Almost all gaps, visible in your smile or further back in your mouth can be filled. Patients generally understand the need to fill any spaces in their smile, but there are also often, very good functional and health reasons for considering the spaces in your chewing teeth further back too. You may have gaps, spaces and missing teeth which bother you and others which do not. We have no intention of ‘selling’ you a need to treat all of these. However, we will always discuss with you the overall function of your teeth as a whole and when restoring areas of your mouth it is imperative that how the teeth work as a whole is taken into consideration.
Information about replacing your missing teeth
There are always options available to you for replacing your missing tooth / teeth.
Dentures provide a cost effective way to replace missing teeth, from a single tooth to a full set. Dentures can be all plastic or plastic with a metal subframe (shown in the image). They can be removed (for cleaning) and reinserted. This is relatively cheap, but has the disadvantage to many people that it is not permanently fixed in the mouth. Aesthetically, such a denture can be very successful if carefully made, but it will likely have movements when eating or speaking and can affect speech and taste.
A second option is to provide a bridge using the teeth on either side of the gap as supports. In some cases this requires the cutting of otherwise intact teeth and almost always requires removal of sound & healthy tooth tissue. This inevitably reduces the long term prognosis of these support teeth and in some cases may jeopardise the pulp, or nerve, of the tooth, something that should be avoided if possible. However, if adjacent teeth are already crowned or heavily filled, this may be an excellent option with no worse a prognosis than your current situation.
A bridge is reliant upon the underlying teeth supporting it for its long-term success. It is therefore important that your dentist has a very clear picture of the bone and gums supporting those teeth which will support the bridge.
Implant Retained Crown or Bridge
The third and often most suitable option is to place a dental implant. This is because it can be a ‘stand-alone’ option not affecting the adjacent teeth in any way.
In different circumstances and for different patients each of the above solutions can be the best and sometimes the only solution. It is therefore imperative that you have a full assessment and discussion with your dentist about what is best for you.
The Implant Option
As a relatively new treatment modality (it has been around for about 30 years) there is a lot written about implants online and in the press.
What is a Dental Implant?
A dental implant is a prosthetic replacement for a missing tooth. It is a small, highly engineered device made of medical grade titanium sometimes alloyed with a mineral called zirconium. These materials are biocompatible (i.e. cause no irritation or reaction from the body) and offer strength and durability as well as a unique property that allows it to fuse directly with bone – a process known as osseointegration.
A natural tooth is made up of the crown (enamel and dentine), the visible part above the gums and the root which extends into the jawbone and is connected to it by the periodontal ligament. The root is the part of the tooth effectively replaced by an implant.
There are commonly three parts to what is described as a ‘dental implant’:
- The implant device itself, which is inserted directly into the bone and fuses to it (osseointegration).
- The abutment, the piece that connects the implant device to the third part,
- The overlying individual crown, multi-unit bridge or denture.
Once in situ these implant-retainers can be used to create individual teeth, bridges or to support dentures.