Dentists have developed many different ways to replace missing teeth over the years. The latest gold standard for replacing missing teeth are dental implants, since they provide a permanent, stable, comfortable, aesthetically pleasing option for replacing a missing tooth. Dental implants are not meant for everyone, however, some people are unfortunately not candidates for dental implants. Luckily the other alternatives to replace missing teeth that have developed over the years still work great. Let’s have a look at what options are available and when they might be used.
Using Dentures or Partial Dentures to Replace Missing Teeth
One of the oldest methods for replacing missing teeth involves the use of some sort of removable dental prosthetic. There are a few options available depending on how many teeth are missing. There is a dental flipper or a ‘flipper tooth’ that’s used to replace one or two teeth. When more than two teeth need to be replaced the dentist may use a partial denture. If a whole row of teeth is missing the dentist will make a full denture.
These tooth replacement options are not very secure in the mouth, often becoming dislodged or getting food trapped under them. The issue among others have driven people increasingly towards tooth replacement options secured by dental implant. They are a great option, however, for people who physiologically cannot get dental implants or as an interim solution for people saving up money for dental implants.
Replacing Missing Teeth With a Dental Bridge
A more secure way to replace one or more missing teeth is a dental bridge. With this method, a set of porcelain teeth are cemented to the teeth adjacent to the gap, thus ‘bridging’ the gap. Since the bridge is cemented in place, this solution is secure, looks natural, and feels natural. This has made dental bridges a very popular option before dental implants became popular.
There are some limitations to using dental bridges, however. For example, a dental bridge can’t be used to replace more than a few teeth in a row since there are only two supporting teeth for the structure. For anything longer, the security and structural integrity of the bridge can’t be guaranteed. Additionally, dental bridges don’t engage the gums and bone at the site of the missing tooth, leading to a process called resorption that may eventually cause a gap underneath the bridge.
In addition to traditional dental bridges there is also what’s called a Maryland bridge – named after the University of Maryland dental school where the procedure was popularized. This a purely cosmetic solution to replacing missing teeth. Instead of shaving down the adjacent teeth to place a bridge on them the dentist cements the bridge to the back of the teeth on either side of the gap. This makes it an extremely quick, non-invasive, and cheap solution to replace missing teeth.
A Maryland bridge has many drawbacks however, due to the non-invasive process it’s not as secure as a traditional bridge and can’t be used to replace teeth used in chewing. Additionally it’s not strong enough to replace more than one tooth. This is an ideal solution for children who are congenitally missing teeth however, since it can serve as an interim solution until they are old enough to have the physiology that can make dental implants succeed.
Shifting Teeth With Orthodontics to Close a Gap From a Missing Tooth
One of the most involved processes used to replace a missing tooth is orthodontics. With this method the tooth isn’t ‘replaced’ per-se, but rather the teeth are shifted so that the gap left by the missing tooth is closed.
This method doesn’t have the limitations that the other other solutions have in terms of lack of security or shaving down healthy teeth, since your own teeth are being used to close the gap. But just like the Maryland bridge, it can only be used to replace one missing tooth in a row. Just as with the Maryland bridge, this solution is ideal for children born with congenitally missing teeth.
If you live near Worcester and are considering your options for replacing a missing tooth, we invite you to book a dental appointment at CNE Dental. Our dentists are prosthodontic specialists – dentists that specialize in replacing missing teeth and restoring oral function. Our dentists will be happy to discuss your options with you and find one that works best for your particular needs.