Australian adults have an average of 5 missing teeth per person.
Common causes of missing teeth:
- Dental decay causing large cavities in teeth and this cannot be salvaged with a filling, crown or root canal therapy.
- Bone loss from gum (or periodontal) disease around the tooth making the tooth loose and infected.
- Cracked or split teeth from untreated grinding and clenching – that cannot be saved by placing a crown or a filling.
- Teeth missing from birth – as these teeth have never formed.
- Impacted adult teeth that need to be extracted due to early loss of baby teeth and dental crowding.
- Trauma from a fall, accident or sporting injury that result in a tooth needing to be extracted.
- Oral cancer or other pathology of the face affecting teeth.
Consequences of missing teeth:
- Difficulty eating
- Difficulty cleaning teeth as the adjacent teeth tip into the space creating hard to reach some areas.
- Movement of the teeth in the opposite jaw as the missing tooth is not there to stop the opposing tooth from moving and affecting the way the teeth meet.
- Lack of back teeth places increased and unbalanced loading on the jaw joints. The muscles of the face lose their support and ability to function properly.
- Unattractive smiles create social problems. An attractive smile makes a person more self-confident and creates more opportunities.
- Bone loss occurs when a tooth is extracted. This creates long term problems as replacement options depend on the presence of adequate bone.
- Collapse of the face and facial asymmetry can occur when there are multiple missing teeth. This is because the lower jaw rotates and the face height reduces. This means that the nose and the chin move closer together, the face becomes shorter and the corners of the mouth crack as the skin folds deepen around the lips.
What options are there for missing teeth?
The best option is to try and preserve teeth. This is the best way to minimize future dental problems. You can preserve teeth by maintaining good dental hygiene, having a good diet, regular preventative check-ups with your dentist, dental hygienist and regular care of your teeth at home.
But if you have already lost teeth then some options that are available include:
Implants may be a suitable option to replace a missing tooth or multiple teeth. A dental implant is a titanium post that is inserted into your jaw bone. It acts as a solid foundation for a crown to replace a missing tooth.
Implants are an extremely effective tooth replacement option because dental implants are free standing and do not require the support of adjacent teeth. It is also an excellent fixed replacement option unlike a removable denture.
These are traditional techniques of replacing missing teeth. It involves utilizing the teeth on either side of the missing tooth as a support for a fixed appliance. Though dental implants are the preferred option for tooth replacement in modern dentistry, dental bridges can be used when the supporting teeth also need stabilization with dental crowns.
Each supporting tooth is crowned and a porcelain false tooth is fused to the crowns of the supporting teeth. This 3 unit structure of crowns over the supported teeth and the false tooth is called a dental bridge. The fabrication of the dental bridge is done in a laboratory and the process of providing a dental bridge is the same as that of a dental crown.
These are either made from porcelain or tooth coloured filling material and used to replace the missing tooth. The false tooth is bonded onto one or both adjacent teeth for support. There are 2 types of bonded bridges provided at the dental gallery:
- Porcelain Bonded Bridges or Maryland Bridges
- These have a metal wing or attachment that is glued or bonded to the adjacent teeth with a glue or cement that is of very high quality and strength.
- The advantage of the porcelain Maryland Bridge is that it does not involve extensive preparation of the adjacent teeth.
- The aesthetics of the porcelain is excellent as it can perfectly match natural healthy teeth.
- However it can only be used to replace front teeth that do not get a lot of loading.
- Further the metal wing has to be designed well to be hidden from view.
- The bridge is made in a laboratory and requires 2 visits for the process.
- Composite Bonded Bridges
- These bridges are made in the dental office and involve minimal preparation of the adjacent teeth.
- The false tooth is sculpted out of composite resin material and bonded to the adjacent teeth.
- Composite bridges are cost-effective fixed replacement options for a single missing front tooth.
- They are not suitable for back teeth and they do stain over time and need to be polished and maintained.
A Denture is a removable appliance fabricated in a laboratory and used to replace missing teeth. It is fabricated out of a combination of metal and acrylic resin. It has clasps that attach to natural teeth providing support and retention to the appliance. Dentures need to be removed and cleaned daily. They provide an excellent cost effective option to replace one or several missing teeth.
Dentures however have some disadvantages:
- They are bulky and is supported by natural teeth hence they encourage more plaque build-up around those teeth.
- More home care is required to maintain optimal oral hygiene when a denture is worn.
- Failure to keep the supporting teeth clean can cause dental decay on the supporting teeth as well as periodontal disease (gum disease).
- Deterioration of the supporting teeth de-stabilizes the denture and can cause an acceleration of the loss of the supporting teeth.
- Regular dental and hygiene visits are required in people who wear dentures.
If you have one or more missing teeth, then make an appointment at the dental gallery in Point Cook and we can assess which of these options is best for you.