How to Replace a Missing Tooth

“Oh My! I’ve lost a tooth, now what do I do?” Does this sound familiar to you?  Well, it is an unfortunate question that we hear all the time. Sometimes a tooth becomes unrestorable, or a patient loses their motivation to save a tooth and it has to be extracted.  At that point you are faced with the reality that, unless you have had this tooth since before you were three…or you are a shark ( not a lawyer ;), the tooth will not grow back on its own.  So what should you do?

You have four options:

1)      Do Nothing

2)      A Denture

3)      Bridge the Gap

4)      A Dental Implant

Do Nothing

Sure, you can do nothing. If the tooth was non-functional then this may be a wise choice. Unfortunately, if it was a good tooth before, chances are you will miss it. Additionally, you will continue to lose the bone that supported the tooth and likely bone that supports the adjacent teeth as well (ie, there will be recession on the adjacent teeth). The adjacent teeth may begin to tilt causing a poor occlusion (your bite), and the tooth in the opposing arch may descend into the now open space. Let’s just say this is not an ideal option.

A Denture

Of course, if you are missing several teeth or a single front tooth you could replace it with a removable plaque trap that braces itself on your other teeth – this is known as a denture. Unfortunately, while being a less expensive option, your other teeth will suffer in the long term, and the denture may need to be relined or replaced every 5 years.

Bridge the Gap

Option 3 is slightly better. If you have already had a lot of bone loss (especially in the front) or the teeth adjacent to the new space have large fillings, then this may be a great option. Bridges can be done aesthetically, are strong and can last 10-15 years before needing to be replaced. Unfortunately, 1 in 3 teeth involved in a bridge will eventually need a root canal treatment and you need to be sure to clean underneath the bridge using the techniques taught to you by your hygienist and dentist.  You will continue to lose bone beneath the bridge aswell, which can be the reason it needs to be replaced.

A Dental Implant

So let’s talk about what is generally the numero uno, the gold standard, the long term guy, also known as Mr. Best Option; That would be the dental implant. These are titanium artificial roots that are placed in the bone (which loves titanium), allowed to heal, and then restored with a crown on top. A dental implant maintains the bone at its post-extraction height, restores chewing function, does not rely on any other teeth, and can last a long time.  In fact, dental implants have a 95% success rate after being placed; this goes down to 80% if you are a smoker. The healing of the implant can also be affected by other health conditions (such as Diabetes), heavy tooth grinding, or periodontitis. 

Usually the implant is allowed to heal for 3-6 months after placement before attaching a crown to the top… but, in ideal cases, sometimes they can be restored immediately. Once healed, an impression is taken and sent to a lab in order to make the crown. The crown will either be screwed on or cemented with a temporary cement; this way the crown can be removed if access to the implant is needed later on or the crown needs to be repaired. Brush and floss like your natural teeth and you can now go on not worrying about that tooth you lost.

They are still trying to pin point the longevity of implants as they keep lasting longer and longer. These titanium gems can also be used to support bridges or dentures either initially, or later on if your needs change.

Now it is just up to you to decide what option is best for you and your oral health. Let us know if we can help you decide. Email us (info@prairiedental.ca), Call us (780-986-6255), or visit our Facebook Page.

Thanks for reading!

Dr. Jack Gordon