We all remember the weird thrill of losing baby teeth. After all, it was fun to gross out your parents or siblings and you probably even got a visit from the tooth fairy out of it. Unfortunately, losing adult teeth isn't half as much fun.
By the age of 50 the average American has lost 12 adult teeth to decay, injury, or gum disease. Missing teeth can change our bite and perhaps even weaken the muscles in our jaws. And of course, chewing might be affected by missing teeth. In extreme cases this could affect digestion, but even in less extreme cases, do you really want to go through life missing out on favorite foods? Or avoiding smiling too widely in pictures?
Thankfully, there are a few potential solutions for missing teeth. If several teeth in a row are missing, your dentist may recommend a bridge, but this will depend upon your individual situation. If only one tooth is missing, or if several missing teeth are spread around the mouth, your dentist may recommend dental implants. We'll explain these missing teeth solutions so you can get an idea of which might be right for you, however the decision is always to be made with your dentist.
If you're reading this because you just lost a tooth, we recommend heading to an emergency dentist as soon as possible—they can help prevent infection, manage pain, and advise you on how to replace it as soon as possible.
A bridge is a fixed restoration which typically consists of one or more artificial teeth with a framework which can be made of metal or other material. Teeth on either side of the missing teeth may be crowned so that they can support the frame of the bridge. Typically a bridge will take a few visits to process. Once placed, your new bridge should be indistinguishable from your own teeth.
An implant replaces a tooth by surgically inserting a fixture (similar to a screw) into the jaw bone, which eventually becomes bonded to the bone. Once the fixture is solidly in place, an artificial tooth, also known as a "crown" will be cemented onto it. A dental implant can consist of one or more teeth.
Implants and bridges are fixed options to replace missing teeth. Partial dentures are removable alternatives, which are intended to be taken out nightly. Partials can be fitted for those who have lost one or more teeth – speak to your dentist about what option is best for you.
Cost & Other Considerations
Your dentist will advise you about which of these two options is best for you based on your overall health in addition to the health of your gums, teeth, and jawbone. It's important to tell your dentist and/or oral surgeon about any ongoing health issues, such as diabetes, so that they can accurately gauge options.
Dental care can be expensive, but cost will vary widely depending on how many teeth need to be replaced. If you have dental insurance, check to see what will be covered by it. You could also explore dental schools, where the procedures might be less expensive as you'll be helping students learn.
Ultimately your teeth are worth every penny. Missing teeth can affect your smile and bite over time. It's best to replace missing teeth so that you can eat, smile and laugh comfortably—to live your life to its fullest every day.
If you're preparing for tooth loss be sure to read about tooth extractions and types of dentures, so you can be better prepared for the choices and procedures.