Having healthy teeth helps you in smiling, talking, and eating. A full set of healthy, aligned teeth gives you more confidence to show off and prevents speech problems. Lastly, your teeth help you cut and mash your food to make it easier to digest. Therefore, it is essential to keep your teeth healthy and prevent them from getting damaged or lost.
The loss of one or more teeth can be upsetting. However, you don’t have to be ashamed if you have incomplete teeth. Losing teeth is common because the loss can be caused by a lot of factors aside from weak teeth hygiene. The American Academy of Implant Dentistry or AAID estimated that around 70% of Americans aged 35 to 45 have at least one tooth missing. The study also showed that 20% of the elderly above the age of 74 are already toothless.
Restoring Missing Teeth
Losing teeth is not life-threatening, and people can live healthy lives even without a complete set of teeth. However, the quality of their lives may get affected because of the following:
- Lost Confidence. You might not feel confident when smiling, especially if the spaces left by missing teeth are visible every time you open your mouth.
- Infected Gums. Exposed gums because of missing teeth become more susceptible to food and bacteria to enter them. Food left stuck within the gums may cause infections leading to gum disease.
- Poor Jaw Profile. Missing teeth can lead to the decline of your jaw profile. When a tooth is lost, neighboring teeth may try to fill in the gaps, causing your jaw profile to shift over time. This shifting will further cause your jawline to become weaker and may cause even more teeth to be lost.
Teeth Replacement Options
So, what will you do when you have teeth missing from your mouth? You could leave them be, or you could have them replaced. The replacement of missing teeth has long been a practice throughout history.
Archaeologists discovered that about 3000 years ago, an early Egyptian king had copper pegs inserted into his upper jaw bone. However, this procedure may have been performed after death to make the facial structure complete. The first indication that replacement teeth had been implanted on live people was 1350 years ago, with the discovery of skulls that had replaced teeth of different material types that have successfully fused with the jawbone.
Advancements in dentistry led to different teeth replacement options, ranging from the less expensive yet temporary replacement options to the more costly but more permanent replacements for missing teeth.
Traditional Teeth Replacement Options
Before the advent of dental implants your missing teeth were commonly replaced with bridges and dentures. Although they solved certain chewing and cosmetic concerns that patients faced; they were not without their downsides.
- Dentures. Dentures are removable mouthpieces that resemble the missing teeth and the surrounding gum tissues. Dentures can be made as partial or full, depending upon the number of missing teeth.
- Partial Denture. Removable partial dentures are teeth replacement for a section of missing teeth designed to look normal. Partial dentures are the least expensive of the teeth replacement options and can easily be repaired when damaged. However, partial dentures are not as durable as a dental bridge or a dental implant. On the other hand, dentures are uncomfortable to wear and must not be worn for an extended amount of time.
- Complete Dentures. Complete dentures are fitted on a mouth that has lost all of its teeth. There are two types of dentures:
- Permanent dentures. Conventional dentures are only installed in the mouth after the gum tissue has completely healed. The rationale behind this is that during the healing process, the jawbone and the gums may shift in position as they shrink over time. After they have completely healed, it is now easier to create a permanent denture that will replace the missing teeth. This means that the person will have to wait for about two months before conventional dentures can be fitted.
- Immediate dentures. Immediate dentures are fabricated beforehand using dental records, such as teeth impressions, bite records, and tooth selection. Immediate dentures immediately take the place of removed teeth during an extraction. However, these dentures are only used to protect the gums after multiple teeth extraction.
Although dentures are the most inexpensive tooth restoration option, dentures do not last as long as dental bridges or dental implants. Dentures are susceptible to wear and tear and may stain faster than natural teeth. The American Dental Association has recommended that dentures must be replaced every six years and regularly checked by a dentist.
- Dental Bridge. A dental bridge is a replacement tooth that fills the missing tooth’s gap by using the two neighboring teeth for support. A dental bridge will not require any surgery done to your gums and can easily be set up within a matter of weeks. Dental bridges may come in the following types:
- Fixed Bridge. Fixed dental bridges are used to bridge the gaps between one or more missing teeth. Installing fixed dental bridges involves multiple trips to the dentist since the process consists of customizing the bridge to imitate the look of the lost natural teeth. Fixed bridges are usually installed on missing teeth that would bear more pressure during eating, such as the molars.
- Resin-Retained Bridge. A resin-retained bridge is another dental restoration method that bridges the space of missing teeth by relying on a composite resin cement for retaining the bridge. Resin-retained bridges are often installed on teeth that do not do the heavy chewing.
Both types of bridges are an option that has minimal or no invasive procedures to the gum or other teeth and is considered cheaper options for missing teeth replacement. However, dental bridges can only last for five to fifteen years, even with proper care and maintenance.
Permanent Teeth Replacement
A more permanent solution to restore all your missing teeth is through dental implants. Dental implants are surgical-grade metal posts that are positioned into your jawbone underneath the gums. This procedure is intrusive, but once the jawbone and gum heal, these metal posts become infused with the jawbone making it permanent. These posts are then used as anchors to mount the artificial teeth.
Dental implants are surgical fixtures usually made up of metal that are placed into a patient’s jawbone and are allowed to fuse through the processes of osseointegration. The metal fixture will act as a root replacement of a lost tooth. This root replacement will then hold an artificial tooth or bridge in place. Dental implants are the nearest option to having natural teeth since each implant is independent of one another and does not need the neighboring teeth for support.
Dental implants are often made up of metallic materials. However, different types of metals have been known to cause toxicity and allergic reactions to patients. It was in 1965 that titanium became the standard metal to be used as dental implants. When a titanium implant is inserted surgically into the jawbone, the titanium’s unique properties prevent it from being detected as a foreign body. Because the jawbone accepts it as one of its own, the titanium implant will fuse with the jawbone during the healing process.
How Dental Implants Work
The primary purpose of a dental implant is to provide stable support for artificial teeth or bridges. A dental bridge consisting of 2 or more teeth can be stabilized by fixing the two outermost teeth on two dental implants without affecting the adjacent natural teeth. For a more natural feel, it is recommended that each missing tooth be replaced with individual dental implants. This single-tooth-single-implant option will give a patient a more natural feeling tooth.
Parts of a Dental Implant
Dental implants are made up of three main parts, namely: the dental implant, the abutment, and the prosthesis.
Dental Implant. Although the term dental implant often refers to the entire tooth restoration procedure, the dental implant is the central part needed for the process. In today’s modern dentistry, the dental implant resembles a screw made up of titanium metal that is surgically inserted within the jawbone to replace the root of a missing tooth.
- The prosthesis is the artificially made fixture that resembles the natural crown of the teeth. Prostheses can be made up of ceramic, porcelain, or porcelain fused to metal crowns. These prostheses are installed after the dental implants and abutments have successfully combined with the jawbone.
- Abutments, which are also called healing caps, connect the prosthesis with its corresponding dental implant. Abutments can be made from different metallic materials, such as surgical stainless steel, gold, and titanium. However, the common practice is to choose abutment materials that are the same as the implant. During the initial surgery, an abutment can already be placed at the same time the dental implant is screwed in. This will allow the abutment to fuse to the jawbone and gum tissues. Abutments are often placed protruding the gum line to allow the gum tissues to heal around the protruded abutments.
How Many Implants Are Needed?
The number of dental implants a patient needs depends upon the number of missing teeth he or she has. Ideally, one missing tooth should require one dental implant as a replacement. However, the number of implants may depend upon the patient’s health and, ultimately, his or her budget. When a patient has only one or two missing teeth, it is best to have a one-is-to-one replacement. However, when you have two or more missing teeth, implants can be strategically placed to support a dental bridge having two or more replacement teeth. On the other hand, a full mouth dental implant procedure can be performed with the installation of as little as four dental implants.
Benefits of Full Mouth Dental Implants
While full mouth dental implant costs are a much more expensive option than dentures, they are guaranteed to last longer and allow you to save more money in the long run. Full mouth dental implants also offer these following benefits:
Provides Permanent Replacement. A full mouth dental implant requires periodontists to surgically attach titanium posts into your jaw bone to replace the roots of lost teeth. Replacement teeth or crowns are screwed on top of each anchor. Since the heads are screwed and not glued, these dental implants will not fall off. With proper care and maintenance, dental implants are designed to last for more than twenty-five years. However, keep in mind that dental crowns are part of the implants that undergo a lot of wear and tear and may break. Fortunately, you can easily replace broken heads by installing a new one on its titanium anchor.
Greater Comfort and Stability. Osseointegration is a process wherein the natural jawbone heals with the installed dental implants assimilating them as part of the entire bone. This process leaves your jawbone with a series of infused titanium posts making your jawbone more stable. Since these titanium anchors become part of your jawbone and your dental crowns are screwed into them, your full mouth implants will not move around, making them more comfortable. Having a full mouth dental implant allows your mouth to function the same way when you still had natural teeth.
Retention of Your Facial Profile. Since dental implants are infused to your jawbone, your jawbone will not deteriorate quickly. This means that you get to retain your jawbone’s facial profile for a much more extended period.
Straightforward Cleaning and Brushing. Because full mouth dental implants are designed as your permanent teeth replacement, they are fastened securely to your mouth. This means that you do not need to remove them for cleaning like you would with a full set of dentures. You get to brush and floss again when you have full mouth dental implants.
Although a full mouth dental implant costs anywhere from $7000 to $90,000 averaging at around $30,000 in the US, the overall benefits you may get from these permanent teeth replacement procedures will be worth the investment.
If missing teeth are not restored or replaced, serious problems will arise, such as the shifting of the remaining natural teeth to fill the gaps, the reduction of jawbone size, and the occurrence of gum disease.