Missing teeth are a threat to maintaining good oral health. Filling the gap is essential for comfortable eating, an attractive smile, establishing a good relationship between the upper and lower jaws, preventing premature aging lines around the mouth and, in some cases, facilitating clear speech. Three solutions for restoring missing teeth are implants, dental bridges and partial dentures.
A dental implant is the preferred way to replace a missing tooth. The implant is a small titanium post planted into the jawbone. This actually slows or stops bone loss that can occur when you lose a natural tooth. A restoration is placed on top of the implant and the result is it looks and feels like your natural tooth. The advantages to the implant over the other two options are that is does not stress the surrounding teeth for support or require removal before sleep.
A fixed dental bridge is not removable. It is a structure designed to span the gap between teeth supported by teeth on either side of the open space. A permanent bridge is cemented into place, although it may eventually need to be replaced. Bridges are composed of precious or nonprecious metal to which tooth-colored porcelain is fused. Some bridges are made entirely of porcelain. The teeth on each side of the space are filed down to receive crowns, and the replacement crowns are attached to the artificial tooth or teeth to form a bridge.
A removable partial denture is an appliance to replace one or more missing teeth. It attaches to the natural teeth on either side of the gap with clasps and may be removed by the wearer. Partial dentures have the same benefits as a bridge; however, there is an increased risk of plaque accumulation if the partial denture is not carefully designed. Food becoming lodged around or under the denture is another potential problem. Acrylic or metal forms the base of the denture. The gum areas are made from acrylic, and the artificial teeth may be acrylic or porcelain.