No one wants to hear that they need to have one or more teeth removed, but if it does happen, what next? Does each tooth have to be replaced? If the missing tooth is in the front of your mouth or otherwise seen when you smile, then one obvious benefit of tooth replacement is pure esthetics. But what should you do if the missing tooth is in the back of your mouth? In many cases, if a space is left untreated anywhere in the mouth, the teeth behind the space will seem to shift forward and appear to close the space. But the teeth do not simply shift forward; they tilt forward, potentially causing periodontal problems (gum disease). This will also cause opposing teeth (teeth that meet when the mouth closes) to shift upwards or downwards. With modern dental technology, there is a choice in methods to fill in the space and to prevent future dental and alignment problems.
If there are several missing teeth, especially missing teeth on both sides of your mouth, a partial denture may be the least invasive way to solve the problem at the lowest cost. There are different types of partial dentures, ranging from an acrylic-covered metal framework, to a metal-free nylon denture that is flexible and very stable in one’s mouth. These variations of partial dentures have different types of “clasps” that allow the denture to attach to the remaining teeth and stay in place. The design and the size of the partial denture depend on the number and position of the remaining teeth. The major drawback to a partial denture is that it has to be removed before sleeping and cleaned after eating.
Another way of filling a space caused by tooth removal is to make a fixed bridge. A bridge is made up of one or more crowns (caps) on both teeth adjacent to the space; a false tooth (or teeth) is attached to the crowns. This unit is then cemented into one’s mouth as one piece. A fixed bridge looks very nice and in the past, it has been the best way to solve the problem. A fixed bridge is still the recommended treatment if the teeth on both sides of the space have large fillings and will need crowns in the near future.
With recent advances in dental medicine, dental implants have become a popular and very successful way of filling spaces if one’s bone structure is adequate. One or more implants can be placed into the bone. An abutment is attached to the implant once the healing phase is completed, and a crown is then cemented onto the abutment. After many years of improving implant technology, dental implants now last a long time and can be considered a primary means of filling in spaces in one’s mouth.