It is not uncommon for a person to lose one or more teeth in the course of a lifetime. But it may be important to find a way to replace a missing tooth. In this report, Dr. Blake Perkins of Dental Sleep Medicine in Vancouver, Washington explains why replacement is important and discusses the available options.
There are several possible consequences to missing a tooth; some are benign, others not so benign. A lost molar in particular reduces one’s ability to chew. Also, in the area where a tooth is lost, the bone can over time form what is called a saddle, a cup-shaped area. The formation of a saddle can make future tooth restoration more difficult.
Also, if a tooth is lost, the teeth on either side of it may tip into the empty space, affecting the bite and creating difficulty for making future repairs. Also, a missing tooth may leave a gap that a tooth in the opposing point in the mouth (above it or below it) will extrude into. This means that the opposing tooth will start to push upward from the jawbone because there is nothing opposite it to keep it where it belongs.
Among the replacement options, Dr. Perkins most favors a dental implant, which will allow a replacement almost as though the original tooth had never been lost. The combination of a titanium screw and a crown make for a very realistic replacement.
If dental implants are not an option, Dr. Perkins suggests a bridge. A bridge is essentially three crowns fused together to fill a missing space. Using a bridge requires the preparation of the teeth on either side of the missing tooth, and that is a downside to this approach. However, once the crowns are cemented into place, it is almost as though a tooth had never been lost.
Another approach is removable partial dentures to fill in the space of the missing tooth (or teeth). It is similar in some ways to a retainer used in orthodontics after a patient has braces It fits over and around teeth to fill the empty space. Dr. Perkins adds that a patient may choose to do nothing, but this is not a recommended choice.
J. Blake Perkins, DDS, is a graduate of Case Western Reserve University School of Dental Medicine. He is the owner of Today's Family Dentistry of Vancouver, Washington, and he is an expert in the treatment of Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA). He spoke with Sleep Better TV, providing online sleep breathing disorder video news content. Sleep Better TV is a featured network of Sequence Media Group.