A single missing tooth can start a chain of events leading to more tooth damage and bone loss. Break the cycle by replacing your missing tooth with a dental implant.
Tooth Replacement Alternatives
This clips to the other teeth. It is sometimes referred to as a “flipper” because it can usually be flipped out using your tongue. The primary advantage is cost. Made with acrylic, these can be fabricated inexpensively. The second advantage is that they are reversible.
Nothing is prepared on the adjacent teeth and, for the short term anyway, do not cause damage. The main disadvantage is that is feels nothing like your own teeth. It is removable and so can move both when you want it to and when you don’t (like at a dinner party). It also does nothing to preserve the bone. In fact, pressure on the bony ridge from a denture has been shown to accelerate the bone loss which occurs once a tooth is missing.
This bridge usually has metal or composite (tooth color) wings and is glued to the backs of the adjacent teeth. Though esthetics with metal wings is usually poor, the composite wings can be almost invisible. Most importantly though, in cases where there is enough space, these bridges can provide a fixed-in-place alternative that does not require any major grinding of the adjacent teeth.
In this respect, they are also reversible. They can feel very close to what your own teeth feel like. The downsides are that because the technology to fabricate them is somewhat costly, there is little cost savings associated with them. Secondly, they have a limited life span and, if over-stressed, can fracture or come unglued (we call this debonding or delamination). When they break, they are difficult to repair and usually have to be remade altogether. Lastly, they do nothing to preserve the bone.
This is often a reliable option as fixed bridges can last many years. They work by grinding down the teeth on either side for crowns and using the crowns to support the missing tooth in the middle. Think about it as just like a real bridge. Land on either side is used to support a framework held over the water (or space, in this case). Since they involve at least three teeth to support them, there is no savings in cost.
The biggest downside is that is the teeth next to the space are in good shape, we are now turning a one tooth problem into three teeth down the line. Nothing that we do lasts forever. Once we have removed good tooth structure to place a bridge, we cannot put it back. Placing crowns may require additional work like root-canals and when these bridges fail, they usually need to be completely replaced and sometimes extended. For those reasons, we consider this to be the most aggressive and irreversible option unless the adjacent teeth should be crowned anyway.
This option is similar in cost to a fixed bridge and is the closest we can come to replicating your own tooth. It is completely independent of the teeth on either side and does not require any modification to your own teeth. The implant, when completed will never decay, will never need a root canal and, with proper care, should last a very long time. This is the only option which will help keep the bone from dissolving away. The main negative factor is the healing time needed for the root portion to fuse to the bone. Healing time ranges between three to six months.