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Missing Teeth

An empty space in the mouth, due to a missing tooth, is an unhealthy condition.  If left untreated, empty spaces can result in losing more teeth or bite (occlusion) problems.  

The teeth on either side of the empty space will begin to tilt and shift into the empty spot due to gravity and force.  The tooth above or below the empty space has nothing to hit when biting and, with gravity, is pulled down (called supereruption).  If left untreated these teeth will, cause future problems.    
There are four ways to replace missing teeth: an implant, a bridge, partial denture and a denture.  A consultation will help you determine which treatment would be best for your mouth.  Following is a description of each.
Implants:  A dental implant is much like a natural tooth, which has a root in your jawbone, topped by a crown that you can see.  When you need an implant, a metal post is inserted beneath your gum and into the bone. It fuses to the bone in your jaw and acts like the root of a tooth.  The dentist makes a replacement crown on a metal post that connects to the implant under the bone.  The crown is designed to blend in with the way your own teeth look and feel.  Dental implants can also be used to anchor dentures.  Implants may not be an option for everyone.  Your general health and amount of bone present will make a difference.  A full evaluation by the dentist will help determine if you would be a good candidate.
Bridge:  A bridge is a restoration that replaces or spans the space where one or more teeth have been lost.  A bridge is prepared just like a crown and is, in fact, two or more crowns connected together (see information on crowns).  The tooth on one or both sides of the missing tooth is crowned (abutments) and the missing tooth is replaced with a false tooth (pontic) that is connected to the adjacent crowns.  A bridge is permanently cemented into the patient’s mouth and is treated just like natural teeth.  It is not removed, which is an advantage over partial dentures.  Special cleaning instructions are given to the patient to care for the bridge.
Partial Denture:  A partial is a removable appliance that can replace several missing teeth in the upper or lower jaw.  A partial looks like an orthodontic retainer and is made up of a metal framework with acrylic (plastic) material with the false teeth in the appropriate places.  There are usually metal clasps on each side that help hold the partial in place.
The advantage of the partial is that it is less expensive than a bridge.  The disadvantage is that it is removable, therefore prone to being damaged or lost.  Food does trap under a partial, therefore home care is very important.
Making a partial takes several visits.  After getting the partial, the patient may experience soreness of the gums or a “tight” feeling.  All this will pass, but may require some adjustments by the dentist.
Denture:  A full denture is a removable appliance that replaces all the teeth on either the upper or lower jaw (or both).  They are for people who have no teeth in one or both jaws.  They will never be as comfortable as having your own teeth, or even some of your teeth.  Over time, the bone supporting the denture will shrink in size.  This makes a denture more difficult to wear over time.  If a denture is placed over implants, it will be much more stable therefore more comfortable.
A denture is usually a last resort for someone who has lost the bone support of their teeth though periodontal disease, or because of extensive decay.   With routine treatment, people should be able to keep their teeth for their lifetime and not have to wear a denture.
The patient must not sleep with the denture in place as it may cause harm to the gums and underlying bone. It should be removed to be brushed inside and out after eating. A denture takes several visits to make.  And it may need to be adjusted after being made.