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If you’ve lost one or more adult teeth, it’s crucial to replace them to keep your bite aligned properly. Replacing missing teeth is important for cosmetic reasons but also for keeping existing teeth from moving out of place. Removable partial dentures provide one option for filling your tooth gap, while in other cases, a permanent bridge is a better solution. Each choice has its advantages and drawbacks, so it’s essential to put some thought into what will work for you and your lifestyle.
What are Partial Dentures?
Partial dentures are made up of a molded plate attached to replacement teeth. Because of the plate, they can also be used to make up for gum loss. Small attachments (often made of metal) connect the dentures to nearby teeth, but they are easy to move in and out of the mouth for cleaning. Partial dentures are frequently designed to replace multiple missing teeth.
The Pros and Cons of Partial Dentures
- The Advantages
Partial dentures are typically the best option if surrounding teeth are in bad shape and likely to be replaced – and are unable to anchor a permanent bridge. They tend to work best when patients are missing numerous teeth or teeth on both sides of the mouth. They are also recommended in cases of gum disease or gum loss, and in patients with certain medical conditions or a history of smoking.
Many patients prefer partial dentures because they can be removed for easy cleaning. They also tend to be more cost effective than permanent bridges, and more likely to be covered by dental insurance.
- The Drawbacks
While more permanent tooth replacement options can last for 15 years or longer, partial dentures only last for around five years – meaning they need to be replaced more frequently than a fixed bridge. Partial dentures are also sometimes considered less comfortable than more permanent replacements, and some patients find it embarrassing to remove them for cleaning or sleeping.
What is a Bridge?
A dental bridge is made up of replacement teeth that are cemented to your teeth using the healthy teeth on both sides of your gap as anchors. For this reason, bridges tend to work best when a limited number of teeth in close proximity to each other are missing.
A bridge can take the place of one or more missing teeth and is made up of an artificial tooth or teeth, with crowns to cover the teeth next to the one(s) being replaced. Your dentist will prep the teeth on either side of the bridge, often by filing them down, and then send an impression of the teeth and the empty space to a lab to create the bridge.
The Pros and Cons of a Bridge
Bridges typically last longer than partial dentures, with most lasting up to 15 years. They usually look and feel more natural to patients, and many prefer having a permanent replacement that does not require removal for cleaning.
Because bridges are created by bonding artificial teeth to existing teeth, neighboring teeth must be healthy and strong with no underlying gum damage to sustain the bridge. Your dentist must change the shape of the neighboring teeth and cover them with crowns to attach the bridge, which discourages some patients. Finally, bridges are usually more expensive than removable partial dentures.
Dental Implants: Another Option
Dental implants are increasingly popular when only one tooth is missing, and many patients feel they provide the most normal appearance and feel of any tooth replacement option. A dental implant is a porcelain crown connected to a titanium screw that replaces the tooth’s root and bonds to the patient’s jawbone. Unlike a bridge, a dental implant is imbedded in place and does not require attachment to neighboring teeth. Unlike partial dentures and bridges, implants are considered virtually permanent and often do not need replacement as long as a patient commits to a good oral hygiene regimen. Implants work best for patients with overall healthy jaws and gums.
Ask Your Dentist About the Best Approach for Your Missing Teeth
Patients have more options than ever for replacing missing teeth. The best choice for you will revolve around the number of teeth that need to be replaced, your overall oral health, and your dental care budget. Whether you need an implant to replace a single missing tooth or partial dentures to replace several, your dentist will be your best resource for making this important decision. Speak to your dentist about all the options and take the first step to achieving a healthy mouth and great smile in 2017 – today!