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  • Dr. Greg Grobmyer

Options For Missing Teeth

Dental bridges, dentures, partials, dental implants… There are many options for replacing missing teeth. So which option is best for you?


No one wants to have a gap in their smile, and missing teeth in the back of the mouth make it hard to eat and can cause other issues. So what are the options for replacing missing teeth and which treatment is best for you?

#1: Do nothing

Is it ok to not replace a tooth? This is of course the least expensive option. Many people choose to just leave a space if they have a tooth removed, especially if it cannot be seen when they smile. While you may be able to get away with this if it is the very back tooth, leaving teeth missing in the middle of an arch may cause serious issues over time.

Teeth act together for support and function. When a tooth is removed, the teeth around the space now have nothing keeping them upright, so they begin to tip into the open area. Over time, the teeth become slanted, effectively keeping them from being able to meet the chewing surface of the tooth above or below it and taking them out of function.

Spaces open between the other teeth of the arch as they shift into the open space, creating food traps that cause decay and gum problems. The teeth above or below the space can supererupt, or grow long, as they have nothing to meet against to chew. This can lead to jaw joint pain and decreased chewing ability as the teeth no longer fit together as they should.

#2: Removable dentures and partial dentures

Depending on how many teeth have missing or you need removed and how healthy any remaining teeth may be, you might be a good candidate for removable dentures or partial dentures. Conventional removable dentures are a fairly inexpensive way to replace all teeth on the upper and/or lower (also called an arch). They are normally made from pink acrylic with acrylic or porcelain teeth set into the pink base.

An upper denture is designed to cover the entire roof of the mouth in order to get suction to hold it into place. A lower denture is horseshoe shaped and rests directly on the lower jaw, depending on gravity and muscles to hold it in place.

While dentures do replace teeth, they are prone to moving around in the mouth, sometimes rubbing sores. Chewing ability is significantly less than with natural teeth, which may limit what you can eat. In addition, many people find dentures bulky and unnatural feeling in their mouth or have difficulty speaking.

If some healthy teeth remain in the mouth, a partial denture may be a good choice. These appliances are made with a metal framework with clasps that grasp on to existing teeth to anchor them in place and give them stability. While less bulky than acrylic dentures, these restorations can still seem like a mouthful.

Dentures and partials both need to be removed at night for cleaning and to let the gums have time uncovered. On average, dentures and partial dentures need to be replaced or rebuilt every 5-8 years.

#3: Bridges

If the teeth around a space are healthy and strong, a permanent dental bridge may be a great alternative to restorations that come in and out of the mouth. A bridge is a series of dental crowns that are connected together and cemented into place. Although more expensive than dentures, bridges look and feel like natural teeth and can last for many years. Care must be taken so the supporting teeth do not decay under the bridge and the gums and bone remain healthy.

To construct a bridge, the teeth on either side of a space need to be prepared for a crown. This means removing significant tooth structure in order to make space for the restoration, even if the supporting teeth were perfectly healthy. The bridge is then created by a dental laboratory, which usually takes two to three weeks, and then can be cemented into place.

#4: Implant Supported Dentures

If all teeth in an arch (upper or lower) are missing or needing to be replaced, but there is concern about poor fit or movement from a conventional denture, an implant supported denture may be something to consider.

An implant supported denture is very similar to a conventional denture, but is designed to snap onto special attachments anchored to the jaws by dental implants. A dental implant is a titanium post which is surgically placed into the bone of the jaw and fuses with the bone. When used with a denture, multiple implants are placed and then topped by either a small metal ball or metal rods. These act as connection points for specially designed attachments embedded in the acrylic of the dentures.

While more stable than conventional dentures, implant supported dentures still need to be removed at night to clean and to allow the gums to breathe. The attachment points must be regularly maintained by a dentist as well to continue to function. The placing of implants is a considerable investment, while the final restoration itself carries almost all the drawbacks of a conventional denture.

#5: Dental implants

Dental implants are the most reliable and natural feeling way of replacing teeth. When a single tooth must be replaced, a crown can be fitted in the space using dental implants without the need to cut down potentially healthy teeth on either side. The cost is roughly the same as a bridge, with the cost of the implant being offset by not needing additional anchor teeth prepped for crowns.

These implants actually fuse to the bone of the jaw and make the final restoration as stable as natural teeth. They can be used to replace individual teeth or even an entire arch.

When replacing multiple teeth, dental bridges are placed onto the implants. A full arch of teeth can be attached to as few as 4-6 implants, helping minimize the cost of the restoration. Traditionally, replacing an entire arch of teeth with a dental bridge is a procedure that requires multiple surgeries, long healing times between each surgery, and several steps before final restorations can be placed.

Many of these drawbacks to dental implants have been resolved with the G4 Implant Solution developed by Dr. Mike Golpa. Using this advanced technique, a full mouth of dental implants and the permanent bridgework can be placed in just 24 hours. It’s this revolutionary method that has made Golpa Implant Centers the new standard in dental implant care.

Which option is the best for you?

As you would imagine, the right choice for you is dependant upon many factors, such as how many teeth need to be replaced, how much you are willing to invest into treatment, and how quickly you would like the treatment to be complete.

We would love an opportunity to discuss your individual needs with you and guide you in making the best choice. Follow the link to our homepage and click “Live Chat Now” to speak with one of our qualified dental experts. Whatever option you choose, you’ll be glad you started the journey to a healthy and beautiful smile!

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