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Your Options To Replace Missing Teeth - Swindon Dentist - Highworth Dental Care


We often find that patients with a missing tooth come to our dental practice in North Swindon asking 'what can I do about the gap in my teeth?' We'll explain the potential options - implants, bridges and dentures; whether you are suitable or not and what the comparative costs of each treatment are.

I have a missing tooth, what are my options?

Whether you have a single tooth missing or multiple teeth your options usually remain the same. We have outlined four below:
  1. Do nothing and live with the gap.
  2. Have a dental bridge.
  3. Wear a denture.
  4. Have a dental implant(s).
Let's look at each of these in turn.

Option #1 - Living with a gap in your teeth

In some instances simply living with the gap in your teeth is the right thing to do, it does however come with some disadvantages.

Teeth may drift

Your teeth are all in fine balance with one another (known as a neutral zone), each tooth keeps the next tooth in the right place with slight pressure. The teeth at the top stop the teeth at the bottom from over erupting and vice versa. Everything is in fine balance.

If you have a tooth removed or it is lost through trauma then this fine balance can be upset and teeth can start to drift. Teeth on either side of the gap may start to drift in towards the gap and teeth on the opposing jaw may begin to over erupt.

In time this can lead to malocclusion with teeth not being in the right place when you eat, if the teeth move you may find that the muscles around your jaw, head, face and neck compensate to move the jaw in a different way so that the teeth don't knock together. This can potentially create headaches and jaw joint problems.

Bone Loss

Another problem that can arise if you decide to live with the gap between your teeth is 'bone resorption'.

When a tooth is extracted a hole is left in the socket, rather than new bone form in this socket the surrounding bone has a tendency to collapse in and fill the hole. This results in a loss of bone quantity in that particular area. This can compromise the look of any new bridge and also mean there is less bone in which to place a dental implant should you decide to restore your smile in the future.

Costs of living with the gap

Clearly the cost of living with the gap will be the cheapest option in the short term as no restorative work is required. However, whilst the cash cost may be zero the cost to your dental health could be higher if the adjacent teeth and opposing teeth drift leading to jaw joint problems.

Option #2 - A dental bridge

three unit dental bridgeDental bridges have been around since the 1960s and are one of the most tried and tested ways to replace missing teeth. Dental bridges can last many years and have an excellent track record, they may however need to be replaced in time due to bone resorption after a tooth is lost as explained above.

A classical dental bridge may also require the adjacent teeth to be trimmed down into stumps to accept the supporting elements of the new tooth. This can seem like a rather destructive thing to do to teeth which may otherwise be healthy.

Sometimes a Maryland bridge is possible, this is where the missing tooth is replaced and bonded to the adjacent teeth with small wings which stick out. These wings are bonded onto the inside of the teeth either side of the gap. Maryland bridges can look amazing but sometimes have a tendency to fall out.

The cost of a dental bridge

If a three unit dental bridge is required (as in the top photograph here) then the cost is higher as three teeth need to be used in order to replace a single tooth. This can often mean that the cost of a dental bridge works out the same as a dental implant.

Option #3 - Dentures

Dentures are a simple way to replace missing teeth, Usually dentures are used to replace multiple missing teeth as they can be rather fiddly and small if they are used to replace a single missing tooth, this can lead to choking hazards if the denture falls out and is swallowed.

Dentures are usually held in place with small clips known as clasps, these grab around the adjacent teeth holding the denture firmly in place. One of the problems is that the positioning of these clasps needs to be extremely accurate, if the clasps are placed too close to the gum then they can irritate the delicate gum area leading to gum resorption. For this reason it is always worth ensuring that your dentist uses the highest quality dental laboratory to manufacture your denture.

You also need to ensure that you clean your denture regularly and keep it hydrated. The acrylic resin that the dentures are often made from doesn't like drying out and this is where keeping them in a glass overnight is useful.

You will also need to be careful when cleaning your dentures as a classic way for them to break is when patients drop them into the sink. To prevent this we always recommend cleaning your dentures over a sink filled with water!

The cost of dentures

Of all of the ways to replace missing teeth dentures often end up the cheapest option. This is because they are simplest to manufacture and the raw materials used are often lower cost than the materials required for a dental bridge or dental implant.

Option #4 - Dental Implants

The final (and often preferred) option to discuss is dental implants, more and more patients are reaping the benefits of replacing missing teeth with dental implants. Dental implants come with several distinct advantages:

Advantages of dental implants

  1. They don't involve the destruction of adjacent teeth in order to replace a single missing tooth (as happens with bridges).
  2. They are a permanent replacement for a missing tooth and are not removed on a daily basis (as with dentures).
  3. They support the underlying bone meaning bone resorption is far less likely. (Dental implants are the only tooth replacement option which actually does this, dentures and bridges do not support the underlying bone meaning continued bone loss will happen once the tooth has been lost).
  4. The cost can work out at one of the lowest (whilst the cost of dental implants may be the highest initially they have a tendency to last as long as any other restorative option, this can mean that the lifetime cost of a dental implant is the best value).

Disadvantages of dental implants

  1. They may initially be the most expensive option.
  2. They are a surgical procedure.
  3. They are not suitable for everyone as a certain amount of bone quality, quantity and density is required.
Because dental implants not only replace the missing tooth with the minimum of interference on the adjacent teeth and also support the underlying bone they are generally the most preferred option.

If you have to have a tooth removed it is always worth considering dental implants BEFORE the tooth is extracted. In many instances a dental implant can be placed directly into the tooth socket thereby supporting the surrounding bone.

Are dental implants for you?

Discuss the options with our dentist, Vinay, who has a special interest in implants. We are currently offering a refund of your initial assessment fee which is discounted from your treatment plan.

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