Gum disease, tooth decay, injury, or a genetic condition can all be behind a missing tooth.
Regardless of the underlying cause for missing teeth, if you’re looking to replace a lost tooth or make adjustments to the overall appearance of your mouth, there are different treatments available.
Here’s a look at a few options to replace missing teeth, as well as the pros and cons of each option and cost information.
1. Dental implants
Dental implants are an option when you need to replace a single tooth, or when you’re missing several teeth in different areas of your mouth.
This treatment involves surgically mounting a titanium metal post or frame into your upper or lower jaw. A replacement tooth is then mounted to the implant, which allows the tooth to remain in place.
Basically, a dental implant provides a permanent base for a replacement tooth.
Advantages of dental implants
The biggest advantage is that the replacement tooth resembles a natural tooth and can last for decades.
Another advantage of an implant is that nearby teeth aren’t involved (like with a bridge), so the rest of your teeth should remain intact.
Disadvantages of dental implants
This is a surgical procedure, so you’ll need to be in good physical health for surgery and recovery. Plus, the healing process can take several months.
Your dentist won’t attach the replacement tooth until the dental implant completely heals.
Also, dental implants tend to be more expensive than other replacement options for a missing tooth. The procedure may be covered by some insurances, but you might be responsible for deductibles and co-pays.
2. Fixed dental bridge
If you don’t want a dental implant, see if you’re a candidate for a fixed dental bridge. This tooth replacement option might be effective if you’re missing one or more teeth in the same area.
A fixed bridge essentially bridges a gap caused by a missing tooth using a dental prosthetic or artificial tooth. The prosthetic is attached to adjacent teeth and then bonded in place using dental cement.
Advantages of dental bridges
Bridges are beneficial because they feel and look like natural teeth. You might find they improve the appearance of your natural teeth on either side of the space.
They’re also typically cheaper than dental implants.
Disadvantages of dental bridges
It can be difficult to clean around the tooth underneath the bridge.
Bridges involve altering existing teeth. Also, a poorly fitted bridge could gradually damage adjoining teeth over time.
In addition, plaque and bacteria could seep underneath the bridge, causing tooth decay or an infection.
3. Removable partial dentures
Your dentist may suggest complete dentures if you need to replace all of your teeth. But if you only need to replace some of your teeth, you might be a candidate for a removable partial denture.
This dental appliance consists of replacement teeth attached to a natural-looking pink base.
Your natural teeth stabilize and hold the removable plastic base in place, although some dentures have a clasp that adjoins to natural teeth.
The base is designed to match the color of your gums, and the teeth the color of your natural teeth. These dentures might be an option if you need to replace multiple teeth in one part of your mouth.
Removable partial dentures may be covered by some insurances.
Advantages of partial dentures
Removable partial dentures look and feel natural in the mouth, and they’re also less expensive and easier to repair and replace than other tooth replacement options.
Disadvantages of partial dentures
Some people might find partial dentures uncomfortable, at least until they adjust to wearing them.
Dentures must be removed and cleaned daily, and you’ll also remove them before bed. This constant handling can make them more susceptible to damage.
What’s the impact of missing teeth?
In some cases, there may be little-to-no impact. Depending on the location of a missing tooth, you may not really notice a gap in your mouth. This might be the case if you’re missing a tooth in the back or side of your mouth.
But your teeth are designed to work together, so missing one or more teeth can sometimes impact speech, eating, and over time cause other problems.
If it becomes harder or uncomfortable to chew your food, it may lead to only eating on one side of your mouth or having to eat at a much slower pace. This can affect your jaw and facial muscles.
Missing teeth can change the shape of your face, as it can cause your mouth to shift.
Also, your bite might change to make up or compensate for lost teeth, and the remaining teeth may shift and move given the extra room. This can cause other issues such as tooth sensitivity, tooth grinding, and difficulty chewing.
Whether you’re missing teeth because of tooth decay, gum disease, or an injury, talk to a dentist about options for replacing a missing tooth.
The cost will vary depending on the replacement option, the number of teeth you need to replace, and even your location.
Some health insurances may cover the replacement cost, or at least some of it. If not, some dental offices offer payment or financing plans.
These treatment options are effective, and in most cases, a dental implant, bridge, or partial denture will last for years or even decades with regular brushing and care.