When a permanent tooth is lost, several processes ensue that can adversely affect the remaining teeth and jaw. Neighboring teeth begin to shift into the empty space, which can lead to gum issues and future tooth loss. The bone that previously housed the root resorbs over time, causing an alteration in bite and collapse in jaw height. The loss of a tooth reduces the chewing surface area and results in an unbalanced bite; people who have lost a tooth tend to eat on the opposite side, which overworks the jaw joint and unevenly wears down the dentition. These combined processes can lead to joint pain and dysfunction and alter the aesthetics of the face and smile.
In the past, there were few options to replace missing teeth. A bridge consists of at least two porcelain “retainer” crowns, one on each side of the empty space, connected by a middle “pontic” crown, which replaces the missing tooth. The teeth that support the bridge are ground down and the bridge is permanently cemented into place. This weakens these teeth and increases the likelihood of future problems with root canals. Keeping bridges clean presents a challenge: since bridge units are all inter-connected, flossing between them is impossible and cleaning beneath them tedious and time-consuming. As a result, bridges often develop recurrent decay and gum problems and need eventual replacement. A partial denture is a removable appliance that utilizes metal clasps and acrylic teeth to replace one or more missing teeth. Just as with a bridge, bone underneath a partial denture resorbs over time, leading to a
poor denture fit and the need for its eventual replacement.
At the cutting edge of modern dentistry, dental implants offer an effective and permanent way to replace teeth and are the preferred treatment option for several reasons. Because a dental implant is anchored in the bone itself, it maintains the bone while supporting a crown that looks and functions just like a normal tooth. Since an implant does not rely on other teeth for support, there is no risk of damage and future treatment related to the existing dentition. Since there are no interconnected crowns, normal flossing is possible and hygiene is optimal. Since porcelain does not decay, the chance of developing a cavity on an implant is non-existent. The stats also
speak for themselves: while the ten year success rate of bridges hovers around only 50%, the success rate of implants over that same period is an astonishing 97%!
So if you’ve lost any of your teeth or have a smile that is aesthetically unpleasing, implants may be right for you! Talk with your dentist today to see if you are a dental implant candidate!