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Exploring Your Options: Tooth Replacement Solutions for Multiple Missing Teeth

 

Missing teeth can not only lower self-esteem, but can also result in problems like shifting teeth and bone loss, as well as difficulty chewing, speaking, and more. Luckily, there are various teeth-replacement options your dentist can offer. If you are missing several teeth, you have a few options to choose from removable partial dentures, fixed bridges, and implants. All three have different advantages and disadvantages, but they all have the same aim: to restore function and aesthetics.

Partial Dentures 

Partial dentures are the most affordable option. These are removable prosthetics made of plastic, a combination of plastic and metal, or a thermoplastic material. The denture is made to fit around your remaining teeth, usually with clasps, to help retain the denture in your mouth while eating and speaking.

Advantages:

  • Affordable
  • Easily maintained
  • Can sometimes add more teeth to existing dentures
  • Restores function and aesthetics

Disadvantages:

  • It needs to be replaced periodically
  • Prone to breakage
  • Less comfortable than bridges and implants
  • Can be harder to adapt to
  • Cannot prevent bone loss

Fixed Bridge

Unlike dentures, a fixed bridge is not removable (other than by a dentist). A fixed bridge is a number of crowns connected together to form a “bridge”. The abutment teeth, adjacent to your missing tooth/teeth, serve to support the bridge. It is where the bridge is cemented. The fixed bridge can be made of various materials such as porcelain-fused-to-metal (PFM), all-porcelain, etc.

Advantages:

  • More natural-looking than removable dentures
  • More comfortable than removable dentures
  • Easier to adapt to
  • Can last for many years
  • Less expensive than implants

Disadvantages:

  • More expensive than removable partial dentures
  • Less conservative – healthy adjacent teeth need to be reduced for the bridge to be cemented to them. This means they will now be prone to decay if the crown is not installed well.
  • Difficult to repair – since these crowns are connected, when one gets loose or fractures, you will most likely need to have the whole bridge replaced.
  • Cannot prevent bone loss

Implants 

Dental implants are the best long-term investment in both time and money. They involve a procedure wherein a titanium screw is surgically inserted into the jaw to support a crown, bridge, or hybrid denture. Implants provide the most advantages. However, due to the materials and expertise needed to place them, they are also the most expensive option. Unlike the above options, implants essentially replace the whole tooth, crown, and roots, helping to prevent or minimize bone loss. This is an advantage denture and fixed bridges do not possess. Implants have a very high success rate and might even be a permanent solution for missing teeth. When taken care of, they can last a lifetime.

Advantages:

  • Restores aesthetics and function
  • Stability – since the screw is fused to the bone, it is the most stable among all the options
  • Low maintenance – caring for implants is as easy as brushing your teeth twice a day, flossing daily, and visiting your dentist every 6 months for oral prophylaxis and overall evaluation of your oral health
  • Prevent bone loss – Because it replaces the roots, it prevents bone loss, protecting the stability of any surrounding teeth and the overall structure of the jaw.
  • Long-term – when taken care of, the implant itself can last a lifetime, however, the restoration (i.e. crown) attached to the implants may need to be replaced as time goes by.

Disadvantages:

  • Higher initial cost 
  • Higher initial time investment – the implant site has to heal before installation of the crown. This might take a few months
  • Implants can sometimes fail, particularly if there has already been much bone loss before the implant was placed
  • Needs surgery – though it is a relatively simple procedure, surgeries always carry risks. Patients with existing medical conditions might not be considered candidates for dental implants.
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