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Just as one missing brick can weaken an arch, so one or more missing teeth can compromise the health of the entire mouth. Modern dentistry has many means by which one or more missing teeth can be comfortably replaced.
Why should missing teeth be replaced?
When teeth are lost, adjacent teeth can shift into the vacant spaces. When teeth shift so that the upper and lower teeth no longer mesh together, chewing can be impaired and can create additional stress on the remaining teeth and jaw. Shifting can also cause the cheeks to sink in and the face to change appearance. The lips may thicken and straighten, the chin may jut out and upward, and pouches may appear on the sides of the jaw. Shifting of the adjacent teeth can also lead to periodontal (gum) disease and eventual loss of additional teeth. A functional mouth has 28 teeth. If you have fewer, you may want to consider tooth replacement.
How can teeth be replaced?
Replacement of teeth can be done in many varied ways including:
Fixed Bridge: Bridges are non-removable replacements of teeth which are attached to adjoining teeth. They can replace from two to fourteen teeth in an arch (upper or lower jaw is an "arch"). Bridges are best for people whose remaining teeth are healthy and have adequate gum and bone support of the root. These bridges can be attached to the tooth in a myriad of manners, including crowns, inlays, onlays, bonded retainers, and more. In certain circumstances, bridges can be held in place using implants rather than teeth for support. A fixed bridge usually can be completed in two visits.
Dentures: Dentures are sets of artificial teeth set into plastic frameworks that rest primarily on the gums. There are two primary types: Complete and Partial Dentures. Complete dentures are used to replace all of the teeth in one arch of the mouth. They rest directly on the gums. Partial dentures are used if several teeth still remain in the arch. They often have a metal framework with clasps or other means of attaching to those remaining teeth, giving them additional support over a complete denture. Dentures can usually be made in two or three visits.
Implants: Implants are artificial tooth supports, usually made of titanium, which are surgically set in the jaw bone. They can be used to support a single missing tooth, fixed bridge, partial denture, or complete denture. Implants can be placed in adults who have healthy gums, adequate bone to support the implant, and who are committed to excellent oral hygiene needed after implant placement. Implants require multiple visits to place and restore over a three to six month period. They can be especially helpful for the patient with complete denture who has loose or uncomfortable dentures.