Missing Permanent Teeth? Here’s What You Need to Know

Options to replace missing teeth

Replacing missing teeth with the help of modern dentistry.

Did you know that your teeth aren’t actually bones? There are several key differences between teeth and bones, but one of the biggest is that bones heal from injuries over time, but teeth don’t. Once a tooth is injured, it has to be repaired using treatments like fillings, dental bonding, or dental crowns. It’s really important to care for your oral health, as doing so helps ensure that your teeth will last a lifetime. Life isn’t always predictable, though, and there are several ways you can end up missing one or more teeth.

Tooth loss impacts the appearance, function, and health of your remaining teeth, but modern dentistry helps ensure that you’re not out of options! Whether you’re missing a single tooth or many teeth, modern dentistry has a range of tooth replacement options that can help you restore all of these aspects of your smile. We understand that losing a tooth can be an emotional process, so we’ve attempted to make it easier and less stressful by putting together a guide to help you understand tooth loss and what your Alaska advanced dentistry treatment options are.

Causes of Missing Teeth

Your teeth are protected by the strongest biological material on earth: tooth enamel. Tooth enamel is incredibly strong, but it’s not indestructible—so there are several ways you can lose a tooth over time. Two of the biggest culprits of tooth loss are severe cavities and advanced gum disease (called periodontitis). Over time, bacteria can eat their way through your tooth enamel and into the soft dentin underneath. Similarly, periodontitis is an infection caused by bacteria attacking your gums. As the infection worsens, your gums pull away from your teeth, allowing bacteria underneath the gum line where they begin attacking your tooth roots and other supporting structures of your teeth. Left untreated, both of these conditions can lead to tooth loss. Thankfully, they’re very easy to prevent! All you need to do is to practice a great oral hygiene routine, which should include brushing your teeth for two minutes twice a day, flossing at least once a day, and using mouthwash every day.

Another common cause of tooth loss is a dental injury. Although your tooth enamel is incredibly strong, it’s also relatively brittle, so it’s vulnerable to damage from a blow to your mouth or face. If a tooth is severely broken and doesn’t have enough structure left to support a dental crown, you might need to have the tooth extracted. Knocked-out teeth can sometimes be successfully replaced in your jaw if you receive emergency dental treatment quickly, but other times the tooth loss is permanent. An infected tooth or dental abscess is also a common cause of tooth loss.

Reasons to Replace Missing Teeth

Your teeth carry out important jobs in your daily life—some you don’t even realize they’re doing! Their most obvious jobs are helping you to eat food, letting you speak properly by giving your tongue a surface to press against to make certain sounds, and the role they play in your social life. Your smile helps you express yourself, so it impacts the way others see you and, more importantly, the way you see yourself. It’s often an important part of your self-image and self-confidence. Aside from these jobs, though, your teeth also protect the health of the teeth around them and keep your jaw bone healthy.

How do they do this? Well, the arrangement of your teeth in your mouth keeps them spaced out, making it easier to floss and brush thoroughly. When you lose one or more teeth, your remaining teeth begin shifting into the new gap, creating more space between your teeth. This makes it harder to clean them thoroughly, increasing your likelihood of developing cavities and gum disease, and it can mess with your bite itself, potentially even leading to TMJ pain in your jaw. When it comes to your jaw bone, your tooth roots stimulate the bone constantly, which tells your body that it needs to keep sending nutrients to it. Losing that stimulation causes your body to begin reabsorbing the nutrients in that part of your jaw. The result is a loss of bone density in that area, weakening the bone and potentially impacting your face shape.

If you replace your missing teeth, however, these changes aren’t inevitable! Tooth restoration options can restore the function, appearance, and health of your teeth. They make it easy to eat and speak again, prevent your teeth from shifting to protect your bite and future oral health, and give your smile a naturally beautiful, healthy appearance again! There’s even a treatment to prevent bone loss in your jaw!

Tooth Replacement Options

The good news about tooth replacement options is that there are plenty of them. This makes starting the process of looking for the best tooth replacement option for you a little overwhelming sometimes, but the variety of options allows dentists to choose the right one for your unique needs! This selection means that you’ll be able to find a treatment that meets your treatment needs and goals without stretching your budget. Plus, all of these treatments are designed specifically for you, so that the size, shape, and shade of your restoration blends in perfectly with your natural smile. You’ll be able to feel confident in your treatment and love your results! Here we outline some of your tooth replacement options. 

Dental Bridges

Dental bridges are used to replace one or two missing teeth. To do this, they consist of one or two prosthetic teeth that are supported by a dental crown on either end. These crowns are placed over healthy teeth at either end of the gap in your smile, holding the prosthetic teeth in the gap between them. This allows them to fill the gap, preventing your healthy teeth from shifting into it while restoring the appearance and function of your missing teeth with stability from your natural, healthy teeth. When you take care of dental bridges with great oral hygiene, including cleaning underneath your prosthetic teeth daily to keep your gums healthy, they should last 10 years or more.

Partial Dentures

Partial dentures replace multiple missing teeth along your upper or lower arch. They’re removable, usually held in place by brackets that are attached to the back of your healthy teeth. These brackets aren’t visible when you smile, but they give the restoration an extra level of stability, ensuring that they’ll stay in place while you’re eating and talking. Partial dentures are typically made from acrylic materials, which do a good job of mimicking the appearance of your natural teeth and gum tissue to give your smile a natural appearance. If you clean them regularly and take good care of your oral hygiene, partial dentures can last up to 15 years before they need to be replaced.

Full Dentures

Full dentures are designed to replace all of the teeth along your upper or lower arches—or both. Just like partial dentures, full dentures are generally made of acrylic that mimics the appearance of your teeth and gums incredibly well. They’re designed specifically for you to ensure they fit perfectly, so you’ll get a say about the size, shape, and shade of your new teeth, giving you a smile that is as beautiful as it is functional. No one will be able to tell that you have dentures, and your new teeth should stay in place as long as they fit well. You’ll be able to eat, speak, smile, and laugh in public without worrying about your dentures slipping or popping out. They do need to be checked and potentially adjusted once a year to ensure that they continue fitting well, but it’s worth it for the increased comfort! Due to bone loss in your jaw over time, however, your dentures will likely need to be replaced every seven to 10 years.

Implant-Supported Bridges or Dentures

Dental implants are a unique tooth replacement option because they’re the only treatment that replaces the roots of your tooth instead of just the visible chewing portion of your tooth. This new tooth root is a titanium metal rod Dr. Robinson will embed into your jaw bone. A single implant is often used to replace one missing tooth, but several implants can be  used to support restorations like a dental bridge or denture. An implant-supported bridge can replace three or four teeth, while implant-supported dentures can replace up to a full arch of your teeth.

Dental implants share the same benefits as other tooth replacement options, but they also offer unique benefits. Since they replace your natural tooth roots, they manage a level of stability and comfort that other options can’t match. Even implant-supported dentures are so stable that you can eat whatever you want with them, including whole apples and corn on the cob. They also provide your jaw bone with the stimulation that natural tooth roots do, which prevents bone loss in your jaw. Since titanium is biocompatible, it actually encourages bone growth around your new tooth root, holding it more firmly in place and even reversing some existing bone loss! This makes implants ideal for your long-term oral and overall health—they’re the next best thing to getting your natural teeth back! Getting dental implants is a more involved surgical process, but when they’re cared for with great oral hygiene, they can last a lifetime! Tooth loss can change the way your teeth function and look as well as the future health of your remaining teeth and your jaw itself. These changes don’t have to be permanent, though! Modern tooth replacement options help you to reclaim the function, health, and appearance of your smile and jaws—even after experiencing tooth loss! If you’d like to learn more about how our Wasilla, AK,  family dentist can help you restore missing teeth, feel free to call and schedule an appointment with Dr. Robinson at any time!