Often times we dentists see patients that require a missing tooth to be replaced and we are asked what options are available for replacement. Replacing a tooth is sometimes very difficult and sometimes very easy and depending on the circumstances the treatment that is proposed may vary but the most common ways a missing tooth is replaced is; i) flipper/partial denture, ii) bridge, iii) implant.
Flipper’s/partial dentures are appliances that are held in place by plastic or clasps that wrap around surrounding teeth. The missing tooth is attached to this plastic base and the device is worn during the day however it is taken out at night and cleaned. This method of replacing a tooth is the quickest way that a tooth is replaced and can be done in some instances the same day. However the drawback is that it can be difficult to get use to as there is a plastic base in the mouth at all times.
A bridge is basically a missing tooth that is splinted to 2 adjacent crowns surrounding the missing space. This procedure usually requires a 2-appointment visit where in which the first visit is preparing the neighboring teeth for the bridge with impression and second appointment is the delivery of the bridge. Bridges are easier to get use to then flippers because they are non-removable and instead are “fixed” into place by the surrounding teeth. Downside to the bridge is that it can be difficult to keep clean and must be flossed underneath the missing tooth, which can be a challenge. Also because it requires the cutting of neighboring teeth this can cause problems with potential sensitivity in these teeth.
Implants in most cases are the best option for replacement of missing teeth. Essentially an implant is the replacement of a missing tooth by the insertion of a titanium screw into the space of the missing tooth. Once the titanium screw/implant is inserted into the bone it integrates with it and forms a very strong interface, this process usually takes approximately 2 months. After this period of time the implant is restored by fabricating a abutment (neck) and crown that attach specifically to the implant. Implants have a very long lifespan often times lasting decades. The drawback to implants is the associated cost involved which can be several thousands of dollars.
Ultimately it’s the roll of both the patient and dentist to decide which course of action is best for each particular situation.