Very often when a patient finds out they need a tooth removed, one of their first questions is should I replace my tooth and why? Options for tooth replacement often include dental implants, a dental bridge, or a removable partial denture. Due to aesthetic reasons, most people are very eager to replace any missing front teeth but may question what the purpose of replacing a back tooth is if no one can see it.
Back teeth help with the overall bite and the ability to chew, a function the front teeth are not meant for. Removal of posterior teeth without replacement can lead to consequences that involve the remaining teeth, gums, jawbone, and joint. These problems include the following:
Additionally, even though the site of the missing teeth is hidden from view doesn't mean there won't be changes to your appearance. The loss of the posterior teeth can cause a reduction in facial height, which can become increasingly noticeable over time.
Unfortunately, that's only the beginning of problems you may encounter from missing posterior teeth. Some of the above factors, particularly shifting of the teeth, may weaken the overall health of your mouth. Shifting of the teeth occurs at an accelerated rate when a tooth is lost. If these teeth shift too much they can cause odd irregular spaces and may become useless teeth in the future. The shifting may also cause problems with trying to replace teeth later on as there may no longer be enough space.
Obviously, then, a replacement would help alleviate many of these consequences — but which method is best? Dentists now recognize implants as the best option for replacing missing teeth. Implants are a free-standing restoration that is not bound to the adjacent teeth. This means that we do not need to drill on the teeth next to the space that may have no other problems. They are also easier to clean than a bridge and permanent in the mouth, unlike a partial denture.
The most critical factor for implantation is that adequate bone height and volume exists where an implant will be placed. If adequate bone is not available, a non-removable fixed bridge is usually the second best option, although there are a number of considerations to take into account.
First, there must be teeth present on both sides of the gap to create a fixed bridge. These two teeth actually do the work of three so they must be strong anchor teeth. The adjacent teeth must be drilled down for bridge placement, so there is a greater risk to the nerves in the teeth. This means that future root canal treatment may be necessary. There is also an increased risk of trapping food under a bridge than there is around an implant.
A third and least favorable option is a removable partial denture. Removable restorations can be frustrating for many patients to wear and feel unnatural. Because they are moving in the mouth as you chew and speak, they may put added stress on the teeth holding them in place, which could lead to loosening and loss of those teeth.
In summary, I am sure you can now see the importance of replacing missing teeth, whether they are in the front or the back of your mouth. If you would like to learn more about your options for replacing a missing tooth, feel free to give us a call today.