Replacing missing teeth
Read on to discover:
Options for missing teeth
Whether it’s one tooth missing, or all of them, your options are divided into two groups:
- Removable dentures
- Permanently fixed devices
Removable devices to replace teeth have been around for nearly three thousand years. Recent advances in technology make them lighter, thinner, more comfortable and realistic than ever before. Now we can firm up a denture that once floated freely around the mouth with the addition of just a couple of well-placed implants.
These devices use the teeth either side of the gap for support. They require some preparation of these teeth but may lead to the eventual demise of these supporting teeth. With the arrival of dental implants, dental bridges are not used much anymore. But there is still a place for them…
Implants can now reliably replace one, many or all of your teeth. Modern 3D scanning and planning means that the process of placing implants has become minimally invasive and quite routine. Many times, they’re easier to have placed than regular flings, and they’re almost always easier than the tooth removal process. This means downtime from a busy schedule is can be far less than you’d think.
FAQ’s about replacing missing teeth
Why replace missing teeth?
Investing in a high quality, long lasting tooth replacement can save you time, money and lots of pain in the future.
Without timely replacement, the following conditions may occur:
- Bite collapse. Like tightly packed books on a bookshelf, once you remove a book, the surrounding books tip into the space. A bite may truly collapse when multiple teeth are lost, and few teeth are left touching each other. Such a bite collapse can lead to facial changes – the nose ends up closer to the chin giving the face a sunken, hortened, and older appearance.
- Overloading of others. Every time a tooth is removed, the surrounding teeth need to take more load. This causes an increase in wear and tear of the remaining teeth. When many back teeth are removed, the front teeth can be overloaded. They can push forward and appear “bucky”. Spaces will open up between the teeth.
- Missing teeth can affect your speech.
- Poor appearance. A gap anywhere in the smile can really affect it badly. But when multiple teeth are lost not as much bite force can be generated. This means the muscles of the lower face aren’t as effective and can lose tone and size. A sunken facial appearance can be the result. You see this effect most commonly in people with removable dentures. Full dentures may only offer 20% of the original bite force. So, the muscles involved shrink and this contributes to older appearance of many denture wearers. For some, the loss of teeth can lead to poor social outcomes. People who are self-conscious of their appearance or chewing ability may begin to avoid certain social activities.
- Poor digestion. Eating healthy foods that are a little more difficult to eat can ecome more difficult with missing teeth. Some vegetables, nuts or meats may be avoided with fewer teeth.
- Bite and jaw joint problems. When the remaining teeth shift out of alignment, the bite will be affected. When the upper and lower jaws are no longer aligned properly, it strains the jaw joint, and all of the muscles that work to move the jaw. Vague facial aches and headaches can develop from this.
- Soon after removal to preserve bone
Why should a missing tooth be replaced as soon as possible?
There are two main reasons (other than appearance) why you should seriously consider replacing a tooth as soon as practical after it’s lost
Imagine books tightly stacked on a bookshelf…and then one’s removed. The surrounding books tip over into the space. A very similar thing happens in the mouth once a tooth is removed.
To add to this, the tooth in the opposite jaw that previously came into contact with the missing tooth, now has freedom to move. And it will readily move in the direction of this missing tooth. And the teeth beside this tooth will now also have freedom to move.
So, the loss of a tooth will affect a group of teeth that surround it. The bite will collapse in the area. This will cause increase pressure to be put on the surrounding teeth. It will likely affect the bite efficiency and jaw joint health.
However, none of this happens immediately. It occurs over months to years. You’d hardly even notice. But once it’s occurred, it’s extremely difficult to put back in place.
And it often requires complex braces treatment with mini implants to fix the issues.
Timely tooth replacement can prevent this bite collapse and save you from extensive and expensive treatment in the future.
The bone that surrounds each tooth is there solely to support that tooth. If the tooth is removed, this bone will no longer have a function and it will shrink and dissolve away. The longer the space is left vacant, the more bone will disappear.
If you wish to place an implant into a site to replace the tooth, you need a good amount of bone to surround it. If all the bone has dissolved away, a regular simple uncomplicated implant placement may not be possible. Bone may need to be added or “grafted” to the area. This takes time and often add 6 months to a treatment process. It also adds significant cost.
When can I replace my missing tooth?
There should never be a time when you can visually see a missing tooth, if you do not wish this to be so.
Even if you are about to lose a tooth and you can’t place its permanent replacement for months, you don’t have to have a gap showing all of that time.
With proper planning, there will always be an immediate “provisional” solution. Something that can be placed immediately after the tooth is lost so you never have to be without.
When it comes to the permanent replacement of a tooth, the answer to this question depends on two things – when you lost your tooth, and how you’d like to replace it.
If your tooth was lost more than a few months ago, you are likely to be able to replace it immediately. All healing should have occurred in the area by this time. Sometimes an implant placement must be slightly delayed if there is not enough bone in the area. Such bone additions or bone grafts are fairly routine these days, but they can delay the implant up to 6 months. Permanent dentures and bridges can almost always be placed immediately if the tooth’s been missing for more than 3 months.
If you’re about to have a tooth removed, then the following list should give you an indication of what of expect for each replacement type:
Immediate replacement: “provisional” or temporary removable denture (plate) Time before permanent replacement: 3 months (to allow for all healing and shrinkage in the area).
Fixed Dental Bridge
Immediate replacement: fixed “provisional” bridge or temporary removable denture (plate). Time before permanent replacement: 3 months (to allow for all healing and shrinkage in the area).
Implant supported devices
Immediate replacement: fixed “provisional” crown, bridge or denture or temporary removable denture / plate.
Time before implant replacement: 0 – 9 months
Time after implant placement before permanent rebuild replacement: 0 – 3 months
The timing for implants is clearly wide and varied. The number of implants you are placing, how much you are prepared to spend, and what sort of risk you are willing to take will determine the timing of your treatment. Anything that involves immediate placement of a device on top of a freshly placed implant will cost more and be riskier. For further information on this topic, click here