Tooth decay, gum disease and injury are common causes of tooth loss, however, some genetic factors may cause individuals to be born without certain teeth. Regardless of the underlying cause for missing teeth, there are different treatments available to replace a lost or missing tooth.
“Our teeth are designed to work together, so missing teeth can impact speech and eating, and over time can cause other problems,” explains Dr. Elahe Wissinger, of E Dental Solutions, in Tucson. “It may become harder or uncomfortable to chew food, which often leads to only eating on one side of the mouth or having to eat at a much slower pace. This affects jaw and facial muscles, which can change the shape of the face, as it can cause the mouth to shift in order to accommodate.”
Also, our bite might change to make up or compensate for lost teeth, and the remaining teeth may shift and move, given the extra room. This can cause other issues such as tooth sensitivity, tooth grinding and difficulty chewing.
There is no reason to let that happen. Advances in dentistry have made it possible to fill the spaces with bridges, implants or partials that are more functional and attractive. Wissinger can advise patients on which option is best for them after considering the state of their teeth, gums and jawbone, as well as their overall health.
An implant is usually the preferred option for replacing a single tooth or when several teeth are missing in different areas of the mouth. An implant requires careful planning. Wissinger will evaluate with diagnostic x-rays and a CT scan to see if a patient has enough bone to support the implant. If not, bone grafts may be considered. Wissinger’s technology creates a model to simulate the implant before performing the actual procedure. This allows her to create a custom-made surgical guide to improve the accuracy of placement and minimize the amount of tissue disrupted during the implant procedure.
The next step is to place the implant, which is a titanium screw and serves as a replacement for a tooth root. During the next several months after the procedure, the bone will grow around the implant to firmly anchor it in place, and the gums will heal. According to Wissinger, once the implant is steadfastly in place, an abutment and a porcelain crown designed to match surrounding teeth will be placed. Implants resemble the natural teeth nearby.
Another option is to do a bridge. This consists of at least three porcelain crowns fused together, bridging the gap to replace missing teeth. The more teeth being replaced, the more natural teeth are needed to give the bridge the necessary support. Getting a bridge is a shorter process than getting an implant, but still requires several visits. One visit is for imaging and impressions, preparing the supporting teeth for crowns and fitting a temporary bridge; a second visit is for trying on the permanent bridge; and a final visit is for cementing or bonding the permanent bridge. To ensure longevity of a bridge, it must be kept clean, especially the area underneath the bridge.
Finally, Wissinger may suggest partials or dentures for someone needing to replace some or all of their teeth. Those who only need to replace some teeth might be a candidate for a partial denture. The existing natural teeth will stabilize and hold the removable partial denture in place; sometimes clasps that adjoin to natural teeth are needed for support. The base will be designed to match the color of one’s gums, and the teeth the color of their natural teeth.
Some people might find partial dentures different or uncomfortable until they adjust to wearing them. Dentures must be removed and cleaned daily, and are also removed before bed. This constant handling can make them more susceptible to damage. A fixed partial denture supported by implants, either removable or not, is also another option for treatment.
“Now is the time to avoid any additional, future issues that can be caused by missing teeth. I can restore a patient’s smile and improve their dental and overall health,” says Wissinger.
Elahe P. Wissinger, D.M.D. practices at E Dental Solutions, located at 2504 E. River Rd., in Tucson. Call 520-745-5496 to schedule an appointment. See ad, page 40.