can affect your bite, speech and food choices.  As remaining teeth take on the work of those missing, you increase the likelihood those teeth will wear out prematurely.  You may also experience headaches and/or jaw pain….just from one missing tooth.

Additionally, your appearance may be affected.  Bone loss, in which the jaw literally melts away, is the natural consequence of missing teeth.  Generally, people will lose 25 percent of their supporting jawbone structure within the first year after tooth loss. This is why dental implants are more easily placed when teeth are first extracted.  Bone replacement, which is necessary for your implant’s strong foundation, becomes more complex with each passing month.

While other tooth replacement options exist, dental implants are most like your natural teeth. They safeguard and preserve your bone structure, oral health and appearance.  Good candidates include those missing one or more teeth or someone who is unhappy with his or her dentures.  Age is not a factor.  Smoking, diabetes, certain medications and a history of radiation therapy to the face/jaw area may lower the success rate of implant placement.  X-rays of your jaw will be taken during your consultation to evaluate whether bone structure is sufficient to accommodate implants. Your dentist and the implant surgeon will discuss a variety of options allowing you to make the most informed decision concerning tooth replacement.

Tooth Replacement Options

An example of a dental fixed bridge

Fixed Bridge

A fixed bridge is a connected set of replacement teeth. For support, it is cemented into position on top of the teeth adjacent to the empty space. The protective outer layer of these teeth is usually removed or ground down prior to attaching the bridge.

An sample of a removable retainer with a plastic tooth known as a flipper

Flipper

A fragile, temporary and inexpensive solution is a removable plastic tooth with a plastic retainer, often called a “flipper.”

A depiction of a sturdy partial denture cast in metal and plastic

Metal Partial

A less fragile option is a removable partial denture cast in metal and plastic. It is held in place by wire clips. A removable partial denture can be removed and reinserted when required by the patient.

A representation of a full denture for the entire lower jaw

Denture

The most common solution for people missing all teeth in one or both jaws are complete dentures. Some people adapt well to dentures. Others find them uncomfortable, even intolerable, because of differences in jaw size and shape.

A visual of a permanent dental implant to replace missing teeth

Dental Implants

Dental implants are the most comfortable and permanent solution. They form a strong foundation for teeth and keep the jaw healthy and strong. Implants support individual replacement teeth or secure specialized dentures in place. Unlike bridges, no healthy teeth are damaged. Unlike most bridges, implants can last a lifetime. Implant-supported replacement teeth can be attractive, stable and comfortable for almost any patient.

Why Select Dental Implants Over More Traditional Types Of Restorations?

A dental bridge requires neighboring teeth (which are often healthy) to be ground down to accommodate the bridge. Many patients find that maintaining proper hygiene around the bridge is difficult which can lead to bad breath and additional dental problems.  Both dentures and partials must be removed at night for cleaning.  Discomfort and embarrassing slippage are common complaints.  Neither bridges nor dentures do anything to prevent further bone loss and the accompanying “sunken” look of the face.

A smiling elderly man

“Don’t be afraid to smile.”

For years I’d felt like a part of my body was missing — because my teeth were. My dentist told me that dental implants would make me feel and look a lot better. OK, I said. Now, I’m thrilled. I can smile, eat anything and enjoy a good laugh with my friends.