Part of having a beautiful smile is having a complete smile. Unfortunately, when you have one or more missing teeth, this can negatively affect the overall aesthetics of your smile. Not only that, but missing teeth can interfere with natural chewing and speaking functions, especially when more than one tooth is missing. In some cases missing teeth can also change the alignment of the bite and cause certain teeth to become damaged or prematurely worn from excess pressure. Ultimately, as little as one missing tooth can affect your entire smile and these effects are amplified when multiple teeth are missing.
Luckily, modern cosmetic dentistry has allowed for multiple options when it comes to replacing missing teeth. Seeing a cosmetic dentist to replace missing teeth means that you will get a dental restoration made from the finest dental materials and customized to your exact needs. Cosmetic tooth replacement options are fabricated to look like natural teeth and to blend in with any remaining teeth. When replacing missing teeth, your cosmetic dentist may recommend one of the following tooth replacement options:
In cases where you have one or more missing teeth surrounded by generally healthy teeth, your cosmetic dentist may recommend a dental bridge. A traditional dental bridge uses dental crowns fused to either side of one or more fake teeth. The crowns are placed over the existing teeth and are used to support the bridge of fake teeth that fills in the gap. In some cases, different types of dental bridges may also be used. To place a dental bridge, your dentist will first need to reduce the size of the teeth being crowned. This is so that there is enough room for the crown to be placed over the top. After the teeth have been prepared, a dental impression or oral scan will be taken and sent to a dental lab. When you return for your second appointment, the permanent restoration will be fixed in the mouth using dental cement. Once the bridge has been placed, it will last around 10-15 years before needing replacement.
In cases where you have no remaining teeth or in cases where your remaining teeth are significantly damaged or decayed and your jawbone lacks bone mass, your cosmetic dentist may recommend dentures. Dentures are an entire set of fake teeth that are fused to acrylic or resin bases made to look like gums. They work by sitting on top of the gums and creating suction to hold themselves in place. While there is an adjustment period with dentures, it is possible to eat and speak properly while wearing them. You will also need to remove them every night and have them refitted every few years when they no longer fit properly.
In cases where you have recently lost one or more teeth and your jawbone is still healthy, your cosmetic dentist may recommend having dental implants placed. Dental implants are artificial tooth roots made from titanium screws. They are surgically placed into the jawbone, where they will eventually fuse with the surrounding bone as they heal. This allows them to support a dental prosthetic that functions and looks almost exactly like natural teeth. Depending on the number of missing teeth, an implant-supported crown, bridge, or denture may be used. The main difference between traditional vs. implant-supported restorations are that implant-supported restorations will preserve bone mass in the jaw by stimulating the jawbone as natural teeth would. Implant-supported restorations are also stronger than traditional restorations and can last around 20 years. However, they can only be placed if there is enough bone mass in the jaw to support them.
Dr. Gerard J. Lemongello Jr. graduated from the University of Florida College of Dentistry and has been in private practice since 1987. His focus is on cosmetic and comprehensive restorative rehabilitative dentistry. He is a member of the American Dental Association, Florida Dental Association and Academy of General Dentistry, and is an accredited member of the American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry.