Kids love popping out a baby tooth and exchanging it for cold hard cash from the Tooth Fairy. For adults, tooth loss means less confidence, difficulty chewing and/or talking, possible damage to neighboring teeth, and subsequent bone loss which weakens (and may cause you to lose) remaining teeth. Fortunately, there are a variety of tooth replacement options now available. You can fill the gap with surgical implants, fixed bridges, or dentures.
Surgical Implants Provide Long-term Replacement and Keep Your Jawbone Healthy
Many patients are opting to replace teeth with a dental implant, a titanium post that is placed in your jaw. The post sits down in the bone like the root of your natural tooth, and a small shaft protrudes over your gum line. A prosthetic tooth, custom-made to blend in with your surrounding teeth, fits down over the post.
Implants are the most secure and stable form of tooth replacement. Your jawbone will actually fuse to them. Thus, you don’t experience the bone loss often associated with missing teeth. Implants can last for decades and the prosthetics look and perform like your real teeth. They can even support full or partial dentures. Implants do however, require surgery, so you have to be in good health and have enough jawbone to anchor the post.
Fixed Bridges Offer Permanent Replacement Without Surgery.
A fixed bridge is a group of prosthetic teeth made of metal, ceramics, glass-ceramics or a combination. The bridge consists of two crowns on either end with imitation or “pontic” teeth in the middle. When installing a fixed bridge, your dentist will grind down the teeth on either side of the gap and place the crown ends over them. The crowns are anchored on the natural tooth roots, and the pontic teeth fill in the empty space.
Fixed bridges look, feel, and function like natural teeth. They last for 10-12 years and cost less than implants. They also don’t require surgery, and you can get them made and fitted faster than implants.
However, because you have to grind down healthy teeth for the crown, you may risk damaging the nerves and needing root canal surgery. You have to be careful to clean under the pontic teeth. The fixed bridge does not stimulate the jawbone, which may start to deteriorate.
Acid-etched Bridges Can Replace Front Teeth Without Using Crowns.
If you have a single missing tooth in front where you won’t do a lot of grinding or chewing, you may consider an acid-etched bridge, also called a resin-bonded or Maryland bonded bridge. In this procedure, the prosthetic tooth has “wings” on either side, which are permanently attached to the back of neighboring teeth.
With acid-etched bridges, you don’t have to grind down any teeth for a crown and they look as good as fixed bridges. However, they’re not as strong as other options and last just 1-10 years on average.
Removable Dentures Can Fill Budget Gaps as Well as Tooth Gaps
If you’re budget-conscious and need to replace several teeth, consider removable partial dentures. The prosthetic teeth sit on a gum-colored acrylic base, sometimes with a metal framework for support. On either side of the base are metal clasps, which fit around the natural teeth and hold the dentures in place. If you need to replace all the teeth in your upper or lower jaw, you’ll want removable full dentures, which attach onto the gum line.
Dentures can be taken out for easy cleaning, but they’re less stable than other options and don’t look as natural. They can also make it hard to eat crunchy or chewy foods. Like the other non-surgical choices, they don’t stimulate bone growth and the surrounding teeth that hold them up could suffer structural damage over time from the extra stress.
The best choice to replace your missing teeth depends on your health, lifestyle, and preferences. There’s a solution that’s right for everyone. Our expert dentists in Arlington Va and Tysons Corner VA can help you choose the best tooth replacement option for you. Contact us for a free consult and see how easy it can be to enjoy a full mouth of teeth once again.