What are the most common methods of tooth replacement? There are a number of options available — dental implants, bridges, dentures, even full mouth reconstruction.
What you should absolutely not do is to just ignore it. Not replacing a missing tooth can have devastating effects on the rest of your mouth. You can risk displacing neighboring teeth, suffer bone loss, or even suffer a facial structure collapse. Missing teeth can impact how you look, how well you’re able to eat, and can seriously alter the appearance of your smile. That’s why it’s so important to work with a dentist or oral surgeon to replace a missing tooth.
There are generally 3 main methods of tooth replacement:
- Dentures: Removable tooth installations
- Partial dentures are used if you still have some teeth remaining, but your jaw isn’t healthy enough for a dental implant like a bridge or tooth replacement.
- Full dentures are held in via suction and are used after all unhealthy teeth are extracted and the gums and jawbone have had time to heal.
- Bridges: Permanent dental “prosthetics”
- Traditional bridges are made to span an area of missing teeth. The oral surgeon files down teeth on one or both sides of the bridge so it can be fitted over them and anchored in place.
- Implanted bridges are used when you don’t have enough teeth or strong enough teeth to support a bridge, and are basically a large and permanent dental implant, usually anchored to your jaw or your cheekbones.
- If you just have loose teeth from trauma or gum disease that need anchored while the bone and gums are healing, sometimes a doctor will install a bonding bridge behind all the teeth to keep them in place while they heal.
- Dental Implants: Permanent oral installations/tooth replacement
- Your mouth has to be in decent health to get dental implants. These are fake teeth with artificial “roots” that, after installed, fuse to the jawbone and essentially become a part of your mouth. You can choose from titanium or zirconia dental implants. Zirconia dental implants are typically used for people who are allergic to metal, or who want more “holistic” tooth replacement, as zirconia is a ceramic and not a metal. Dental implants look, function and feel just like real teeth once they’re healed, and they require no maintenance beyond normal oral hygiene and regular dentist visits.
The right tooth replacement choice for you depends on your budget and insurance considerations, as well as health needs and preferences. Obviously, some are more invasive than others, and the extent of your needs as well as how your insurance handles cosmetic vs restorative oral surgeries and procedures will affect which solutions we advise. Here’s a little more detail on some of our most common tooth replacement options:
Removable Partial Dentures
As the name implies, dentures are removed at night and for cleaning. Partial dentures will include replacement teeth attached to a plastic base that matches the color of your gums. It usually contains a clasp to attach to your natural teeth that surround the missing ones.
Dentures take some time getting used to. It may take several weeks before they feel completely comfortable. Overtime, the bones of your jaw may adjust to the area where the teeth are missing, causing your dentures to not fit as properly. You’ll need to regularly have your dentures inspected by a dentist. You’ll also need to care for the dentures and your remaining teeth properly to mitigate any further tooth loss, gum or jaw damage.
You can replace a tooth or set of teeth with a fixed bridge that fills the space where one or more teeth have been lost. The bridge is cemented or bonded in place — it can only be removed by your dentist or oral surgeon. Sometimes a maxillofacial surgeon will attach the bridge with a dental implant.
We typically place bridges over several appointments.
By far, the best choice for tooth replacement is a dental implant. They are a permanent solution to missing teeth. Dental implants can be used to replace one tooth or to do a full mouth reconstruction, if necessary. The implant is surgically drilled into your jaw bone to eventually become just as functional as your natural tooth. Dental implants are the ideal way to replace a tooth — but also the most expensive. After healing time, you’ll have a completely functional tooth that does not have to be removed and is attached to your jaw, just like a natural tooth. Usually the screw drilled into your jaw for this type of tooth replacement is titanium, because your jawbone can fuse directly to the surface of titanium.
Dr. Puckett also offers a newer type of dental implant: zirconia implants — the only fully ceramic system on the market. These dental implants are highly versatile and look beautiful.
Let’s Discuss Your Options
Nobody likes to lose a tooth. And certainly, financial considerations will guide your plan to replace it. That’s why we like to present your options openly. Dr. Puckett is an oral surgeon who prioritizes the care of his patients with open and honest conversations about their oral care and budget needs.
What is your budget? What will insurance cover? What kind of payment plans are available?
Our patients appreciate us being up front and honest with them. We don’t like to be pushy. This is a sensitive issue — one you’ll have to live with for a long time. We’ll discuss your options and develop a sequencing plan for all the dental implants or prosthetics you’ll need. We’ll share this copy with you and give you some time to think about it. As a maxillofacial surgeon who specializes in dental implants, Dr. Puckett believes in empowering our patients so they can make their own decisions when it comes to what’s best for their oral care.