Here we look at the importance of replacing missing teeth – which goes way beyond the effect on your appearance. We also look at the most common treatment options.
A missing tooth affects much more than your looks – your teeth play important roles in speech, oral health and hygiene, and of course, comfortable eating.
Your mouth is designed to accommodate a full set of teeth and if one or more go missing, the remaining teeth can gradually drift to accommodate the remaining space. This can change your bite, meaning your upper and lower teeth do not align correctly, potentially leading to jaw pain.
Food can become trapped in the new spaces between teeth, allowing more bacteria to take hold, grow and spread to other teeth.
Depending on which tooth or teeth are missing, your speech may be affected immediately or later as your remaining teeth drift.
If multiple teeth are missing, facial muscles could become saggy.
Tooth replacement treatment options
The most popular options for replacing missing teeth are:
- Bridges – false teeth that are fixed in place adjacent to your natural teeth
- Dentures – removable false teeth
- Dental implants – false teeth that fix directly into your jawbone with a titanium screw – allowing them to feel, look and act like normal teeth.
There is no right or wrong choice – the best treatment for missing teeth depends on how many teeth are missing, where they are in your mouth, the condition of your gums and remaining teeth, and your personal preference.
If only one or two teeth are missing then either a dental implant or a bridge is usually a good option. A bridge is created by adding a crown to the two teeth on either side of the space, each of which attaches to a false tooth in the middle which fits into that space.
The bridge is cemented into place, so there is no need to remove it for cleaning your teeth.
Dentures are removable frameworks of false teeth, made from plastic or metal. Full upper dentures can be held in place covering your palate – the roof of your mouth – through natural suction as a thin layer of saliva forms between your palate and the denture. This is further supported by your facial muscles and tongue.
Full lower dentures don’t benefit from that natural suction against your palate but they do have gravity on their side. Many people use fixative (denture adhesive cream) to help them keep dentures in place while they get used to them, but can often do without later as they gain confidence in eating, speaking and smiling with their dentures.
Many dentists recommend dental implants where possible, as they are a strong, secure option for replacing missing teeth that can last many years – even decades. Having a dental implant is a surgical procedure that involves attaching a false tooth to your jaw via a titanium screw, so does require healthy gums.
A dentist may also not recommend dental implants if you are a smoker, because smoking can negatively affect the recovery of your jaw and gums, and reduce the longevity of the implant.
If you and your dentist do choose dental implants though, they can be a great option because they last so long lasting, and you can quickly forget they are there.
The best treatment for missing teeth depends on your unique situation and personal preference. A good dentist will talk you through the options that will suit your needs.