Should I replace a missing tooth?
If you have a missing tooth or need to have a tooth removed, you may ask yourself if it’s necessary to have it replaced. Of course, not replacing a tooth will keep your investment low, however there are immediate and long-term consequences. The decision a person makes for their mouth today will greatly determine their quality of life and the possibilities of treatment in the future. Hopefully, the information below will help to make a more informed decision regarding tooth replacement.
Loss of Function & Distribution of Forces
Compare your teeth to the tires on an 18-wheel, semi-truck carrying heavy cargo. Loss of just one tire would increase wear on the remaining tires as well as change the stability and maneuverability of the semi-truck.
Similarly in the mouth, loss of just one tooth causes the remaining teeth to carry the workload of the missing tooth. Forces from chewing are distributed among fewer teeth, which in turn, accelerates tooth wear. In addition, teeth can shift causing misalignment of the jaw leading to joint pain and/or headaches.
Bone & Gum Loss After Tooth Removal
Bone and gums around teeth create a foundation for tooth stability and vitality. When a tooth is either removed or lost, the bone and gums in that particular area permanently dissolve. Adjacent teeth frequently shift due to changes in these supporting structures. Bone loss creates challenges when replacing teeth especially with implants and also lowers desired outcomes with other treatments for tooth replacement.
To prevent bone and gum loss, a bone grafting procedure can be performed immediately after tooth removal. During the 3 month healing process, the grafting material provides a platform for the regeneration of the patient’s own bone.
Treatment Options for Missing Tooth Restoration
If a tooth cannot be repaired and ultimately has to be removed, there are a few options for tooth replacement.
Dental implants can replace one or multiple missing teeth as well as be connected to a denture for increased stability. In some cases, implants can be placed immediately after a tooth is removed, however, a bone graft may be necessary prior to placement. Out of all the options to replace missing teeth, dental implants have the highest success rates and more closely resemble the feel and function of natural teeth. Implants usually require a higher financial investment but can be offset by lasting longer than any other tooth replacement therapy. Typically, 3-6 months are necessary to complete implant treatment.
A fixed bridge replaces missing teeth by attaching to the adjacent teeth on each side of an empty space. These supporting teeth must be reduced in order to create space for the bridge, which is the major disadvantage of this treatment. When there is insufficient bone to place an implant, a bridge is usually the next best option for tooth replacement. In as little as 2 weeks, this treatment can be completed.
This treatment option is the most economical for replacing multiple missing teeth. A partial denture is a removable prosthetic which means that the patient can remove the section that replaces missing teeth. Although less of an investment, patients have more difficulty adjusting to this type therapy.